…Apprehensive over recourse to Hydroxychloroquine by Nigerians
…Warns states against relaxing safety protocols
…Schools could reopen if… — Minister
By Omeiza Ajayi
THE Federal Government said yesterday it was considering issuing a new set of guidelines with regards to COVID-19 case management in the country, saying Lagos State, Nigeria’s epicentre of the pandemic, has currently ran out of isolation and treatment spaces.
Government also expressed concerns over the growing purchases of Hydroxychloroquine by Nigerians, warning against self-medication in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it again warned states against relaxing the containment protocols, the Federal Government apologised to essential workers, particularly journalists and medical professionals, who have had to bear the brunt of police brutality during the enforcement of COVID-19 curfew.
These were disclosed yesterday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force, PTF on COVID-19.
Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, said with the new cases in Lagos, the state has ran out of spaces, adding that government was considering a new case management strategy.
He said as opposed to its initial protocol of patients having to test negative twice before they were discharged, such persons would now be discharged after testing negative to one test.
Iheakwazu said: “The only reason we are isolating asymptomatic patients is to prevent them from transmitting to others. In many countries in the world, when this outbreak just broke out, they carried out a very similar policy. They treated all the severe cases in hospital and isolated every person infected in the temporary isolation centres, some of which you saw being built in 10 days or two weeks.
Inadequate surveillance in states
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire regretted that Nigeria was not maximizing its daily testing capacity of 2, 500 as less than 1, 500 tests are currently conducted daily due to inadequate surveillance and contact tracing in states.
He said: “We now have 26 laboratories spread in 17 states. This has increased our testing capacity. However, while our daily testing capacity is presently at 2,500, unfortunately, we are presently able to test less than 1,500. This is due largely to inadequate surveillance and contact tracing in the states. As more laboratories come on board, I would like to use this opportunity to call on state governments to increase the number of surveillance teams so that more testing can be done in the laboratories.”
Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha said the Taskforce has received reports of Nigerians purchasing Hydroxychloroquine in large quantities, warning of consequences on personal health.
He said: “Through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, we have received reports that Nigerians have been purchasing Hydroxychloroquine in large quantities. We wish to reiterate that this drug has not being certified for use in treating Covid-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities. Self-medication of any kind, is fraught with the danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties. We, therefore strongly warn against self-medication.”
Warns states against relaxation
“I participated in the virtual meeting of the National Economic Council with the Vice President and all the State Governors. This is coming on the heels of an earlier virtual meeting between the President and the Governors in a space of one week.
“During the meeting, the issue of alignment of their state level actions with the guidelines issued was emphasized. Similarly emphasized is the need for states to diligently implement and enforce compliance. Particularly, I underscored the need for the Governors to provide personal and strong leadership, carry the policy of community ownership to the grass roots and create deeper awareness.
Apologizes to journalists, others
The PTF also apologized to essential workers who had come under incessant harassment by men of the Nigerian Police, saying the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu has now briefed his men on the categories of exemption from the curfew.
Mustapha said: “For sometimes now, the PTF has consistently answered questions and provided explanations on the categories of persons and services exempted from some aspects of these guidelines particularly as it relates to restrictions on inter- state movement and curfew. For the avoidance of doubt, essential workers, including our indefatigable medical personnel, diligent journalists, courageous fire service personnel, telecommunications workers, are all exempted.
“I will be upfront to offer apologies to all of you that have suffered some form of treatment that are not expected to have been meted out to you in the course of your execution of several duties across the nation.
“The Inspector General of Police has further clarified the categories of essential workers in alignment with the guidelines and has issued instructions to security agents to work on the approved exemptions. With this clarification, we sincerely hope that the persistent complaints of harassment by these categories of essential workers, especially medical personnel and journalists would be put to rest so that we can harmoniously work in battling this pandemic.”
Schools could reopen if…
Minister of state, Education, Emeka Nwajiuba dismissed reports that schools would reopen in two weeks, but explained that he has met with officials of the Ministry of Science and Technology to see how students and pupils could be disinfected each day before they are allowed into schools.
He said; “There is need for patience. We all are seriously interested in reopening and we believe we will reopen soon but I cannot confirm that we can reopen in two weeks. The issue around reopening has nothing to do with the availability of the schools or not. It has a lot to do with national governance.
”The idea of shutting down the schools does not really have anything to do with the schools per se. When the experts determine that there is a measure of safety to which we can expose our children, we would gladly do that. We are working with all bodies within and outside the country. The five countries of WAEC are meeting. We hope to reopen very soon.”
This morning, I met with Ministry of Science and Technology. We are looking at putting facilities in place that can disinfect every child as he goes into the school and disinfect him as he goes out. If we resource our schools properly, we can begin to reopen but we must be able to ensure that the children go in safe and come out safe and not become conduits for further infections in the society. I think that is principal in what we will like to do, but keep the dates open for now”.WHO regrets withdrawal of US funding
Country Representative of WHO in Nigeria, Dr Fiona Braka, who stressed greater investment in the health sector, expressed hope that the United States of America would continue to be friendly to the Organization.
She said; “on the halt in funding to the WHO by the United States and its impact, I will like to say that the United States has been a long time partner and friend of WHO and we hope that it will continue to be so. We regret the decision of the President of the United States to halt funding to WHO. With support from the people and Government of the United States, WHO really works to improve the health of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
“WHO is reviewing the impact of the halt on our work and any withdrawal of US funding. We will be working hard with partners to fill the financial gaps we face and ensure that at this critical time that the work continues uninterrupted”.
“The PTF COVID-19 urges all essential workers to go about their legitimate businesses carrying with them valid means of identification and to exercise courtesy in approaching security personnel”.
Mustapha added that he is now treated as a suspect in his own house as his family ensures that he disinfects himself each time he gets home from work, urging Nigerians to imbibe the same spirit.