…Asks states relaxing restrictions over Sallah celebrations to reconsider their decision
…Warns Nigerians to desist from storing unprescribed chloroquine
Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, has cautioned against gathering of more than 20 persons.
The SGF also asked states relaxing restrictions because of Sallah celebrations to reconsider their decision.
Speaking during the daily media briefing by of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Abuja on Thursday, Mustapha urged all Nigerians to take personal responsibility during Sallah so as not to cancel the gains of the past weeks.
He further asked state governments to ensure compliance to restriction guidelines and take community ownership to the grassroots.
While raising the alarm that Nigerians had started stockpiling unprescribed chloroquine in large quantities, Mustapha warned that this development was another danger on its own.
He noted that the drug had not been certified for the treatment of COVID-19, even as he warned that self-medication of any kind, especially in the case with the COVID-19 disease, could only increase casualty numbers.
He said: “Through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, we have received reports that Nigerians have been purchasing Hydrxoychloroquine 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. If you are sick, please seek medical advice and if you are confirmed positive, kindly self-isolate in an approved facility. The COVID-19 is highly infectious and dangerous”.
The SGF also announced that the PTF would be working with the National Assembly, especially as the House of Representatives, in its bid to further emphasise the seriousness government attached to the fight against COVID-19, inaugurated an Ad-Hoc Committee on COVID-19.
“The PTF on COVID-19 is pleased to inform you that in order to underscore the seriousness attached to this COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives has set up an Ad-Hoc COVID-19 Committee.
“In deepening the existing collaborative spirit, we shall work together with the legislature to be more productive and add value to the overall delivery of service to Nigerians on behalf of whom we hold our responsibility in trust”, he said.
He noted that the PTF had 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.
“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”, he added.
On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said that the ministry has developed new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track surveillance strategic directions and programmes.
To this end, he called on call on state governments to increase the number of surveillance teams so that more testing can be done in the laboratories.
He added that fact-finding team to Calabar has concluded its assignment and is back and a report has been submitted.
“The fact-finding team to Calabar has concluded its assignment and is back and a report has been submitted. I would like to commend his Excellency, Governor Ben Ayadi for his proactive approach.
“We shall work with the state teams to ensure that we scale up surveillance and contact tracing in the state.
“We shall explore the possibility of upgrading laboratories in the state to ensure ease of testing when suspected cases are identified”, Dr. Ehanire said.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on state governments to intensify efforts to ramp up sample collection and testing for Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Director-General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja, against the backdrop of the country’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
Ihekweazu said that no matter how intensive the states’ preventive measures were, success in controlling the outbreak could not be assessed without estimating the actual burden of the disease, through testing.
“No matter how intensive preventive measures are, there’s no way to assess states’ success or failure in managing COVID-19 without conducting more tests to estimate the burden of the disease,” he said.
Ihekweazu said that testing is critical to the national response, adding “we will continue to scale up capacity.
“Our goal is to limit transmission”.
The director-general also stressed the need for Nigerians to support the public health response to COVID-19 by taking responsibility to limit transmission.
He noted that the health agency would continue to build up its testing capacity across the country.
Speaking on the pooling strategy for testing adopted by some countries, including Ghana, Ihekweazu said that Nigeria is implementing a testing strategy best suited for the country’s realities and needs.
He added that the frontline laboratory scientists were doing their best under the critical circumstances.
“We will continue to scale up our testing capacity. We are testing every sample we get daily.
“In terms of laboratory capacity, we are ready to do more,” Ihekweazu said.
The Pooling Testing is a method of testing samples from multiple patients with a single Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, and it was used previously in the early stages of the HIV epidemic when PCR costs were high.
Ihekweazu explained that COVID-19 patients caught dancing in a video, which has gone viral, were kept at the isolation centres so as not to spread the virus.
Ihekweazu said that it was wrong for Nigerians to make false assumptions about the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria based on the videos on social media.
The director-general assured that NCDC would continue to adapt its strategy as knowledge about the virus evolves.
He stated that the discharge criteria for any COVID-19 patient at the moment was a single negative COVID-19 test.
Ihekweazu also explained that the average duration of hospitalisation for COVID-19 patients is 11 days.
He said that government decided to do this due to limitations in bed spaces.
“Some people recover faster than others based on certain factors such as the strengths of their immune system.
“Full reopening of the economy will require the sacrifice of all Nigerians in taking responsibility and adhering to recommended measures,” he said.