By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The federal government yesterday said that it has ordered some drugs and treatment kits relevant to the management of Coronavirus and other diseases, as part of strategies to contain occurrence of the virus in the country.
Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunmibe Mamora, who spoke at the ministry’s weekly interaction with journalists in Abuja, said the total number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus globally as at yesterday was 7,748 with 2,929 deaths.
Out of the number of deaths, he said eight ocurred outside China with Japan recording three deaths, one each in France, Philippines and South Korea, with Iran recording two.
Mamora also said that the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus outside of China was now 1,073.
He, however, noted that the African continent has continued to be spared of the deadly virus with the only suspected case in Cairo, Egyptian capital now proven to be negative.
On Lassa fever epidemic, the minister said that so far the country has had 586 cases with about 103 deaths.
The minister’s update came just as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Abdulahi Marshi said that the federal government has so far disbursed N315 million to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and N71 million to the Department of Port Health Services to support efforts aimed at preventing the importation of the Coronavirus.
The minister said that as part of strategies to guard against any serious health emergency in the event of any confirmed case of Coronavirus in the country, the government has commenced stockpiling of critical drug requirements, especially treatment kits and hospital equipment that may become scarce in the days ahead as a result of global demand.
He said that the government was aware of the recent alarm raised by the National Agency for Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on the looming scarcity of medicine but that it was a global concern that affects virtually all products, due to slowing down of business operations caused by the disease outbreak. “One of the measures being pursued is to ensure the availability of critical medical supplies, including laboratory materials and personal protective equipment because what has come out is that it is like these materials are being bought up in the market.
“What we are looking at in this regard is procuring protective gloves or personal protective equipment, that can be used to protect ourselves and health staff, like mask and hand gloves,” he said. The minister said that health officials at all the points of entry into the country are intensifying screening of passengers from China and other high risk countries with the support of the WHO.
At the same time, Mamora said that NCDC has started capacity training of health officials of some of the states considered very critical to the efforts to check importation of Coronavirus.
Speaking about the spread of the Coronavirus, he said that the good news is that all of the five incidents that met the WHO case definition, have been investigated and found negative. According to Mamora, at the moment, Nigeria and the African continent have not witnessed any case of Coronavirus infection.
“I think the most important thing is that as of now, there hasn’t been any confirmed case of Coronavirus in the whole of Africa and Nigeria in particular,” he said.
The minister also clarified speculation over the use of chloroquine drug for treatment of Coronavirus, saying though the malaria medicine is among the options being considered by researchers, including HIV drugs, nothing specific has been said about it.
On the issue of yet to be identified causes of deaths recorded in a villlage in Benue State, the minister said that preliminary reports points to a possible poisoning resulting from harmful practices by persons pouring gamaline into the river to kill fish and later offering the fish for consumption.
He said that lead poisoning is also being suspected even as investigation into the matter continues.