•Says foreign physicians not to practise but install equipment, train Nigerian personnel
•Unfolds guidelines on use of face masks
•Cases move to 238
•Lagos discharges two more patients
•Survivor narrates experience
•British Prime Minister Boris Jonson moves to intensive care unit
Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Obinna Chima, Martins Ifijeh, Funmi Ogundare in Lagos and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
The private sector relief fund, championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to raise funds to combat COVID-19 has rallied to N21.58 billion.
According to a CBN update yesterday on the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Relief Fund, domiciled with the apex bank, the cash, which totalled N19.488 billion as at last Friday, rose to N21.588 billion following fresh donations from some individuals and organisations.
The federal government also yesterday shed more light on the mission of Chinese doctors to Nigeria, which has been buffeted by criticisms from some organisations and individuals.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who doubles as the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, told reporters in Abuja that contrary to misconception, the Chinese doctors are not coming to Nigeria to treat COVID-19 patients.
Rather, they would superintend over the installation of medical equipment to facilitate the treatment of COVID-19 patients and the training of personnel to handle the equipment.
House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, however, said the Chinese medical team must be made to undergo the necessary checks as provided by Nigerian law.
The duo spoke just as Kwara State confirmed two cases of COVID-19 in the state, while Lagos State Government discharged yet another two patients yesterday after they tested negative for the virus following their treatment at its Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba.
A statement yesterday on behalf of the coalition by the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, said the amount excluded the N2.4 billion pledges by three individuals and organisations yet to be redeemed. They are Lafarge Plc and MTN Nigeria, that pledged N1 billion each and John Coumantatous (Flour Mills Nigeria Plc), who pledged N400 million.
The initial list of 37 donors, which grew to 47 as at last Friday, was 50 as of yesterday (excluding those yet to redeem their pledges).
Some of the donors on the latest list included Chief Mike Adenuga, Raj Gupta of African Steel Mills Nigeria Ltd., Modupe and Folorunsho Alakija of Famfa Oil Limited and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), all donating N1 billion each to the relief fund.
The statement reiterated the coalition’s appreciation to the donors for their contributions to the relief fund.
Okoroafor, while urging more Nigerians and corporate bodies to contribute to the fund, charged Nigerians to do their part in checking any further spread of the virus in Nigeria.
The objective of CACOVID is to mobilise private sector leadership and private sector resources; increase general public awareness, education, and buy-in and provide direct support to private and public healthcare ability to respond to the crisis as well as support the federal government’s efforts.
CACOVID had last Monday said work had started to provide and equip medical facilities in the six geopolitical zones.
The medical facilities included the creation of testing, isolation and treatment centres as well as the provision of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and molecular testing labs.
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had said CACOVID was targeting N120 billion for the acquisition of healthcare facilities and advocacy about the virus across the country, among others.
FG Lists Chinese Doctors’ Roles
The federal government yesterday, following the spate of criticisms over the invitation to the Chinese medical team to assist in combating COVID-19 in Nigeria, gave more details on what their roles would be during the mission.
SGF, at a press briefing to keep the media abreast of the presidential committee’s activities, urged the Nigeria Medical Association of Nigeria (NMA), one of the critics of the Chinese doctors’ planned trip, to see reason with the offer by China to assist Nigeria with medical doctors and health workers in the fight against COVID-19.
He said the Chinese team’s visit was being planned by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to support Nigeria’s fight against the pandemic.
His clarification followed the explanation by the National Coordinator of PTF COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, that the United Nations (UN) and international donor agencies had agreed to support Nigeria with 50 ventilators worth about $1.4 million. The equipment is expected to be supplied this week.
Mustapha decried the opposition to the Chinese offer by NMA and labour unions, clarifying that the Chinese doctors would not practise in Nigeria because they were not accredited by NMA.
One of the grounds of NMA to the Chinese doctors’ presence in Nigeria is that they are not licensed by local authorities to practise medicine in the country as required by law.
Giving more details on the invitation of the Chinese doctors, Mustapha said CCECC, which has been in Nigeria for over 40 years, offered to import about 256 equipment and items in different quantities, notable among which are: 1,300,000 medical masks, over 150,000 pieces of assorted personal protective equipment as well as another 50 ventilators.
He, however, added that qualified medical professionals would be needed to install, test the equipment and train the personnel that would handle the donated items.
Besides, the Chinese company also proposed to sponsor public health experts to help strengthen the Nigerian public health capacity and advise on processes and procedures.
“However, I wish to clarify that all countries of the world seek for and receive help in the fight against COVID-19. The support coming from China is a corporate social responsibility initiative by CCECC, a company with a total value of infrastructure contracts worth $10 billion in Nigeria,” Mustapha said.
SGF added that the Chinese doctors won’t practise in Nigeria as the company has indicated that the doctors would share their experiences with Nigerians on how they contained the virus, which first began in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China, last year before its escalation to other parts of the world.
He said: “The Chinese doctors are not accredited by NMA, so they cannot practise in Nigeria. I don’t see where the fear is. They cannot see our patients and cannot manage our patients. We are learning from experiences. Some of the things we have put together that took us to where we are today and received the commendation of the UN are as a result of sharing experiences.
“The world is a global village if you are not willing to share experiences and you want to operate in isolation, you will not make progress.
“We have read of how the Chinese and South Koreans dealt with their situation, so I don’t see anything wrong in listening to them. As a matter of fact, they have become experts in that field. It started with them. Nobody can give you better information on how to manage the COVID-19 than the Chinese. I don’t think we should drag ourselves into unnecessary controversies.
“They are not accredited by the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council, so they can’t practise here.
“They will offer their experiences; they will train our people and equip the hospital they have adopted.”
He said they would convert the THISDAY Dome to a hospital, adding that they would also bring their people to install their equipment for the use of Nigerians.
“Let us not generate unnecessary controversies on who is coming or who is not coming,” Mustapha said, adding: “All we are concerned as PTF is the welfare of the people and we are responsible enough to make decisions that will protect the people of this country at the direction of the president.”
According to him, Nigeria is in a state of war against the virus and the time should not be devoted to unhelpful controversy.
He also urged Nigerian medical professionals to see the positive aspects of the gesture as an extension of development in the field of medicine, saying PTF recognises and respects the competence and capability of Nigerian doctors and other medical personnel.
On the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states, SGF said only President Muhammadu Buhari could extend the 14-day lockdown, if necessary.
He said the objectives of the lockdown, which was primarily for containment to be able to trace or track those that had contacts with the first index case and by extension those established to be infected had been achieved.
“From the statistics I have just confirmed, what it shows is that 34 per cent of infection is by returning travellers, 25 per cent is among contacts of those cases. But there is a development that we are keeping eyes on, which is 41 per cent whose sources are unknown. That is an indication that we are succeeding,” he added.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who also took turns to brief reporters, expatiated on the mission of the Chinese medical team.
He said the team would be coming to help augment government’s efforts at building capacity to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team would also share their knowledge, skills and real-life experience of fighting COVID-19 with Nigerian personnel to strengthen the management of COVID-19 cases, especially with regard to critical care.
To further allay the fears of Nigerians over the health status of the Chinese team, Ehanire said all those included in the team would be fully screened and be made to undergo health regulations governing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chinese Doctors Must Undergo Laid-down Protocol, Says Gbajabiamila
Gbajabiamila said the Chinese medical team must undergo the necessary checks as provided by Nigeria.
The speaker, after a meeting of the leadership of the House with Ehanire and his deputy, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the measure became necessary to take precautions and allay fears expressed by many Nigerians.
He said the meeting was conveyed following widespread complaints that trailed the announcement of the coming of the Chinese medical team.
He said: “There are a lot of complaints about why we are bringing in Chinese doctors. It is incumbent on us, as lawmakers, to intervene, following the concerns of our constituents to understand the issues and get the right information to them. Our duty is to protect the Nigerian people, and every opportunity to increase our knowledge will not be thrown away.
“Having listened to you, what we are taking away from this meeting is that Nigeria needs this intervention from the Chinese, but you have to make it mandatory that they observe all the protocols laid down for the disease.
“As you explained that they won’t have direct contact with Nigerian patients, you have to make sure that they go through our official immigration laws, they have to get work permit waivers because they are coming here to work.”
Gbajabiamila added that the doctors have to be quarantined for 14 days as stipulated by the protocol and the ministers should educate Nigerians about this to avoid misconceptions.
FG to Unfold Guidelines on Use of Face Masks
Also at the media briefing in Abuja, the federal government said it would in the next 48 hours approve a national protocol for the use of face masks as a means of containing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the centre would today unveil protocol for the use of face masks by Nigerians.
While giving an update on the activities of the centre, Ihekweazu said the draft protocol for the face mask was ready but remained to be synchronised.
“I did say we will release a policy on face mask this week; that policy is almost completed. In fact, the draft is being looked at by various colleagues to ensure that they were all aligned. By tomorrow or next, we shall be releasing that policy for all of us to align with,” he said.
He also gave an update on the number of laboratories to be added to its network, saying four more testing laboratories each in Kano, Kaduna, Jos, and Maiduguri, would be activated between today and Thursday.
Kwara Confirms Two COVID-19 Cases
Kwara State Technical Committee on COVID-19 yesterday confirmed two separate cases of COVID-19 in the state.
One is the wife of University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) patient, a UK returnee, who died last Thursday and the other is another UK returnee.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, who is also the spokesman of the Technical Committee on COVID-19, in a statement, said: “This statement is issued at 18:33pm, a few minutes after the government received official confirmation of test results from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Test Centre in Ibadan. The government will address a news briefing tomorrow morning at 11.00 a.m to give details and further measures now being taken to tackle the development.”
Lagos Discharges Two More Patients
In Lagos State, the government announced the discharge of two more COVID-19 patients after their viral load returned to negative.
This brings to 31 the total number of discharged patients from the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba and 35 the total number of discharged cases in Nigeria.
The Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said in a statement that the persons had reunited with their families.
He said: “I have more great news for you from our Infectious Disease Hospital. Two more female patients have recovered fully, tested negative twice consecutively and have been discharged from the facility today.
“With the newly discharged patients, we now have a total of 31 people that have fully recovered from COVID-19 in Lagos and discharged to join the community.”
Survivor Narrates Experience
A COVID-19 survivor, Miss Ayodeji Osowobi, who was recently discharged from an isolation centre in Lagos, yesterday shared her experience with Arise TV, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, saying it feels great to be back to her comfort zone.
She said she heard so many misconceptions about the pandemic, including claims that it did not exist in Nigeria or that young people could not contract the disease.
She said: “I am here to say that it is a lie. I am 29 years old and I still got infected. For every young person out there, a strong immune system is great but does not shield you.
“I am healthy and strong but COVID-19 does not care if you are young or old. As far as you are not practising social distancing and if you are exposed to an infected surface, you will contract it.
“In my ward, there was a young baby who was infected as well. My heart was broken to see that a young child was infected. It only means that nobody is actually safe from this.”
Asked how long it took for the symptoms to manifest after she returned from a trip to the United Kingdom, she said: “I returned and I started feeling feverish on the plane, but I felt it may be due to the stressful week and tiredness.
“When I arrived in Lagos, I still felt weird and something wasn’t right. I practised social distancing as much as I could and I didn’t rule out the chances that it could be COVID-19.
“When I got to the counter and checked my temperature and saw that it was really high, I told my family members not to touch me or come close. I had the symptoms. Then, I had to isolate myself and reached out to NCDC.”
Osowobi added that she was the first female case that was confirmed after she was picked up by the ambulance around midnight to the isolation centre.
“It was midnight when the ambulance came to pick me at my house to the isolation centre. There was nobody to receive me and I had to stay in the ambulance for two hours and later nobody cared to ask me how I was feeling.
“I think the female nurses had not handled such a situation before and I know that everyone is scared to come in contact with me.
“I was unpleased with how the situation was handled at first, but the process was seamless, considering the information I gave to the Ministry of Health to see how they could help. When I got into my ward, the nurses were caring and they were coming to say a word of prayer and ask after my wellbeing. I was the class captain of the ward.
“They supported and encouraged me. In one of the episodes, I actually threw up and it was difficult for me to control my body at that time.
“The nurse didn’t lash out at me but tried to help me clean up, which I will never forget. The pros overweighed the cons because they were very kind. I saw them three times every day – morning, afternoon and evening. They were always coming to check our vitals and gave us medications and food.
“The cleaners too, I must commend them and the doctors. They really made the COVID-19 process a bit easy. It was very hard to even drink water. It wasn’t perfect at the beginning but I am grateful for every care that I got from there,” she added.
Speaking on how the system at the isolation centre could be improved, she said: “Every system has its own lapses- even the most advanced countries with the best health care; they are struggling through the process. Yes, there were moments that were not perfect, but at the end of the day, it is a learning curve and I did my best to give feedback to them on a daily basis on what could be improved on and changed and also the diet that should be introduced.
“They did make effort to make amends and as days went by, they were able to infuse some of the feedback into the services they were providing.
“They fed us and we could always make things better in terms of balancing the nutrient. They worked on the feedback. In terms of facilities, the sanitary part of it can also be improved.
“But again, there was nobody to talk to and nothing to watch; so, I was bored and lonely. Days after, there was something to watch.
Boris Johnson Moves to Intensive Care Unit
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of UK, Mr. Boris Johnson, was moved to an intensive care unit yesterday after his condition with COVID-19 worsened.
CNN reported that Johnson, 55, was first admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday evening for what he said were “routine tests,” adding that he was in “good spirits.”
But the apparent change in the leader’s health has shocked the nation, with politicians from his party and the opposition voicing their support for him as the UK battles a widespread pandemic outbreak.
“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the Prime Minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
According to Downing Street officials, Johnson remains conscious and has been moved to the intensive care unit as a precaution, in case he requires ventilation.
The move strikes a sharp contrast to earlier reports on Johnson’s condition: during his period of self-isolation, Downing Street had said Johnson’s symptoms were “mild,” and on Sunday said his hospitalisation was just a “precautionary step.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson had said earlier on Monday that Johnson spent a “comfortable” night in hospital, but would not comment on reports Johnson was given oxygen. Officials are no longer describing his symptoms as mild.
Downing Street on Monday said that Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the First Secretary of State and the most senior cabinet minister, to deputise for him where necessary.
Raab chaired Monday’s regular morning COVID-19 briefing and made a televised statement, saying the government would continue Johnson’s direction in responding to the outbreak.