- Says recalcitrant facilities risk shutdown
- Warns pandemic may spread to 36 states
- Shortlists two airlines for evacuation of Nigerians abroad
- Cases rise to 442 with 152 discharged, 13 deaths
- Ken Saro-Wiwa’s son, Menegian, dies of pandemic in UK
- Virus can kill over 300,000 in Nigeria, others, says UN
- WHO projects Africa’s cases to hit 10m, to spend $300m
Gboyega Akinsanmi, Martins Ifijeh, Nume Ekeghe, Peter Uzoho, Ayodeji Ake in Lagos Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
The federal government thursday warned that it would henceforth close any private hospitals and other health facilities that treat COVID-19 patients without authorisation.
THISDAY had reported yesterday mounting concerns about the danger to public health, the growing number of private health care providers managing infected persons without accreditation.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, responded to these concerns yesterday in Abuja during the media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, saying the federal government would come down heavily on any unauthorised facility offering treatment to infected patients.
He added that the focus now is to carry out more community testing and social mobilisation at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing.
It has also shortlisted two airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in foreign countries with high cases of COVID-19.
Incidences in the country, however, rose to 442 yesterday with 152 patients discharged and 13 dead.
The government also assured the nation that part of its efforts at combating the virus included budgetary provision for research into finding a vaccine.
However, it warned that without strict adherence to the guidelines it had rolled out to contain the virus, the pandemic would spread to the 36 states of the federation.
Also yesterday, a total of 11 patients were discharged in Lagos, Ogun and Bauchi states after being treated and tested negative for the virus.
Ehanire appealed to Nigerians not to cast aspersion or deride people infected with the pandemic, noting that such behaviour was capable of derailing efforts of the government to curb the spread of the virus.
He said the government would push out more messages and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarves over the mouth and nose, to reduce the risk of transmission.
“I shall use this opportunity to again strongly advise health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities. We cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality,” he said, warning: “Private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat this highly infectious disease. Practitioners engaging in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19 run the risk of being shut down for decontamination.”
The minister described the latest COVID-19 fatality that occurred in Lagos, which claimed the life of a medical doctor, as unfortunate.
He said to avoid such an incident in the future, the federal government has been appealing to health workers to adhere to all instructions and regulations and to always utilise personal protective equipment (PPE) while maintaining a high index of suspicion for COVID-19.
According to him, the target this week is to increase the 3,000 national testing capacity.
In a bid to achieve the target, two more laboratories are scheduled to be opened in Borno and Sokoto states.
On concerns about stigmatisation, Ehanire said COVID-19 outbreak had provoked social stigma and discrimination against anyone thought to have been in contact with the virus as well as people of certain backgrounds.
He regretted that those with the disease, their caregivers, family, friends, and communities, were often labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against and treated poorly because of a disease.
The minister said stigma could prompt social isolation of persons or groups and drive people to hide the illness, thus preventing them from seeking health care immediately.
“This could cause a situation where the virus is more likely to spread and increase the difficulty of controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. We must not stigmatise persons who have recovered from COVID-19,” he said.
Pandemic May Spread to 36 States, Says FG
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, warned that the pandemic might spread to the 36 states of the federation and urged Nigerians to prepare for the transmission of the virus to more states.
Ihekweazu, who appeared on Sunrise Daily, a live programme on Channels Television, yesterday, noted that though there were bound to be more cases, the goal was to build a more efficient public health infrastructure.
“We are responding to something, at the moment, across 22 states. But it will grow to almost every state in Nigeria. There is no reason it won’t. It is a respiratory virus.
“So, what we are trying to achieve right now, in the short term, is not to stop transmission because we know that will be very difficult to do. No country in the world has achieved that,” he said.
Ihekweazu, at the task force’s press conference, also said NCDC has so far tested 7,000 persons since the epidemic erupted.
He added that the centre would be issuing weekly totals every Friday to keep Nigerians updated on the progress made to test all suspected cases of COVID-19 infection and their contacts.
Also speaking during the media briefing in Abuja, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said the committee was concerned about reports of people being smuggled in trucks out of Lagos.
Aliyu said inter-state travels were leading to community spread of the disease.
He appealed to Nigerians to limit their movements if the disease must be curtailed.
Govt Moves to Curb COVID-19 Spread via Land borders
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, urged Nigerians living in 17 border states to be alert and report illegal land crossing by foreigners to the officers and men of the Nigeria Immigrations Service (NIS) so as to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 through the borders.
He listed the states as Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Niger, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Cross River, and Akwa Ibom.
According to him, it’s in their collective interest to prevent the spread of the virus through the land borders by taking maximum advantage of the gains already made.
Aregbesola’s counterpart in the Ministry of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, faulted allegations that the federal government was not doing enough to enlighten the people on the virus.
He said the result of the independent poll conducted by the West Africa-based NOI Poll on the level of awareness of Nigerians about the virus did not substantiate the allegation.
He said the poll result sent to the federal government by the communications department of the office of the UK Prime Minister showed that 94 per cent of Nigerians were aware of COVID-19, while six per cent said it was not real.
FG Shortlists Two Airlines to Evacuate Nigerians Abroad
At the press conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Godfrey Onyeama, said the federal government had shortlisted two airlines for the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in foreign countries with high cases of the virus.
He did not, however, disclose the identity of the airlines.
It’s believed that about 1,000 Nigerians have approached the federal government through the country’s foreign missions to evacuate them as the contagion continues to spread globally.
Onyeama said the ministry was already collating names of those to be evacuated and was also in touch with Nigerian embassies abroad.
He added that both National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Ministry of Health would be part of the engagement.
“We are in touch with our various embassies around the world and we are already collating names. We have also selected the two airlines that will be responsible for the evacuation. The numbers of those to be brought are high and the places where we can isolate them are not enough for the travellers, so we will have to do it in a staggered fashion and together with NEMA and the Ministry of Health. We will have to go with an agreement to be bringing them according to the number of beds and so forth that are available. We are almost ready to go,” Onyeama said.
Budgetary Vote for Vaccine Research
Also speaking at the press briefing, the Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, stated that the federal government had a budget for research into a possible discovery of a vaccine for the virus.
Mustapha said the federal government was carrying out the research through a partnership with the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research.
He explained that all countries, including those from the West, are also joining the effort to seek a cure for the virus.
He said: “Every country is mixing whatever they can mix. Here in Africa and in Nigeria in particular, we would use a little bit of the Nigerian sense, like the Minister of Aviation said here that in his part of the country where he comes from, people are saying they can eat some fruits, they can swallow some things. But that is not scientifically proven. We would do the needful in terms of proper medical research to see if Nigeria can have a leeway or headway in getting to a creation or invention of a vaccine or a combination of drugs that can be curative in dealing with coronavirus.
“But as of now, there is no cure that is proven scientifically; there is no vaccine in the market that can be administered. All we are doing is to put in place a non-pharmaceutical initiative and the medical cure that can be given to those that have been infected.”
He also urged the police to be polite and to stop harassing people as well as denying access to people covered by the government’s exemption from the restriction of movements.
He noted that since civility is reciprocal, the police would command respect if they are civil in their approach.
“But the security agents are not expected to be overzealous in dealing with our people. I understand that having been locked down for two weeks, there is anxiety and apprehension, but this is the time to exhibit patience and endure excesses,” Mustapha said.
35 New Cases as Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi Discharge 11 Patients
There were 35 new cases reported yesterday by NCDC from four states – Lagos 19, FCT nine, Kano five, and Oyo two.
However, 11 more COVID-19 patients have been discharged in Lagos, Ogun, and Bauchi states.
Five patients were discharged in Lagos, while three were discharged in Bauchi.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and his Bauchi State counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed, announced the discharge of the patients via their Twitter handles yesterday.
In Lagos, three females and two males were discharged after testing negative twice for the virus.
Lagos has recorded 251 cases of COVID-19. Of that figure, 90 persons have now been discharged, 154 are active and seven patients have died.
Ogun State Government yesterday said three patients were discharged from its isolation centre after they had tested negative and completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, at a press briefing in Abeokuta, said: “I have good news. In the last 24 hours, three individuals have been given a clean bill of health in the state and discharged from one of our isolation centres to join their families and resume their normal life, thus bringing the total number of discharged individuals to six.”
She added: “We have only three active cases and they are being treated by our doctors and other healthcare workers in one of our isolation and treatment centres.
“In addition, so far, we have identified 210 persons who had contacts with the positive cases, out of which 110 underwent the required 14 days quarantine period.
Only two of this number tested positive, the remaining 108 tested negative on completion of the quarantine period.
“One hundred others are, however, still observing the quarantine period and are being observed and monitored by our specialist doctors and other healthcare workers.”
Pandemic Can Kill over 300,000 in Nigeria, Others, Says UN
In a comprehensive cost-effect analysis of COVID-19, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) yesterday raised the alarm that the pandemic could claim between 300,000 and 3.3 million lives in Nigeria and other African countries if adequate protection measures were not taken.
UNECA, one of the regional commissions the UN created to promote the development of its member statesk, also warned that the impact of COVID-19 could, on aggregate, lead to a 2.6 per cent contraction of African economies in addition to the cost of human lives.
The commission gave the warning in a 48-page report THISDAY obtained from its Corporate Communications Office yesterday, recommending that Africa, as a whole, would need $100 billion as a health and social safety net response and another $100 billion as an emergency economic stimulus.
The report, which is titled; “COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies” would be unveiled in Addis Ababa today by UNECA’s Executive Secretary, Dr. Vera Songwe and Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division, Dr. Stephen N. Karingi.
According to the report, anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19, depending on the intervention measures taken to stop the spread.
It justified its forecast on the ground that Africa “is particularly susceptible because 56 per cent of the urban population is concentrated in overcrowded and poorly serviced slum dwellings (excluding North Africa) and only 34 per cent of the households have access to basic handwashing facilities.”
It said 71 per cent of Africa’s workforce “is informally employed, and most of those cannot work from home. Close to 40 per cent of children under five years of age in Africa are undernourished.”
Of all the continents, the report observed that Africa “has the highest prevalence of certain underlying conditions, like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.”
WHO Projects Rise in Africa’s COVID-19 Cases to 10m
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases in Africa could shoot up from thousands now to 10 million within three to six months according to a provisional modeling, a regional World Health Organisation (WHO) official said yesterday.
But Head of Emergency Operations for WHO Africa, Michel Yao, said that was a tentative projection which could change and noted worst-case predictions for the Ebola outbreak had not come true because people changed behaviour in time.
“This is still to be fine-tuned,” he told a media teleconference.
“It’s difficult to make a long-term estimation because the context changes too much and also public health measures when they are fully implemented, they can actually have an impact.”
Africa has seen more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease and about 900 deaths so far – relatively little compared to some other regions.
But there are fears that it could balloon and overwhelm shaky health services.
“We are concerned that the virus continues to spread geographically, within countries,” said Director for WHO’s Africa Region, which comprises 46 sub-Saharan nations and Algeria, Matshidiso Moeti.
“The numbers continue to increase every day.”
WHO Plans to Spend $300m in Africa
WHO has also said it planned to spend $300 million to help curtail the spread of the pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It unfolded the plan during an online media briefing with experts from WHO, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the World Economic Forum on COVID-19 in Africa.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Moeti, said: “The situation currently in Africa is that we have now reported over 17,000 cases and we know that around 900 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
“With regard to the budget for the COVID-19 support by WHO, it is about $300 in Africa and we have 47 countries and each of the African offices has developed a plan of how they are going to work with the government locally and then we have the regional offices working on this and overall we would be needing $300 million for the next four to six months to support what countries are doing.”
Dangote-led Flood Committee Donates N1.5bn
The Presidential Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee set up in 2012 by the federal government and led by the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has announced a donation of N1.5 billion to curtail the virus spread.
Announcing the donation on Wednesday after an emergency meeting, Dangote said it had become imperative for all well-meaning Nigerians to help the federal government in fighting the virus.
He said: “The reality of the pandemic has set in now in Nigeria and all hands must be on deck to save our country from its attendant crisis. So far, so good, we need to sustain the momentum and ensure that we curtail the spread.”
The mandate of the committee was to provide support for flood victims, and by extension, similar related disaster relief situation in the country.
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Son Dies of COVID-19 in UK
Meanwhile, Menegian, one of the children of the late environmental and Ogoni activist, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, has died of COVID-19 at a London hospital.
Menegian was 50 at the time of his death.
Sister to the deceased, Noo, made the announcement in a Facebook post yesterday
She wrote: “We said goodbye to my brother, Gian, on Monday.
“He had COVID-19 combined with underlying health conditions.
“Gian was the smartest and most talented out of all of us: a champion sprinter at school, a poet, an artist, budding engineer, a self-taught guitarist, and pianist. But mental health issues limited his life from age 16 onwards.”