Use Face Masks at Public Gatherings, FG Tells Nigerians

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* Confirmed cases of Covid-19 now 665
* Kano situation gets more attention

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The federal government has urged Nigerians to use face masks or improvised cloth mask at public places where social distancing may not be practicable.

It however advised that such practice must be observed along with other hygienic practices such as use of hand sanitizers and regular hand washing with soap.

The government also cautioned members of the public to use cotton material in making the mask and to avoid the use of nylon or polyester.

Speaking at a media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 on Tuesday, the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnmibe Mamora, said that the federal government had assessed the current state on the Covid-19 pandemic with regards to the rising cases in some states like Kano and has ordered heightened responses to such areas.

He said that more medical supplies have been distributed to the states with special attention to the states with more cases of coronavirus.

Mamora said that the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, and a team of health officials had visited six states to assess the state of readiness to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of renewed efforts to arrest the spread of Covid-19 virus in communities, the minister said that the federal government has recommended that Nigerians wear face masks at all times at public places.

“We have intensified efforts in risk communication at grassroots level. The need to avoid mass gatherings without protecting yourself cannot be overemphasized. The use of face masks or face barrier that covers your mouth and nose has been scientifically proven to reduce spread of respiratory infection.

“I therefore urge all Nigerians to practise hand and respiratory hygiene, avoid mass gathering and put on a face mask at all times. The improvised cloth mask will suffice at community level. Please, always wash, iron and ensure the improvised cloth mask is not dirty,” he said.

While giving the latest updates on Covid-19 spread around the country, the minister said:
“As of Tuesday, 21st April, 2020, a total of 665 people in 24 states and the FCT have been confirmed to have COVID-19.”

He said the 38 new confirmations were distributed as follows Kano – 23, Gombe – 5, Kaduna – 3, Borno and Abia – 2 and 1 each in FCT, Sokoto and Ekiti.

Mamora said that 22 deaths have been recorded so far, while 188 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Nigeria and have been discharged.

The minister also spoke on the move by the federal government to support states with rising cases of infection.

He said that 23 national rapid response teams (RRTs) have been deployed to support the Covid-19 response in each affected states.

The minister expressed the fear that the country may have constraints driving through the new mass testing strategy due to limitations in testing kits.

According to Mamora, the country is comfortable with the testing capacity at the initial stage of the Covid-19 pandemic when testing was done on targeted basis, adding that now that new strategy is being adopted to stem community transmission of the virus, testing kits and laboratories may become a challenge.

“We with the community transmission, are doing active case search in communities. This strategy requires more testing kits and diagnostics. Currently, we are assessing additional laboratories for accreditation and will announce more laboratories soon,” he said.

Mamora thanked health workers for the good work they are doing as well as the sacrifice Nigerians have been making by obeying the lockdown directive.

“I also want all our health workers to be extra vigilant and ensure they protect themselves as they do their jobs. We shall strive as government to ensure we provide you with all the necessary PPEs required to do your work,” he said.