- Intensifies talks with hoteliers on use of facilities to expand bed spaces
- Mulls use of military to secure isolation centres
- Says 113 health workers infected nationwide
- 204 new cases push tally to 1,932 with 319 discharged, 58 dead
- With 80 fresh incidences, Kano displaces FCT as second epicentre with 219 infected
- High hopes for vaccine developed by Oxford scientists
Martins Ifijeh in Lagos, Olawale Ajimotokan and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government yesterday expressed concern about the rising cases of COVID-19, saying with the high prospect of patients outstripping the 3,500-bed spaces available in the country, it might consider home care treatment.
THISDAY had reported on Wednesday public health analysts’ advice to the federal government to prepare for a second lockdown on the projection that the pandemic incidence might climb to about 280,000 with 8,400 deaths in three months.
The analysts hinged their projections on the average infection rate of 14 per cent of tested persons, which stood at 1,532 of 10,918 as of Tuesday. They warned that with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) target of two million people in three months, confirmed cases might be in the region of 280,000.
Confirmed cases have been on the upward trend since the warning. Last night, NCDC put the daily rise at 204, bringing the tally to 1,932 with 319 discharged and 58 dead.
It said the new 204 cases were reported from 18 states- Kano 80, Lagos 45, Gombe 12, Sokoto nine, Bauchi nine, Edo seven, Borno seven, Rivers six, Ogun six, FCT four, Akwa Ibom four, Bayelsa four, Kaduna three, Oyo two, Delta two, Nasarawa two, Ondo one and Kebbi one.
Acknowledging the gloomy immediate future, the federal government raised the alarm yesterday that rise in the incidences of the disease was threatening to overwhelm its facilities.
It, therefore, said it was intensifying talks with hoteliers in the epicentres of COVID-19, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos, Ogun and Kano, on the possibility of converting their facilities to isolation centres to complement the 3,500-bed spaces on the ground across the country.
The federal government also expressed worry over the rising of patients trying to run away from isolation centres and said it was in talks with the military to provide security for the centres.
Speaking at the daily press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told reporters that the country only had about 3,500-bed spaces only for COVID-19 management, adding that in Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic, its capacity was being stretched.
He said the development might force the federal government to manage patients at homes by sending healthcare workers to treat them.
He said: “There is no doubt about it. We are struggling in some places, especially Lagos and to an extent in Kano and Abuja too. But the biggest challenge right now is Lagos where bed spaces are really tight.
“We are now trying to make more bed spaces available, but ultimately we might have to change our strategy and start considering homecare in certain circumstances where patients are able to provide rooms for their own management.
“Secondly, we will also have to support their care by enabling healthcare workers, who would go and treat them. Because of the realities we face, we might have to adjust our strategy in the next few days or weeks.”
He said the federal government was aware of the pressure for the use of the rapid diagnostic test, but that the technology would not produce accurate results as against what obtains with molecular laboratory testing.
“My responsibility is to make sure every result we get is accurate, and that is what we are doing at the moment,” he said.
He explained that instead of waiting for people to call or come for tests, officials have been deployed to go to the neighbourhoods in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja to take samples from people with symptoms for testing.
He also reacted to the issue of some states buying test kits themselves and using other faster devices for testing in their areas.
Ihekweazu said NCDC would not stop any state from doing so, but that the centre would insist on working with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) as far as the laboratory testing is concerned.
He cautioned that any state using test kits not endorsed by WHO or NCDC may be doing so at the risk to the lives of their people.
FG Woos Hoteliers for Bed Spaces in Lagos, Ogun, Abuja, Kano
Meanwhile, the federal government has made overtures to owners of hotels and other recreational facilities for bed spaces, urging them to show solidarity with efforts at tackling the pandemic outbreak.
It said the cooperation of the hotel owners are needed to allow government to make use of their facilities as isolation centres to manage the increasing cases of the virus.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, also said there was an immediate need for owners of hotels to make their facilities available for temporary use in emergency situations.
“Active community transmission and scale-up of case finding are expressed in increasing numbers of confirmed persons. As stated yesterday, bed spaces and isolation centres at state level need to match the increase and necessitate an appeal to all citizens, especially property and hotel owners, to recognise the imminent needs and the social responsibility of working with state governments to make facilities available for temporary use in emergency situations,” he stated.
According to him, everything should not be left to government alone as “we must all take collective ownership of the health and wellbeing of our citizens.”
On complaints that patients were being turned back by some hospitals for fear of being infected, Ehanire cautioned healthcare institutions and workers against such an act.
He said they should not be dismissing patients that come for normal treatment rather their duty should be to apply necessary guidelines in handling their treatment.
Mulls Use of Military to Secure Isolation Centres
Also speaking at the press briefing the Chairman of the Task Force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the federal government would engage the armed forces to provide surveillance and control of the isolation centres nationwide to prevent people with the virus from escaping from the centres.
Mustapha raised the alarm that perimeter fencing of the isolation centres was not enough to deter people of positive status from trying to escape from the treatment centres and putting the society at risk.
“Most of the facilities have perimeter fencing. And we have been in discussion with the security and armed forces about the need to provide surveillance and control over the isolation centres. I hope we will be able to perfect that in the days and weeks ahead.
“But let me say that perimeter fencing will not deter people from wanting to escape. Let me say this. I saw a video clip of the Kenyan experience- a very high fence, but they were throwing their luggage across the fence and were jumping. And I understood from the news that that same evening, they were apprehended in a club where they had gone to socialise.
“It is this that is informing my position that perimeter fencing will not stop anybody that wants to escape. It is just for our people to develop the culture and sensitivity that they are not just a risk to themselves but a risk to the larger community,” he said.
Mustapha warned that the gradual easing of restrictions on activities and movements should not be mistaken to mean life has returned to normalcy in the country.
113 not 300 Healthcare Workers Infected
Ehanire, however, disagreed with the figures given by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) that about 300 of its members were infected with the virus, saying latest figures showed that about 113 doctors mainly in the private health organisations, have been infected.
He said: “We have realised majority of these health workers are from private hospitals. That is why we have said health workers trying to treat COVID-19 patients in private hospitals must be trained for it. Health workers without training have no business treating people with coronavirus. Those in the frontline must adhere to advisories relating to the management of the disease.”
He advised citizens to adhere to advisories by staying home and limiting travels.
He said people should wear face masks when going outside, wash their hands regularly, practise respiratory hygiene and social distancing.
FG Suspends Admission of Inmates into Correctional Centres
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, said the federal government had suspended further admission of inmates into any of the correctional facilities nationwide as a precaution to stem the spread of COVID-19 among the inmates and the workers.
He added that the decision did not go down well with some state governors.
Aregbesola thanked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad; the National Judicial Council (NJC), and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, for approaching the courts and helping to reduce pressure on custodial facilities to admit new inmates.
Obaseki Declares Nursing Mother Wanted
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has declared one Amara Okoro, a nursing mother, wanted after she tested positive and became unreachable.
He said yesterday at a press briefing in Benin City, the state capital, that Okoro’s baby had started coughing and urged those with useful information about her whereabouts to report to the relevant security and health agencies.
The governor also extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state by 14 days, effective from yesterday, as part of renewed measures to halt the spread of the virus.
He added that the government had decided to commence another round of distribution of relief materials to most vulnerable persons to reduce the economic hardship.
“I am extending the curfew in Edo State for another 14 days from 8pm to 6am. With the lessons which we have learnt from the first round of distribution, measures have been put in place to make sure that only the targeted persons receive these palliatives,” he said.
Dead Victims Are Not Infectious, FCDA Insists
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has said a cemetery at Kaura District in Phase II of the Federal Capital City (FCC) does not constitute a long-term health danger to residents of the estates.
The clarification followed the complaint by the residents of Lokogoma Estates, who asked the FCT Administration to consider relocating the cemetery to another area on the fears that burying COVID-19 bodies at the cemetery threatened the neighbourhood through the contamination of boreholes.
FCDA, in a statement yesterday by the Media Assistant to the Executive Secretary, Mr. Richard Nduul, stated that except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers (such as Lassa fever and Ebola) and Cholera, bodies are generally not infectious.
“There is also little or no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to bodies of persons who died from COVID-19. This is the position of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and further collaborated by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” the statement said.
Lagos Discharges 12 More Patients
Lagos State continued to post good news on the management of COVID-19 cases as the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said yesterday that 12 more COVID-19 patients from its isolation centres had been discharged.
This brings to 199 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.
He said the discharged patients were nine males and three females.
“One of the patients is Ukrainian. Six were discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, five from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and one from Ibeju-Lekki. So far, 199 cases have been successfully managed,” he stated.
Kano Probe Team Submits Interim Report
Ehanire also gave an update on developments in Kano State, saying the Ministerial Task Team sent on a fact-finding mission to Kano has sent in an interim report.
He said the report provided information on the needs, strengths and weaknesses of the Kano response system.
“While I await a full report, this will guide the FMoH (Federal Ministry of Health) in supporting Kano State COVID-19 Taskforce with necessary material, training and human resources. They will include assembling and dispatching a technical team from Federal Ministry of Health and viral infectious disease specialists from Irrua Specialist Hospital to join a technical team from Lagos State Ministry of Health that is already on the ground in Kano at the request of the governor of Kano State,” he said.
According to him, the ministry is assembling a pool of experienced experts to support Kano State in the battling virus.
Already, the minister said, an emergency medical team from the Federal Ministry of Health had left Abuja with ambulances, five of which were donated by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), for Kano to provide emergency response.
Mustapha also confirmed that the federal government had released the equipment to Kano State.
Mustapha said the equipment, which was to be transported immediately to the state, comprised two Oxygen Concentration, three Ventilators, 280 Personal Protective Equipment, 51 face shields, 538 examination gloves, 25 boot covers, medical masks, and surgical gloves and unspecified numbers of infrared thermometers.
High Hopes for COVID-19 Vaccine Developed by Oxford Scientists
If tests of the Covid-19 vaccine are successful, Oxford scientists hope to be able to begin supplying millions of them by September, a report by France 24 said yesterday.
A vaccine against the virus developed in Britain, it says, has shown very encouraging results on rhesus macaque monkeys, among the animals closest to humans. The scientists working on the vaccine estimate that if they can prove its effectiveness, it could be ready as soon as September.
Its name is a mouthful, but it’s the vaccine on everyone’s lips: The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, currently being developed by Oxford University scientists, has in recent days shot ahead to become the most promising potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
On Thursday, the British drug maker AstraZeneca said it would help Oxford develop, produce and distribute the vaccine.
“Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.
The partnership hopes to produce 100 million doses by the end of the year and prioritise supply in the UK, Soriot told the Financial Times.
The first good news came last week from a laboratory in the US state of Montana, where six rhesus macaques, who received a dose of the British vaccine a month ago, did not contract Covid-19 after being exposed to it. Other monkeys who had not been vaccinated caught the virus and fell ill.
“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Vincent Munster, the scientist who conducted the experiment, told The New York Times.
Morgane Bomsel, a molecular biologist working on Covid-19 at the Cochin Institute in Paris, agrees. “It’s true that it’s better than if the tests had been carried out on mice,” she told FRANCE 24.
Bomsel considers the results encouraging, but warns against celebrating too soon, if only because details of the experiment conducted in Montana have not yet been published. “We don’t know yet, for example, what dose of the virus the macaques were exposed to, or how they were contaminated,” she said.
First tests on humans in Europe
Work on the ChAdOx1 nCov-19 vaccine is moving ahead quickly in Britain as well. On April 24, the Oxford vaccine was the first in Europe to enter the human trial stage, with 1,110 healthy volunteers recruited for the tests.
“The goal is to ensure that the vaccine is not toxic for the human body,” Bomsel said. In other words, before checking whether the ChAdOx1 nCov-19 protects from Covid-19, the researchers first need to guarantee that it is not dangerous.