Nigerians Yet to Come to Terms with Deadly Nature of COVID-19, FG Laments

Ayo Olukanni
  • Warns against dangers ahead of non-compliance with guidelines
  • Says Buhari concerned about increasing infection among health workers
  • Extends flight ban by four weeks, predicts many airlines won’t survive
  • Asks states to increase isolation centres
  • To inaugurate THISDAY’s 320-bed isolation centre Tuesday
  • •Cases rise to 3,145 with 534 discharged, 103 dead


Martins Ifijeh in Lagos, Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Udora Orizu in Abuja and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

The federal government wednesday lamented, for the second time since Monday’s easing of the lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states, the refusal of citizens to comply with its guidelines on steps to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Saying Nigerians were yet to come to terms with the deadly nature of the virus, it warned that there were great dangers ahead as the disease might spread exponentially with the attendant potential to overwhelm the public health system.

Nigeria recorded 195 new cases wednesday, bringing to 3,145 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.

In an update last night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 82 new cases, Kano 30, Zamfara 19, Sokoto 18, Borno 10, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) nine, Oyo eight, Kebbi and Gombe five each, Ogun four, Katsina three, while Kaduna and Adamawa have one each.

“So far, 3,145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in Nigeria,” it said, adding: “534 persons have been discharged, while 103 have died.”

At its daily briefing in Abuja, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, expressed the government’s dissatisfaction with the misconduct of the citizens across the nation, particularly in the epicentres, particularly FCT and Lagos, pointing out that all the basic rules, including mask-wearing, physical distancing and ban on inter-state travel had been wantonly disobeyed.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had become worried by the increasing spread of the virus among health, adding that the federal government had directed state governments to increase the number of isolation centres as the cases of the pandemic soar.
The federal government has also stepped up efforts to increase the number of isolation centres in FCT with the planned inauguration on May 12 of the 320-bed THISDAY Isolation and Treatment Centre, donated by the Chairman and Publisher of THISDAY Newspapers and ARISE NEWS CHANNEL, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, and his partners.

The centre has a section for intensive care unit.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), told reporters at the news briefing that the early assessment of the easing of the lockdown phase revealed a lack of compliance with social and physical distancing guidelines.

He cited the higher-than-advised congregation of people in banks, traffic gridlocks, particularly at entry points to metropolitan areas and disregard of guidelines on carrying capacity of vehicles, as evidence of the violation of COVID-19 protocol.

He cited the increase in the level of interstate movements, worsened by the concealment of people in food-carrying vehicles and unhygienic and ill-advised use and sharing of masks, especially multiple fittings before buying from vendors, as part of the people’s disregard for safety measures emplaced by the federal government to combat the virus.

He said: “I am a bit sobered by the dangers I see ahead. The overall direction of the modelling we have developed points in the direction of danger ahead. I want to emphasis that so that we know that what we are playing with is very serious and it is a very sober thing to reflect upon. It points in the direction of danger. We need personal discipline and awareness to avert this.

“It is obvious we need to do much more because we have the collective responsibility to own this fight. It is not the federal government’s fight; not the state governors’ fight; it is your fight for your life. When we say stay at home, observe social distancing, put on a mask, it is not to protect any of us. It is to protect you and your loved ones. We can’t go on like this and expect a different result.

“I want to reiterate the fact that our individual and collective safety is in our hands and I re-echo my call and appeal to Nigerians to demonstrate our duty to ourselves and loved ones by minimising the risk of getting infected by the virus.”

Mustapha said PTF recognised the challenges earlier encountered at the bank, but assured Nigerians that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as the Bankers’ Committee had put in place strategies that would reduce such re-occurrence.

“I, therefore, plead with Nigerians to be patient and schedule their physical appearances at banks,” he said, adding: “On the other hand, I wish to repeat my call to the banks to also quickly address issues related to difficulty with using their online platforms, especially revalidating expired ATM cards amongst others.”
The SGF identified public transportation as a major clustering the area through which the virus could easily be transmitted and called on the leadership of various transport unions to properly enlighten their members on the dangers of non-adherence to the COVID-19 containment guidelines and ban on interstate travels.

Buhari Worried By Increasing Spread among Health Workers

Mustapha also expressed the president’s concern about reports on the increasing rate of infection of medical doctors and personnel, saying while the government renewed the efforts at training the frontline workers about the infectious nature of the virus, it urged that utmost care be taken in managing cases.

States Asked to Increase Isolation Centres

During the briefing, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, urged state governments to increase the number of isolation centres to cope with the rising cases.

“The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria has continued to rise not unexpectedly, in view of prevailing circumstances in certain states.

We are encouraging and supporting states to increase the number of isolation centres nationwide and we are extremely grateful to corporate organisations and philanthropists who have donated isolation facilities, diagnostic equipment, commodities and sundry supplies relevant to our response efforts to COVID-19 threat,” he said.

THISDAY Dome Isolation Centre for Inauguration May 12

The federal government said it would on May 12 inaugurate THISDAY Dome, which has been converted to isolation and treatment centre for COVID-19 patients.

The centre would now complement the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada and National Hospital, Abuja as the two major centres for the treatment of the virus in the FCT.
Mustapha described the completion of the centre, which was fitted with medical equipment imported by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), as a boost in the provision of isolation facilities in Abuja.

Ehanire inspected the centre yesterday

Ehanire said the federal government was grateful to corporate organisations and philanthropists who donated facilities, diagnostic equipment, commodities and sundry supplies relevant to the response efforts to curb the pandemic.

“One example is the THISDAY Dome, which has been purposed by donors, to be a 320-bed Isolation Centre with a 10-bed ICU (Intensive Care Unit), which is to be commissioned next week to significantly ease the supply of bed spaces.”

The treatment and isolation centre was donated by THISDAY and ARISE Media Group in association with notable partners as part of efforts to address the shortage of bed spaces for patients.

The centre is located at the THISDAY Dome in the Central Business District, Abuja with capacity for 360 beds which could be scaled up to 500 beds if the need arises.

Ehanire, who was accompanied to inspect the facility by the top management team from the Federal Ministry of Health, expressed satisfaction with the conversion of the THISDAY Dome to an isolation centre.
“We are extremely grateful to Obaigbena for the generous donation,” the ministry tweeted yesterday on its Twitter handle.

The partners in the project are: Sahara Foundation; the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), African Finance Corporation (AFC) and the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company, which handled the internal partitioning amongst others.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, were among top government officials who visited the centre ahead of its formal opening next week.

Gbajabiamila, who was accompanied to the inspection by the top management team of the Federal Ministry of Health; Emefiele and members of the House Committee on Health, expressed satisfaction with efforts put together by the stakeholders to contribute to the fight against COVID-19.

“What I’m seeing here today is even beyond my expectation, a comprehensive well-equipped facility, about 300-bed isolation centre. The people that put this together thought about everything. There’s an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and the facility is made as comfortable as possible for whoever is coming here, whether as workers or as patients,” he said.

The Minister of State for Health, Senator Adeleke Mamora, said from what was put on the ground, the concerns over where to keep infected people after being tested and confirmed had been addressed with the facility.
Obaigbena and Sahara Group CEO, Temitope Shonubi, said they put resources together to build the facility because the government could not be left alone to provide all resources needed to combat the virus.

Survival Rate of Patients on Ventilators Very Low

Responding to the clamour for the provision of more ventilators at isolation centres, PTF National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said 70 per cent of the global pandemic victims did not recover even when they are put on ventilators.

He said the chances of survival for anybody with COVID-19, within the risk group like immune-suppression, the elderly, diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and who would require a ventilator was low.

“You have a greater chance of not coming off the ventilator, even in the best health system. That is why people have been dying out there in Europe, the US and others. Most of the deaths have been linked to the ventilator. We have very few ventilators in the country anyway.

“So, the 20 per cent that we talk about that will require hospitalisation are those that require oxygen. And about 25 per cent of them will require ventilators but you don’t really want to be in that group. That is why I keep emphasising on the prevention aspect. It is better than cure and it particularly applies to COVID-19 infection,” he said.

Closure of Airspace Extended by Four Weeks

The federal government yesterday extended by four weeks the closure of the country’s air space as a precaution against the spread of the pandemic.

Mustapha said they made the decision after assessing the situation in the aviation industry in addition to the available facts and the advice given by experts.

With this latest development, Nigeria’s airspace and the four international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt would be closed to traffic for four weeks.

Many Airlines Won’t Survive Pandemic

Also speaking, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, warned that many airlines would not survive the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Sirika said though COVID-19 affected different sectors of the economy, the aviation sector was the worst hit.
He put the loss suffered by the Nigerian aviation industry at N24 billion, saying the loss could never be recovered.

According to him, “Certainly in civil aviation, we’re in very difficult moments like everyone else. All of this started because someone travelled. Unfortunately, he came back home with it and the consequence is what we’ve been going through.

“We are very aware of our responsibilities and the weight attached to this. We are the worst hit among all the sectors. Some N17 billion is being lost by the airlines monthly, thanks to COVID-19. The sector is highly regulated and very coordinated and has set standards that must be followed at all times, regardless, because we speak to safety.

“This is the situation of civil aviation. It is really a pathetic one and I can guarantee you that several airlines won’t come out of this, unfortunately. Based on the trend of events prior to COVID-19, the total loss is about N21 billion approximately plus about N3 billion. It is divided in this form: N7 billion for aviation (what they lose in a month), N10 billion for airlines, N4 billion for ground handling, catering, etc., and then the taxation is N3 billion.

“Also, since you’re interested in dollars, what we got from the International Airline Transport Association (IATA), they’ve given us economic impact on Africa’s largest aviation markets. For Nigeria, airline revenue loss is $994 million, and in terms of employment at risk, 125,370 jobs. Loss of contribution to the GDP of the country is $885 million. Now, these are IATA figures.”

Lagos Discharges 37 More Patients

Lagos State Government yesterday said it had discharged 37 more patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 358 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the patients were 19 females and 18 males, including an Indian national.
“Five of the patients were discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba; 25 from the Onikan Isolation Centre and seven from the Eti-Osa (Landmark) Isolation Centres.
“With this, the number of patients successfully managed and discharged in Lagos has risen to 358,” he said.

22 Nurses, Physiotherapists Test Positive in Kano, Others

No fewer than 18 nurses and four physiotherapists have tested positive for the virus in Kano and other states.
The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNW) said yesterday that 18 nurses tested positive for the virus in Kano.

The Chairman of Kano branch of the association, Mr. Ibrahim Muhammad, told journalists that 86 samples of nurses were taken and the results indicated that they all tested positive.
He said nine of them are from National Orthopedic Hospital Dala; seven from Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and two from state hospitals.

Also, 34 doctors tested positive in Kano while four members of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) tested positive for in Bauchi, Kano, Lagos and Jigawa states.

The association also lost one of its members in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State as a result of the pandemic.
The National President of the association, Dr. Rufai Ahmad, confirmed the figures to reporters in Kano yesterday.

Task Force Engages Northern Traditional Rulers

The federal government said it had opened talks with northern traditional leaders to help sensitise the people on the urgent need to abide by the health advisory on the pandemic.

Ehanire said he had taken part in a teleconference with northern traditional leaders organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) in a bid to get them to help sensitise their subjects on how to curtail the pandemic.

“We have also continued to train and retrain our health care workers as well as provide them with the necessary personal protective equipment. Community mobilisers have been deployed in the grassroots to continue to sensitise our people through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency.

“I participated earlier this week in a teleconference of northern traditional leaders’ committee organised by NPHCDA, in which the need for urgent engagement of all traditional, religious and community gatekeepers was emphasised and agreed on,” he said.

On the situation in Kano, the minister said progress had been made in collaboration with the state epidemiologists to restore routine medical services to hospitals and further drive the ongoing investigations.
According to the minister, organised ambulance service is already in operation, bringing relief to citizens who need to access emergency medical services, especially in view of restrictions of movement.

High Fatalities Linked to Self-medication

Ehanire also attributed the high death rates to self-medication, noting that patients resort to self-treatment until their cases worsen before they go to isolation centre.

He explained that the Federal Ministry of Health is sending supporting teams to Sokoto and Katsina states for training and capacity building in case management and infection prevention and control.

On claims by some people that they have developed curative drug for the virus, especially the traditional medicine practitioners, Ehanire stated that they had to go through the process of validation and subject their drugs to clinical trials before it could be prescribed for use.

He added that the federal government could not give out-patients for the testing of those drugs, as the producers have to do trial with larger animals and clinical trials with volunteers.

He said patients at the isolation centres would not need drugs unless they develop symptoms, as the drugs cure only symptoms and not the virus.

He attributed the seemingly high fatalities to self-medication by patients who refused to report at the treatment centres until when their cases worsen.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the centre had been relying on data in administering the curtailment measures.
According to him, NCDC could now give accurate details of the distribution of face masks and hand sanitisers across the country.

The centre has also developed a tool for managing misinformation around the pandemic.
“So, we started a gradual process of developing a new tool called the Surveillance, Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS). We have used it to collect data from health facilities up to the local government level and the national.

“At the time COVID-19 started through various interventions, we have managed to implement and deploy this tool to 22 of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. We have had to work with development partners, especially the European Union who supported the project,” he said

BUA Donates Five Ambulances, 20 Hilux Vehicles to Kano

Meanwhile, BUA Foundation has donated five ambulances and 20 Hilux vehicles to assist Kano State Government in stemming the spread of the virus in the state as part of its COVID-19 Health Infrastructure and Response Grant for the state.

The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Africa’s leading foods and infrastructure conglomerate, BUA Group founded by Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu.

Speaking while presenting the vehicles to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, Rabiu noted that a united effort was needed to curtail the pandemic.

Represented by the Government Relations Director, BUA Group, Dr. Idi Hong, he stated that the vehicles would enable the state government to tackle the pandemic.

Rabiu said: “I should tell you that these vehicles and ambulances are to support the state government’s good effort in controlling this COVID-19 pandemic from contact tracing to movement of supplies, logistics and also quick response to clinical cases.”