•Bow to pressure, amend no-exemption directive against journalists, health workers
•FG holds self-medication responsible for most COVID-19 deaths
•Trains 12,000 health workers on infectious diseases control
•226 new cases push total to 6,175 with 1,734 discharged, 192 dead
•Buhari celebrates ‘irreplaceable’ Nigerian professor who recovered in UK
Omololu Ogunmade, Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Chiemelie Ezeobi, Segun James and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos
Saying it was tired of taking the blame for the flagrant violation of COVID-19 restriction guidelines, the police yesterday began strict enforcement of the nationwide curfew and interstate travel ban imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago.
The police commands, particularly in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), acting on the directive of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Muhammed Adamu, locked down their areas of operation from 8 pm, insisting that there was no exemption for anybody including essential workers.
The virus’ infection tally increased by 226 to 6,401 yesterday sparing 1,734 that had been discharged while 192 had died.
The new cases were reported from 16 states, including Lagos 131, Ogun 25, Plateau 15, Edo 11, Kaduna seven, Oyo six, FCT five, Adamawa five, Jigawa four, Ebonyi four, Borno four, Nasarawa three, Bauchi two, Gombe two, Enugu one, and Bayelsa, one.
The president had with effect from May 4 relaxed the lockdown of FCT, Lagos and Ogun States he had imposed on March 30, emplacing a nationwide curfew from 8 pm to 6 am and a ban on interstate travel. He, however, maintained the exemption of essential workers, including health workers, and journalists as well as movement of food, medicines, and other essentials.
However, state governors and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 complained loudly that security agencies were not enforcing the guidelines effectively, leading to rampant disobedience by citizens.
Yesterday, the task force ordered strict enforcement of the curfew and the travel ban.
Complying, police boss Adamu had a teleconference with the top brass of the force and directed strict enforcement of the restrictions, rescinding the pass given to journalists and health workers to operate beyond 8 pm and warning that anyone, including ministers found on the road during the curfew would be arrested and prosecuted.
But following outcry and pressure, Adamu last night rescinded his non-exemption directive and restored the privilege of essential workers to move during the curfew.
In a terse statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba said: “All essential workers including medical personnel, firefighters, ambulance services, journalists, etc are exempted from the restriction of movement associated with both the partial lockdown and the national curfew across the federation.
“The IG, Mohammed Adamu has therefore directed all Zonal Assistant Inspectors General of Police and Commands Commissioners of Police to give effect to these exemptions whilst enforcing the restriction orders.”
The Lagos State Command Commissioner, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, had earlier yesterday confirmed that there would be no movement of essential workers by 8 pm, stressing that “once it is 8 pm, there will be no more human or vehicular movement.”
When contacted, the Force spokesperson, DCP Frank Mba stressed that the curfew had now been extended to everyone, including policemen and government officials.
Mba made this disclosure after THISDAY sought clarifications on the strict enforcement directive reeled out by the IG.
He said: “Nobody is exempted from the curfew – absolutely nobody. Even policemen who are not on duty have been warned to stay back in the office once it’s 8 pm.”
When asked about journalists, he reiterated that nobody was exempted, including government officials, adding that the policemen will enforce the IG’s directive to the letter.
In a press statement issued by Mba, the IG ordered strict enforcement of the national curfew and interstate movement restriction orders emplaced by the federal government.
The IG gave this directive to the zonal assistant inspectors general of police and state commissioners of police during a virtual conference.
According to the statement issued by Mba, the police hierarchy reviewed operational strategies and took decisive measures aimed at evolving customised security solutions to cope with crime trends and other security challenges relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The IG, while evaluating security reports from various states commands, charged the Commissioners of Police particularly in states with recent incidents of attacks on communities, to rejig their security architecture to forestall further attacks and keep the communities safe and secure for the citizenry. The IG also expressed concerns over reports bordering on human rights infractions between the public and personnel of the force. He, therefore, called for mutual respect between the public and members of the force and charged the strategic managers to place more premiums on the supervision of police personnel under their watch,” the statement explained.
FG Holds Self-medication Responsible for Most COVID-19 Deaths
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has linked most of the COVID-19 deaths recorded in the country to self-medication and delayed reports of cases to treatment centres.
He told reporters yesterday in Abuja during the media briefing by the PTF that Nigerians should be prepared for the best or worst outcomes in the days ahead.
He said whatever the progress that would be recorded or lack of it would depend on the level of compliance with safety measures and health advisories outlined by the authorities.
Ehanire noted that there had been a disturbing picture emerging whereby many of the casualties were drawn from well-to-do persons who chose to remain at home to receive treatment until their cases became worse.
He said: “Even though this (fatality) figure seems low compared to other countries, a disturbing picture emerging from statistics is that not only are most fatalities observed to be linked with pre-existing diseases, many are educated, well-to-do people, who chose home-based care where they develop sudden complication and have to be rushed to the hospital. Experience is showing that breathing complications in COVID-19 patients can arise with little or no notice. This is an added reason why all persons should seek medical attention when they test positive.”
He advised infected persons not to delay action but to seek immediate medical attention.
On the status of recovered health workers, the minister explained that the practice is for them to observe 14 days of monitoring during which they are expected to recover fully from hospital stress.
The minister also spoke on the use of hand sanitisers, adding that some of the brands in the market do not meet the required specifications.
He advised members of the public to always check out for the approving stamp by NAFDAC.
“A study carried out by a department in the Ministry of Health has shown that not all the hand sanitisers are up to standards. So in buying sanitiser, there is an advisory on it. You must look out for the NAFDAC number.
“Secondly, it should have a place where the ingredients are displayed, among these ingredients, you must see that it contains about 60 per cent alcohol,” he said.
Ehanire also cautioned that Hydroxychloroquine should only be used based on a doctor’s prescription.
FG Trains 12,000 Health Workers
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the press conference, said about 12,000 health workers nationwide had so far received special training on tackling infectious diseases.
He added that some key aspects of healthcare services have also benefited significantly from measures being adopted to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
He said adequate and proper use of personal protective equipment was necessary to prevent health workers from contracting the virus from patients.
“Given that we didn’t learn sufficiently from Lassa fever outbreak, now is for us to learn collectively from COVID-19. Today, we have trained close to 12,000 health workers and this is an ongoing process,” he stated.
Buhari Celebrates ‘Irreplaceable’ Nigerian Professor Who Recovered in UK
The president yesterday joined the United Kingdom to celebrate a Nigerian-born renowned and “irreplaceable” consultant surgeon in the UK, Prof. Olagunju Ogunbiyi, who was discharged from a hospital in London after recovering from COVID-19.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Ogunbiyi had taught several generations of UK doctors and had remained an eminent surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, one of London’s leading reference hospitals.
According to him, he was under care for two-and-a-half weeks and has now recovered.
Shehu said a hospital source described Ogunbiyi as “irreplaceable” adding: “Such was the regard he was held in the UK healthcare community.”
The president, on behalf of all Nigerians wishes Ogunbiyi quick recuperation and early return to work.
A message circulating on social media about the professor and colorectal surgeon at Royal Free Hospital, yesterday, said after being infected with the virus, the best of UK doctors battled to save Ogunbiyi’s life.
According to the message, aside from being humble despite being highly placed, Ogunbiyi, upon his discharge from the hospital was received by a large gathering of hospital staff celebrating his recovery.
NCDC Conducts 35,983 tests, Says Only One Done in Kogi
A situation report released yesterday by the NCDC showed that out of 35,983 tests carried out in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) so far, Kogi and Cross River states have the lowest figures of samples tested.
The two states are yet to record any positive COVID-19 case.
While Kogi has only tested one sample, Cross River has tested seven samples, all of which returned negative for COVID-19.
According to the data, Lagos has tested the highest number of persons with 14,886 samples, followed by the FCT and Kano with 4,688 and 2,653 samples tested, respectively.
No Invoice from Madagascar for Herbal Drug, FG Insists
The federal government has denied receiving any invoice from Madagascar in respect of the consignment of the herbal mixture touted as a cure for COVID-19, which was delivered at the weekend to Buhari by the President of Guinea Bissau, President Umaru Embalo, who was in Abuja on an official visit.
Reports had claimed that the Indian Ocean Island country had handed Nigeria an invoice of 170,000 Euros (N78 million) as the cost of five cartons of COVID- organics.
But Mustapha said at the press briefing that he did not receive any invoice for the drugs.
“In terms of the question of whether it comes with a cost, well it was handed to me without an invoice. So, I assume it doesn’t come at any cost. That is my assumption. For that, I think the Madagascar issue and the Chinese issue should be laid to rest because these two issues are not central to the problem that we have at hand now. So, we should try as much as possible to minimise the judicious use of our time to deal with important issues.
“I am going to engage the Minister of Health who has the responsibility of validation through his institutions that are chartered by law to do that and the president was upfront with that even when he took the delivery from the President of Guinea-Bissau. He said it quite clear that what we were going to do with the consignment will be guided by science. After the processes of validation, we will now know where to go,” Mustapha stated.
He urged Nigerians to learn from the history of global pandemic, notably the plaque of 1919-20, which was replete with evidence of an exponential rise in pandemic upon early lifting of restrictions.
Mustapha said the decision by the federal government to extend the curfew and restrict interstate movements for another two weeks until June 1, was inspired by caution, current experiences from different countries and the lesson from the influenza pandemic of 1919, which claimed more than five million souls following a spike in the cases after restrictions were lifted.
“This well-considered decision was taken out of an abundance of caution, current experiences from different countries and expert advice. I must add also that we were persuaded by the history of global pandemics because it is replete with evidence of exponential rise in pandemic upon early lifting of restrictions, for which the 1918 – 1920 influenza remains the most recent example in human history.
“Nigeria, judging from these historical perspectives, must in our present approach, delicately maintain a balance between safety and economic considerations before we reopen the economy fully. Again, I wish to repeat that the decision is not punitive; we share your pains and also share your concerns. However, our future remains in our hands and compliance is one of the keys to opening that future,” Mustapha said.
National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Aliyu Sani, at the briefing said: “The PTF certainly appreciates the adverse impact this is having on people’s livelihood but as I keep on saying, we are trying to balance saving lives with saving livelihood. We are in the process of moving towards further relaxation of the lockdown but as far as the next two weeks are concerned nothing has changed.
“We have been given approval by Mr. President to extend those same conditions we had two weeks ago for very good reasons. One, being that we are not convinced that the time has come in terms of the impact of the pandemic to further relax those restrictions.
“As we all know, the level of compliance with some of those guidelines we have provided has been limited at best in some areas and we have to make sure that whatever we do in terms of taking actions or decisions we do not drag ourselves back to the beginning of the pandemic again. We do appreciate this. It is one of the things, we will continue to consider as we monitor the next two weeks.”
22-year-old Patient Gives Birth to Twins in LUTH
A 22-year-old COVID-19 patient has successfully given birth to a set of twins at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba.
The Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, LUTH, Prof. Wasiu Adeyemo, said yesterday that the delivery brought to four, the number of COVID-19 patients who had put to bed at the hospital.
He said: “A team of LUTH doctors, anesthetists and nurses, today delivered the fourth expectant mother (22 years old) diagnosed with COVID-19 of a set of twins. The baby girl weighed 3.2kg while the baby boy weighed 3.25kg. She delivered through a cesarean section. The mother and babies are doing well.”
Lagos Discharges Nine Additional COVID-19 Patients
The Lagos State Government has discharged nine additional COVID-19 patients from the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, bringing to 632 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.
The Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said yesterday that the patients were two females and seven males.
He said: “The patients have fully recovered and have tested negative twice to the virus. This brings to 632, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases that have been successfully managed and discharged in Lagos.”
Lagos Commences Advocacy on Use of Face Masks
As the pandemic continues to ravage Lagos State, the state government is to begin advocacy and the sensitisation on the use of face masks, a statement from the Ministry of Information and Strategy said.
According to the statement, the advocacy will take place at different locations across the metropolis to sensitise residents on the importance of face masks’ usage as part of efforts to curb the community transmission of the COVID-19 in the state.
Speaking during the exercise, tagged: “Mask-Up-Lagos”, an Assistant Director and leader of the team, Mr. Bode Lawal, said the advocacy was geared towards encouraging all residents on the need to support the efforts of the state government to curb the spread of the global pandemic by using face masks.
UK Sanctions Oyakhilome’s TV over 5G/COVID-19 Claims
In a new development, the Office of Communications, the regulatory authority for broadcasting and telecommunications industries in the United Kingdom has sanctioned Loveworld Limited, operators of LoveWorld, a religious cable channel, for airing “unsubstantiated claims linking the pandemic to 5G technology.”
The television network owned by the Founder of Christ Embassy, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, was also penalised for feeding viewers with the claim that the pandemic is a ‘global cover-up’.
In a statement published on its website, Ofcom stated that the caution followed an investigation into the matter.
It said: “Our investigation found that a report on Loveworld News included unsubstantiated claims that 5G was the cause of the pandemic, and that this was the subject of a ‘global cover-up’.
“Another report during the programme suggested Hydroxychloroquine as a ‘cure’ for COVID-19, without acknowledging that its effectiveness and safety as a treatment was clinically unproven or making clear that it has potentially serious side effects.
“There is no ban on broadcasting controversial views which are different from, or which challenge, official authorities on public health information. However, given the unsubstantiated claims in both these programmes were not sufficiently put into context, they risked undermining viewers’ trust in official health advice, with potentially serious consequences for public health.
“Given these serious failings, we concluded that Loveworld Limited did not adequately protect viewers from the potentially harmful content in the news programme and the sermon and the news reports were not duly accurate. Loveworld Limited must broadcast our findings and we are considering whether to impose any further sanction,” it said.
FG Inaugurates Post-COVID-19 Committee for Creative Industry
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has performed the virtual inauguration of the Post-COVID-19 Committee for the Creative Industry, with a call on all members to support the committee.
The minister said the committee, which was announced two weeks ago, has now been expanded to include as many sectors as possible to ensure fair representation.
He described the creative industry as a critical sector of the nation’s economy and a major plank of the economic diversification policy of the administration.