Buhari Laments Rising COVID-19 Cases, Says Upsurge Frightening

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Muhammadu Buhari

•Patients turned back as hospital beds fill up in Lagos
• Healthcare facilities not reporting pandemic deaths for fear of closure
• Mortuaries full in Cross Rivers, Edo, Imo, Kogi, Lagos
• 313 fresh cases raise count to 7,839 with 2,263 persons discharged, 226 dead

Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Chinedu Eze and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos

Concerned about the unabated spread of COVID-19, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday described the situation as frightening and appealed to Nigerians to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to stay safe from the disease.

The president’s concerns perhaps gained strength from reports yesterday that Lagos, the main epicentre of the disease, has run out of beds for patients of the disease, many of who are now being turned back at isolation and treatment centres in the state.

In fact, there has been an uptick in confirmed cases in the last one month with incidences rising from 981 as at April 24 to 7,839 as at yesterday with 313 new cases recorded. Also, 2,263 persons have been discharged, while 226 have died.

The tally, therefore, shows an increment of 6,858 cases in one month on the back of an expansion in the nation’s testing capacity. As at yesterday, Nigeria has so far tested 44,458 people for the virus.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), of the 313 fresh cases recorded yesterday, Lagos has 148 new cases, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 36, Rivers 27, Edo 19, Kano 13, Ogun 12, Ebonyi 11, Nasarawa and Delta eight each, Oyo seven, Plateau six, Kaduna five, Kwara four, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa three each, Niger two and Anambra one.

It said: “Nigeria has so far recorded 7,839 cases of COVID-19, with 2,263 persons discharged, while 226 have unfortunately lost their lives.”

Reports are also rife of private health care facilities failing to report virus-induced deaths, preferring to attribute them to other causes, including heart disease, in order to avoid closure for decontamination.

THISDAY also gathered that morgues, particularly in Lagos, Cross River, Edo, Imo and Kogi states have become full, raising concerns about the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s health system as mortuaries in less endemic states experience a rise in the number of bodies deposited.

Efforts to get reactions from the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, last night were unsuccessful as calls and messages to their cell phones were not replied.

But speaking after observing Eid-Fitr prayers in his residence at the State House, Buhari appealed to Nigerians to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to stay safe from the disease.

The president, who commended the minister of health, whom he said has done well so far, added that the pandemic had brought both the developed and the developing countries to the same level.

Warning Nigerians to be meticulous about the potency of the disease, the president argued that developing countries, including Nigeria, had a lower rate of casualties than the developed countries.

He said: “Nigerians can see that the COVID-19 has reduced us, both the developing and developed countries, to the same level.

“In fact, we have the least casualties than they have.

“So, it’s a very frightening development and I advised Nigerians to be very careful and take the advice of the Ministry of Health.

“Minister of Health has been doing very well, speaking and educating the citizens on the deadly virus. So Nigeria, we should be very careful.”

Buhari, who prayed for a favourable raining season this year, expressed his desire for farmers to return to the farm now to pave the way for an abundance of food provisions for all.

According to him, having sufficient food production this season is imperative because Nigeria does not have funds for food import.

He said: “I hope the raining season would be bountiful so that we get a lot of food.
“I wish the farmers will go to farms and save our lives so that we can produce what we need in sufficient quantity so that we don’t have to import food.

“In any case, we don’t have any money to import food. So, we must produce what we are going to eat.’’

Also speaking, the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, who observed the Eid prayer with her husband, thanked both the Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for their efforts in containing the disease.

“I wish to thank the Federal Ministry of Health and also the NCDC for their efforts in combating the pandemic,’’ she said.

Health Ministry to Receive Malagasy Mixture Wednesday

Ehanire has said his ministry would formally receive the Madagascar herbal therapy on Wednesday.

He said on receipt of the herbal mixture, his ministry would forward it to NAFDAC and the Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to proceed with further scientific investigation.

Ehanire, who spoke in a Channels Television programme last night, said he had received some proposals from traditional medicine practitioners on local remedies for the virus and that such proposals had been sent to NAFDAC and NIPRD for further investigation.

Answering question on the herbal drug from Madagascar, Ehanire said: “Yes, Madagascar drug is supposed to be handed over to the Ministry of Health at the next working day (Wednesday). That is when we will pick it up and send to our research institutes, first to NAFDAC and then to Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD).”

He said the agencies would validate the drug and determine how it could be used for the treatment of COVID-19.

On the rate of infections in Nigeria, the minister stated that Nigeria has not reached its peak.

Ehanire noted the need for Nigerians to take precautions so as to avoid witnessing horrifying figures as occurring in Europe.

He said no drugs or vaccine had been approved yet, adding that the general belief is that vaccines would not be discovered before the next 18 months.

He added that he had forwarded proposals from traditional medicine practitioners to relevant institutions for analysis.

On the Chinese medical team, the minister stated that he went to the airport to receive the 16 tonnes of medical supplies from China and not to receive the medical team as being insinuated.

He explained that it turned out that the Chinese medical team was in the same flight with the medical supplies from China.

He said questions about the Chinese team should be directed to the Ministry of Interior.

The minister said the world has not yet found a curative drug for the virus, adding that “as things stand now, the world is not yet near to finding any cure for the virus.”

Ehanire said there was a new finding that the virus could be discharged when a person shouts, adding that such a development had reemphasised the need for people to ensure social distancing.

On efforts being made at ramping up testing, Ehanire said the ministry was expecting 100,000 cartridges this week for use in operationalising the GeneXpert machines assembled to assist in increasing COVID-19 tests in the country.

Lagos Discharges 31 Additional COVID-19 Patients

Lagos State Government has discharged 31 additional COVID-19 patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 738 the total number of successfully treated patients in the state.

Announcing this yesterday, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the recovered patients were 12 females and 19 males, and all Nigerians.

He said: “Thirteen of the patients were discharged from the Onikan Isolation Centre, 11 from Gbagada General Hospital, five from Agidingbi Isolation Centre, one each from the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

“With this, the number of patients successfully managed and discharged from our isolation facilities has risen to 738.

“The discharge of COVID-19 patients is encouraging and we thank our front line health workers for the remarkable progress, we have made.”

Bauchi Spends N4,500 Daily to Feed Each Patient

Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency has said the state government spends N1,500 per meal or N4,500 daily to feed each COVID-19 patient on admission in the state.

The Chairman of the agency, Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed, in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Bauchi yesterday, said Governor Bala Mohammad approved the sum in order to ensure that all the COVID-19 patients in the state were well fed.

He said the idea was to make sure that they feel more at home and avoid a replica of the protest by COVID-19 patients in some other states.

“It was the state governor that ordered us that we should put N1,500 per single meal in a day.

“That is, N1,500 meal during breakfast, the same amount for lunch as well as dinner because he doesn’t want anybody in isolation to suffer or complain so that we won’t have any riot like in some other states.

“This brings the total amount of money on meal per day to N4,500 on a single patient,” Mohammed said.

UK to Evacuate Additional 900 Citizens from Nigeria

The United Kingdom has said it has organised three more charter flights to evacuate 900 British citizens from Nigeria.

According to a statement from the UK Embassy in Lagos, hundreds of more British travellers are set to return home from Nigeria.

More than 1,700 British travellers have already returned to the UK on special charter flights between April and May.

Details of the new flights are: Friday, May 29: Lagos-London; Monday, June 1: Lagos-London and Saturday, June 6: Abuja-London.

The statement said a UK-organised special internal charter flight would travel from Port Harcourt to Abuja on June 6 to enable British nationals based in, or near, Port Harcourt to join the flight from Abuja to London.

Commenting on the new development, the Minister of State for Africa, Mr. James Duddridge, said: “Brits in Nigeria will now have access to additional repatriation flights, meaning hundreds more will be able to fly home. We’ve already arranged for around 1,700 people to return home to their friends and family and continue to support British nationals who remain in the country.

“Our next phase of the UK government charter flights will mean another 900 British travellers are able to return home from Nigeria. We appreciate this has been a difficult time and will continue to work closely with the Nigerian authorities to support those wishing to return to the UK.”

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, also expressed delight at the arrangement.

She said: “I am delighted to announce a third wave of flights to take more of our British travellers home from Nigeria – adding to the 1,700 people we’ve already helped since airports closed on 23 April. If you are eligible and wish to return to the UK, I’d urge you to book seats on these flights as they are likely to be the last charter flights available.”

Breakthrough Beckons as UK Vaccine Trial Reaches Second Phase

There seems to be a ray of hope in the fight against COVID-19 as a vaccine trial by a team of British researchers has entered the second phase following preliminary testing on a small sample size of 160 patients.

The researchers are aiming to produce their first one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by September if the trial is eventually successful.

The pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, said it has the capacity to make a billion doses of the Oxford vaccine as it has secured an agreement to produce at least 400 million doses when the trial is complete.

The scientists from the Jenner Institute at Oxford University in collaboration with the Oxford Vaccine Group said the research had been ongoing since January and that they were now looking at recruiting over 10,000 people to take part in further trials following preliminary efforts in April.

The group said the trial would involve people of all age demographics — from children older than five years to the elderly — to help test the effectiveness of the vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, in a wider variety of people.

The vaccine, which was developed using an altered virus that affects chimpanzees, combined with the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, SARS-CoV-2, had positive effects in animal trials.

It would now be given to subjects alongside a licensed vaccine, MenACWY, which is used to combat meningitis and blood poisoning, which would serve as a ‘control comparison.’

The head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Prof. Andrew Pollard, said: “The clinical studies are progressing very well, and we are now initiating studies to evaluate how well the vaccine induces immune responses in older adults and to test whether it can provide protection in the wider population.

“Preparation for mass production of the vaccine is already underway in anticipation of the trial proving successful.”