(Abujah Racheal, NAN)
The Presidential Task Force (PTF), has advised state governments to set up isolation centres with a minimum of 300 beds in their states, to strengthen the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mr Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of the PTF made the call on Monday in Abuja, at the PTF daily briefing on COVID-19 in the country.
Mustapha said that the isolation centres should include wards and Intensive Care Units (ICUs).
“This will help accommodate levels one and two cases. However, with the increase in numbers, we are beginning to experience a shortage of bed spaces in the isolation centres, especially in the high-burden areas.
“We are conscious of the need to take care of different categories of persons like those living with disabilities, terminal conditions and other underlying factors co-morbidities,” he said.
Mustapha disclosed that the Catholic Bishops have volunteered over 400 of their clinics across the country as isolation centres.
“Catholic Bishops Conference has volunteered all the 425 hospitals and clinics nationwide for adaptation and use as isolation centres.
“Governors are encouraged to please approach Catholic Bishops in their states to access these facilities,” he added.
The PTF chairman said that contracting COVID-19 is not a death sentence but disregarding the guidelines for its avoidance, as guided by experts, is a costly self-voyage.
“Unfortunately, such choices cannot be made by individuals; it has to be collective and we are all resolute in stamping this scourge out of Nigeria,” he noted.
He appealed to Nigerians to continue to comply with all guidelines.
“You must take personal responsibility for your actions,” he declared.
Mustapha, who noted that May 10 marked the end of the first week in the ease of restriction phase, reminded Nigerians that they were still in Phase One of the three-pronged fortnightly strategy.
“The completion of the first week has provided the PTF COVID-19 with an opportunity for a mid-phase review of the impact of the guidelines put in place to drive our National Response.
“I am also sure that Nigerians have equally focused on the pandemic and have done their assessment of progress made, especially as it relates to compliance,’’ he stressed.
He said that one gratifying outcome of the assessment that the PTF had undertaken as stakeholders was the convergence of thoughts on the level of compliance with the guidelines and how individual and collective responses could improve or jeopardise the ability to contain the virus.
“During the first week, the country generally witnessed an increased number of positive cases. This is attributable to our expanded capacity for testing with the opening up of more testing centres and laboratories.
“As at today, there are 23 laboratories nationwide, including private laboratories; we shall continue to engage with more private laboratories,” he explained.
He said that the PTF had continued to review the relevant policy and protocols so that actions and decisions would be most effective.
“We are working toward taking COVID-19 positive cases out of circulation to avoid the spread of the virus.
“We have recognised a significant role for community ownership, guidance, acceptance and implementation and the PTF will introduce appropriate inclusive policies in the coming weeks.
You will all be apprised of developments on this in due course,” he said.
As a further cost-effective measure, he reminded sub-national authorities that the Nigeria Institute of Architects had pledged to provide free services targeted at modifying, designing and supervising all COVID-19 related projects nationwide.
“We urge that this offer be taken up speedily,’’ he urged.
He, however, said that the PTF had also continued to receive, rather sadly, reports about challenges facing the frontline health workers.
“They have received threat to lives, experienced detention by patients they are actually nursing to health and suffered other forms of harassment.
“Let me underscore the fact that these frontline workers constantly put their lives on the line to make sure persons infected are provided with the best care possible to enable them to become healthy citizens again.
“It is therefore inhuman and unacceptable that patients engage in acts of locking them up and making demands that these frontline officers, most of the time, do not have the capacity to address,” he said.
Mustapha stressed that the PTF on COVID-19 views such behaviour as reprehensible and should be deprecated while calling on all state governments to take that up appropriately.
He said that on the overall, the PTF was identifying and assessing all low to medium and high burden areas with a view to assessing and modifying their strategy.
This, he said, would involve drilling down from all tiers of government to the community level.
“This mention serves as a notice to traditional religious and community leaders to brace up for deeper involvement as we develop the protocols to strengthen community ownership in the National Response.
“While we continue to work on all options, the PTF wishes to repeat the dangers inherent in lack of compliance with guidelines issued.
“We must always remind Nigerians that Mr President took a painful and difficult decision to ease the restrictions by approving revised measures that will maintain a balance between the safety of Nigerians and some level of economic activities.
“The main goal is to sustain means of livelihood, especially for the poor and vulnerable who depend on daily means of subsistence,” he said.
He warned Nigerians against seeing the ease in restriction of movement as an excuse to lead the lives they were used to, pre-COVID-19 days.
“I wish to reiterate that the world today has completely changed from what we used to know and if we want to continue living the old ways, the cost will be enormous.’’
He disclosed that the PTF would soon inaugurate the Thisday Dome treatment and isolation facility, adding that it would add 270 beds to the isolation capacity in Abuja.
“This is a private sector-driven initiative and we commend the efforts of ThisDay, NNPC, Sahara and its partners,” he said.