Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
The number of medical and health workers infected with COVID-19 in Bayelsa State has climbed to 96. This is even as contacts of infected persons identified by the contact team of the COVID-19 state task force have refused to submit their sample for testing.
This disclosure came as the Kwara State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said 35 doctors tested positive in the state.
In Bayelsa, the continued high risk medical and health workers are subjected to is a source of worry to the NMA and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), and both unions have been piling pressure on the state government through the state task force to provide more personal protective equipment (PPE) to all health workers, especially those managing the isolation ward at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH), Okolobiri. The state task force is said to have sent the complaints of the medical and health workers to Governor Douye Diri.
Meanwhile, the compulsory use of face masks by residents of Bayelsa State directed by the state government took off yesterday. In many banks, supermarkets and the three major markets, Swali, Opolo and Kpansia, many people were wore face masks.
Also, many commercial vehicles and tricycle, obeying the directive of their different unions, insisted on passengers wearing face masks. Chairman of the state branch of the NURTW, Eminah Dinyorinyu, who described the fight against COVID-19 as more dangerous than physical guerrilla warfare, said the union would support all government efforts to stop the spread.
In Kwara, NMA chairman, Dr. Kolade Solagberu, who briefed newsmen in Ilorin on events heralding the association’s 2020 annual general meeting, yesterday, cautioned residents to discard the beliefs that COVID-19 was not real and was only a money-making avenue for government.
“Residents should help the doctors to help them by not paying unnecessary visits or consultations to hospitals. For now, people should avoid visiting the hospital except for life-threatening issues.
“We advise people to engage in e-health service, instead of physical consultation, to avoid contact as much as possible. People should stop unnecessary visit to patients in the hospital. Those who follow a patient waiting to be attended to are not encouraged for now.
“You should just help us to help you because the less the number of patients we attend to, the less the chances of spreading the virus. This is because every patient is a potential COVID-19 case,” he said.
By 7pm on Sunday, Kwara State had 401 confirmed cases, 208 active, 179 discharged and 14 deaths.
FG opens testing centres in all 774 LGAs, bars officials from travel, cautions on political gatherings
Meanwhile, the Federal Government is set to address testing deficit by establishing one sample collection centre per local government area. This is even as it announced the suspension of all unnecessary travel for meetings by government official till further notice.
It disclosed that a sample collection centre had been set up at ThisDay Dome, Abuja, and all government hospitals in the FCT have been designated as sample collection centres.
It also said the visit of some media houses, over the weekend, to the Asokoro Observation Centre and their interaction with some patients should give Nigerians the comfort to get tested and treated, if necessary.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this at the briefing of the task force, yesterday.
He stressed that contracting COVID-19 was not a death sentence, but not presenting oneself for testing or treatment when symptoms become obvious could lead to death.
Mustapha said all government or board meetings should be conducted virtually, until further notice.
The SGF reiterated the call for Nigerians to remain vigilant, as the pandemic would not go away by a wish, neither would it go away if people refused to keep safe.
On the case management deficit, Mustapha said focus was on having enough oxygen nationwide as the number of hospitalised persons increased. Concerning the country’s testing deficit, he said that the plan was to establish one sample collection centre per local government area.
“Underlying the above, as a cross-cutting initiative, is an enhanced risk communication strategy designed not only to educate the citizenry on the virulence of the virus and individual and collective roles butm more importantlym to tackle the deliberate mis-information being bandied around, especially in the social media.
“An enhanced risk communication strategy becomes inevitable when we realise that, within the last 24 hours, the world witnessed the largest single day cases of 230,370 while in Nigeria the last week recorded the highest weekly fatality of 70 deaths,” Mustapha said.
The PTF chair said the rising fatalities in Nigeria was not unconnected with denial and delay in seeking help.
On the controversy surrounding school resumption, the SGF said: “The PTF has followed with keen interest the conversation around the resumption of schools. We recognise that our children are precious and we would not do anything to compromise their safety.
He added that the Federal Ministry of Education had released guidelines for schools and learning facilities’ reopening after COVID-19 pandemic closure, and the guidelines clearly spelt out major things to consider before schools and learning facilities could reopen, the reopening process, sequencing and scheduling of safe reopening and decisions about school reopening.
No policy somersault on WASSCE
Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba also maintained that the Federal Government has not committed any policy somersault over its decision to stop students in the 104 unity schools across the country from writing this year’s West African Senior Secondary School Examination, WASSCE, scheduled for August 5 to September 5.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has last week said no school under his supervision will participate in the exams.
He said that Nigerian schools will not reopen any time soon until it is safe to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nwajiuba, at yesterday’s briefing said: “The PTF never said here that they were reopening any school. They only provided that assurance and that guidance.
“After FEC on Wednesday, Mallam Adamu Adamu, advised the public that based on information that the PTF and NCDC has proffered, that the Unity Colleges, because those are only 104 out of 19,129 schools that he will not agree and in fact it is not advisable. He goes further to advise that we do not open those institutions for the use of exams. And perhaps, he advised since it was WAEC that proposed those dates we will be engaging WAEC to reconsider the dates.
“However, he said he is not in charge of private schools and schools that fall under the concurrent list and, therefore, devolve to sub-nationals who can take a decision as to what will happen to their state own schools and whether they can participate or not.
“How anyone can read that as inconsistent or at difference with what we have consistently advocated and provided at this platform is something that beats my imagination. And I asked the country to please reconsider those kinds of assumptions because they are not true. What he has said is in tune with the guidelines released today.”
Asked if he was implying that only unity schools were exempted from righting WAEC and that others could go ahead and write the exams, he responded: “For clarity, Mallam said, the 104 schools are not available. He does not have control over the governors, it will be unconstitutional to say he can tell the governors what to do.”
Cross River aligns with FG, accepts testing – PTF
Following a successful trip by a 17-man team to Calabar, Cross River State government has finally aligned with the Federal Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 response and has started reporting to the national dashboard.
Governor, Ben Ayade, had often claimed his state was COVID-19-free. Cross River, before now, was the only Nigerian state without any confirmed case of the coronavirus.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the interaction with the Cross Rivers State government was useful and the team was able to address all areas of concern and interest to the Federal Government and the Cross River State government: “The Federal Ministry of Health will encourage and prioritise patronage of locally made commodities, which meet the minimum specification.
“With this successful constructive engagement, I am pleased to report that Cross River State is now aligned with the Federal Ministry of Health COVID-19 response and has started reporting on the national dashboard.
“We have activated the GeneExpert machine at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital to increase testing capacity in the state and NCDC has resumed deployment of rapid response teams to provide technical assistance to their Public Health EOC to strengthen their incident management system.
“Following the intervention of the ministerial team with the Cross River State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association officials, issues that led to the withdrawal of medical services by the doctors in the state were resolved and the strike has been called off.
“We plan to replicate this success with other states where the need for policy alignment is found wanting.”
Ehanire said Nigeria has now carried out 183,294 COVID-19 tests, 28,296 of them within the week since his last briefing; “32,558 persons in total have been confirmed positive. The high figures within the past week, compared to the previous weeks, suggest an increase in the pace of testing but also in infection incidence.”
“From reports of the activation of sample collection sites in FCT, the laboratory throughput will increase, as will the number of positives, until the curve flattens at a yet unknown time. This strategy is to be replicated in other states of the federation. Increasing bed space at State levels will continue to be advocated.