Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has warned that stigmatising persons who have tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease will drive them underground and help swell the number of affected persons. No
The Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Pandemic, Dr Sani Aliyu, gave the warning on Monday, during the daily media briefing in Abuja.
He also appealed to all Nigerians to help their relatives especially the elderly with underlying disease to stay safe and alive.
The Coordinator observed that stigmatisation, which arises from breach of confidentiality and invading of privacy had proven to be a setback for the process of contacts tracing and testing, reminded all that no one was immune against the virus as whoever stigmatises a victim today may also become a victim later.
“I will like to talk about the issues of privacy and confidentiality and request that we continue to respect the privacy of those that have been diagnosed with this disease.
“Repeated breaches of confidentiality, whether it’s by putting out the names of those that are positive in the public sphere or providing a detailed description of these persons to enable them to be identified publicly, does not help the pandemic at all, if anything, it drives people underground and makes it difficult for us to be able to test people.
“It creates fear in society, it creates stigma and overall, it destroys what we are trying to do, which is trying to get on top of the pandemic.
“I must remind all of us that this is a virus that does not discriminate: it could be your neighbour, tomorrow it may be you. It does not discriminate between a rich man and a poor man. If we don’t want to be treated unkindly, we should not treat others same way.
“So my plea to all of us, including our leaders, is to respect the privacy of those that have been diagnosed with this disease. If there’s any need to break the privacy for public health purposes, it will be done by the recognised authorities.”
Aliyu also advised that all laid down protocols to fight the disease must be observed, emphasising the need for the most vulnerable, including the old, terminally ill and those with respiratory illnesses, to observe the advisories on social distancing, restriction on movements and observance of personal hygiene.
“I want to also talk briefly about the need to remember those key prevention measures that we have instituted, which includes physical distancing, hands disinfection and respiratory hygiene.
“These measures are particularly relevant for people who are at high risk of severe illness and this group includes the elderly, those above the age of 70, those with diabetes, those that have cancers, and those with chronic respiratory diseases.
“It is important that this group keeps away from persons who may have Coronavirus because they are the ones that can end up with severe illness.
“So if you have relatives that are elderly, please protect them by making sure that you maintain those measures that we have advised to protect them from having Coronavirus infection because the pandemic will go away, whatever inconvenience they face now is better for them to be alive in the next few months than to break these measures and end up catching the infection and possibly dying as well,” he warned.