Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic said it was saddened by reports of medical institutions’ continued refusal to receive and treat patients for fear of COVID-19.
The PTF said this has resulted in several unfortunate and avoidable fatalities, with statistics showing that there is a drastic drop in the percentage of attention being paid to other ailments not related to COVID-19.
Chairman of the PTF, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, made this disclosure at the briefing of the task force in Abuja, yesterday. He said the situation was made worse by the fact that federal tertiary institutions have been mentioned among those rejecting patients for fear of COVID.
“This not acceptable. We are saddened by this development,” he said.
He said all medical directors have been reached, directing them to continue providing regular medical services so “that we do not end up with avoidable deaths.”
Mustapha said: “Truth be told, we are having more deaths from non-attendance to other diseases than even COVID-19. The reason for the greater emphasis on COVID-19 is because it is a pandemic and, if not curtailed, has a capacity of wiping out large segments of our population.”
The PTF also urge all the chief medical directors and private health service providers to attend to other health challenges, which continue to “confront our people on a daily basis. Of course, the guidelines for dealing with patients presenting COVID-19-like symptoms are available and, if these are applied by our medical service providers, there would be lesser risks of exposure to the virus.”
The SGF said, the PTF on Wednesday briefing that the Federal Ministry of Health held a virtual conference with the Traditional Medicine Practitioners of Nigeria and also that issues discussed covered intellectual property rights protection, need for non-disclosure agreements and the funding opportunities for research and validation processes.
“Unfortunately, the information put out in the media regarding shortlisting three remedies from the Traditional Medicine Practitioners is totally misleading.
“For the avoidance of doubts, neither the PTF nor the Federal Ministry of Health has shortlisted any remedies. This can only be done after diligent processes and as may be advised by the relevant agencies.”
The SGF said the PTF would, in the next 70 hours, conclude its assessment on the impact of the measures put in place to curb the pandemic and further recommendations would be submitted to the President for a decision.
“While we take necessary steps, the PTF would continue to appeal to Nigerians on the need for taking this fight with utmost diligence. It is for self, it is for your family and it is for the whole community.
“On our part, we are sparing no effort in coordinating the national response, collaborating with all necessary stakeholders and supporting sub-national entities in their individual state responses, which we always maintain should be in synergy with the National Response,” he said.
Mustapha said the PTF has expanded the scope of collaboration and experience sharing to the ECOWAS region, in line with the role of President Buhari as the ECOWAS COVID-19 Champion.
Hotels, schools to serve as isolation centres
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has called on hotels and schools to get ready to be used for isolating COVID-19 patients, in the event of overflow of hospitals.
According to him, there have been complaints of inadequate bed spaces, especially in Lagos, which has 4,012 patients, the highest in Nigeria.
“In the event of overflow, we can require hotels and school dormitories to be prepared for level 1 (quarantine) and level 2 isolation (of COVID-19 positive with zero or mild symptoms), to free hospital beds to be dedicated to level 3 (moderate to severe cases) and level 4 (high dependency and intensive care unit). I, therefore, call on activists and philanthropists to work with state governments in concerted steps to scale up non-pharmaceutical measures and beef up infrastructural assets for isolation and treatment in their states.
“Though we are in the community transmission phase of response, easing social restrictions is desirable, but only if we can meet up with expectations that will not allow a spike in infection rates. This is what has led certain countries to reintroduce lockdowns. We are reviewing health sector-specific advisories on re-opening the economy.”
On the mortality rate, he said: “It is too early for us to generalise about mortality rates. But people with pre-existing conditions are more vulnerable and need to better protect themselves. We shall continue to engage our traditional, business, religious, and community leaders.”
Ehanire also stressed the importance of using masks outside homes and social distance.
No valid rapid test
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said there were currently no valid rapid test kits for COVID-19. It said some rapid test kits were only right 50 per cent of the time.
The NCDC DG, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, however, stated that the centre was working very hard to increase the country’s polymerase chain reaction (PCR) capacity for testing across the country.
Ihekweazu also advised that, as organisations and businesses open up, focus should be on prevention, not testing of their staff.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on his part, said his ministry has produced over 25 radio and TV jingles to create awareness on COVID-19.
PTF national coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said the Federal Government would continue to provide an enabling environment to contain the spread of COVID-19.