Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has attributed the spike in COVID-19 cases to lack of compliance with the directive on lockdown.
“The rising number of cases is of concern to all but there is evidence of increasing in-country community transmission, which, to a large extent, is as a result of non-compliance with lockdown orders and other non-medical interventions and other presumptive source of exposure to infections,” Minister of State for Health, Olorunnibe Mamora, said at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, yesterday.
As part of measures to check the spread of the disease, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a two-week lockdown on March 30 but extended it by two weeks on April 13.
However, there have been complaints of non-compliance with the directive.
The minister also announced the commencement of payment of the upgraded hazard allowance for frontline health workers fighting against the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria.
He said the new incentives, including insurance, was a result of an MOU between the Federal Government and representatives of the unions in the health sector.
The upgraded allowance, he said, includes Special COVlD-19 Hazard and lnducement Allowance of 50 per cent of the consolidated basic salary.
“This is to be paid to all health workers in all the Federal Government Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres, the designated COVlD-19 centres and the primary healthcare centres, to last for the first three months in the first instance.”
Mamora said that 40 per cent of consolidated basic salary would be paid as Special COVlD-19 Hazard and Inducement Allowance to healthcare workers at special non-public hospitals and clinics in the federal ministries, departments and agencies for the same three months period.
He explained that 20 per cent of the consolidated basic salary would be paid as Special Risk Allowance additionally on the Special COVID-19 Hazard and lnducement Allowance to all health workers directly managing COVlD-19 at the infectious diseases hospital, isolation and treatment centres.
Mamora also noted that another 10 per cent of consolidated basic salary would be paid to non-core medical professionals working in the health sector and operating at aforementioned hospitals or clinics as special allowance for the COVID-19 for the period of three months in the first instance.
He said that the PTF on COVlD-19 was also requested to provide additional insurance cover for frontline health workers at infectious diseases hospitals, isolation and treatment centres.
Rice distributed to states fit for consumption
The Federal Government has again restated that the rice distributed to states was certified fit for human consumption.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Social Development and Disaster Management, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, who gave the assurance, said the rice was accessed by the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) before delivering them to the states.
Farouq was reacting to accusations by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State that the rice was contaminated.
Farouq said the rice was distributed to the states as handed over to the ministry by the Nigerian Customs Service, adding that NAFDAC also assessed the edibility of the rice.
She refuted claims that the rice given to the Oyo State government from the Federal Government as palliative had expired, adding that such claims were baseless.
She said, “We all know, if we keep rice or grain, it is bound to change colour but that does not mean it is unfit for human consumption.”
On the distribution of palliatives, the minister said there were laid-down structures that the ministry was following in the distribution, adding that the ministry was working with state governments in distributing palliatives.
Farouq added that the ministry was working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Red Cross and civil society organisations in the monitoring and evaluation of COVID-19.
She said the Federal Government intervention was targeted at the poor and vulnerable in every state of the federation.
In his remarks, Dr. Sani Aliyu, PTF national coordinator, said COVID-19 testing was not a competition among the states, pointing out that, rather, they needed to be transparent in testing for the virus.
Aliyu said some states had sent less than 10 samples.
“So I’m appealing to state governments to, please, continue to support the state emergency operating centres, the state ministry of health and make sure that everybody who needs to be tested for COVID-19 in any state in the country has that opportunity of having the test done.
“In addition to this, I will like to remind state governments that there are a number of states that continue to have inadequate capacity for isolation. Now is the time to correct this before the numbers start going up. I’m appealing to state chief executives to, please, make sure where you do not have adequate isolation facilities to do so. The PTF has already put 300 as per state minimum number of isolation beds that should be available in every state.”
To address the ugly situation in Kano State, the test laboratory centre at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) was reopened yesterday, after suspending operations and testing for over a week.
Director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, who confirmed the reopening, said a national response team made of 16 people had been deployed to the state, and the state will continue to receive support from the Federal Government.
“During a pandemic, the risk of spread is to those areas where the population density is the highest. We are all aware of the population density in Kano, so Kano has always been very high on our radar.
“The high number of cases that we are now seeing in Kano is really not a surprise and we are very concerned about this and we are doing everything we can.
“Despite our strong commitment to quickly control the spread of the coronavirus, there is no magic bullet; if anyone has one, I will be happy to get it. But as much as there has been this conversation, our role is to continue to work very hard on behalf of everyone, for the people of Kano and the people of state and the country.
“So what exactly are we doing? Firstly, is to mention that Kano has been one of the states we have had strongest relationship with at NCDC. There is no single state I have visited more often since I became the NCDC DG in 2016 than Kano. Just last week, I visited Kano and met with the governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, and we had very fruitful discussion.
“We did everything possible to activate the Kano lab, but sometimes speed also has consequences. So, we had to pause and shut the lab for the safety of workers at the lab. The Kano lab will go functional today. Everybody is working hard to get the lab working. We remain focused on our targets, which is to increase testing across the country. We are also working hard to investigate the causes of the deaths in Kano.
“This is a time for leadership, solidarity and not the time to point fingers. We understand it is a marathon and not a sprint,” Ihekweazu said.