Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has resumed clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The WHO had on May 25th suspended the trail after a study published in The Lancet medical journal suggested the drug could increase the risk of death among COVID-19 patients.
The world health body had suspended the trial while awaiting the review of all safety data by the Solidarity Trial Data Safety Monitoring Committee (DSMC).
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said at the daily briefing that: ‘The WHO, as part of efforts to find a cure to the COVID-19, has resumed the inclusion of patients in the hydroxychloroquine arm of the study. The PTF, however, advises against self-medication in all circumstances.’
Mustapha said the PTF was concerned about reports of citizens refusing to help with contact tracing as well as going into isolation after testing positive.
‘It is in the interest of everybody that contacts are traced so as to slow down the spread. It is also in our interest to go into isolation facilities for close monitoring. A number of fatalities have been recorded due to the change in the condition of patients while staying outside the isolation facilities. Our appeal is that if agents of the state get in touch with you regarding testing, contact tracing activities, please cooperate.’
The PTF chair appealed to citizens who test positive for the virus to be prepared to be ‘quarantined and to monitor our health for the onset of symptoms because it is important for us to break the chain of transmission and prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in our dear country.’
He said following the red flag raised and enumerated on efforts to cut down the rate of infection among medical workers, the NCDC is stepping up training on infection, prevention and control to slow this emerging situation down. According to him, ‘we need our health workers to be healthy and available. As always, we remain very proud of you all.’
He threatened that the PTF would not hesitate to review the ease on the lockdown or the re-opening of worship centres, should the situation warrant, to prevent risks of transmission.
According to him, the PTF will continue to monitor the overall compliance with the easing of restriction as well as the evolution of the outbreak.
He said: ‘The response needs to be decentralised to the local governments level, identifying high burden LGAs and ensuring mapping of adequate support to rapidly trace, test and treat cases.
‘States need to drive aggressive campaigns to engage communities in order to address behaviour change and debunk misconceptions and stigma. Traditional and religious institutions have a role to play in sensitizing communities about COVID 19,’ he said.
On re-opening of worship centres, Mustapha, who noted said that the country approaches the weekend, reminded the public to be aware of the guidelines set for restricted opening of places of worship.
He said that the national guidelines have been shared with the states and that the federal government expect that protocols will be agreed with religious leaders.
He said the PTF has received inquiries on some aspects of the guidelines, assuring that they have been simplified as much as possible and the dissemination has already commenced through the electronic and print media.
‘Compliance is important so as to avoid unwanted consequences that put the lives of people at risk of contracting COVID-19. We urge the utmost caution at all times. The PTF will continue to monitor the overall compliance with the easing of restriction as well as the evolution of the outbreak.
‘However, we will not hesitate to review as we progress, should the situation warrant, to avoid preventable risks of transmission,’ Mustapha said.
He also reiterated that as the country is now in the planting season and the farmers now involved in land preparation and planting of crops, the guidelines have exempted the agricultural value chain from the restrictions put in place, to guarantee a seamless flow of agricultural activities.
‘It is therefore important that we do everything possible to guarantee our food security by supporting our hardworking farmers to function. I, therefore appeal to all the various task forces and security personnel at the sub-national levels to ensure easy passage of these inputs to our farmers,’ he said.
He also said that the country has continued to receive support from development partners and that on Wednesday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delivered test reagents, kits and a PCR Machine to the country.
He, therefore, expressed appreciation for the gesture and that the equipment will go a long way in boosting the country’s capacity.