The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has faulted the Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, over the handling of welfare for medical experts and first responders of the COVID-19 disease in the country.
At a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday with members of the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila asked if there was a hazard allowance for the medical experts who are putting their lives at risk to curb the spread of the COVID-19.
But in response, the minister said he was not aware and because they are civil servants, he couldn’t speak much of their payment structure.
Unimpressed by the response, the Speaker said the minister had dropped the ball regarding matters that concerned his sector and area of expertise.
Watch the video here.
Over 100,000 Deaths Worldwide
With over 100,000 deaths now recorded globally, nations have continued to make frantic efforts to save lives and curb the spread of the virus.
But those on the frontlines of the fight – medical experts, who have also not been spared from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 are gradually becoming a major source for concern even as healthcare systems world over, become overwhelmed.
In Nigeria, however, more isolation centres are being opened up and more health professionals both locally and internationally are being injected into the system to boost the fight.
The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) had also stated that it is making all efforts to increase its testing capacity for the COVID-19 in the country.
But the Director-General of the commission, Chikwe Ihekweazu, admitted that the fight against the pandemic has been limited by funds and infrastructure and the “biggest limitation” – human resources.
However, as of April 2, the health minister noted that the testing capacity of the country has improved to 1,500 persons per day.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, says more than one million masks are about to be received into the country from China.
Addressing reporters on Monday in Abuja, he explained that the masks were being sent by a Chinese construction company, CCECC, as parts of its corporate social responsibility efforts to help Nigeria combat the coronavirus pandemic.
CCECC, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is in charge of a number of Nigeria’s major railway construction projects.
The masks are to be accompanied by ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and an 18-man team made up of Chinese medical and technical experts, the Minister said during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Ehanire believes the supplies being brought in by China are “globally scarce” and will “augment government support and build capacity to contain the outbreak.”
The Roles To Play
“Many of you who read the news know that there is a global competition for masks, that certain countries have been accusing each other of capturing each other’s masks,” he said.
“There has also been a global competition for ventilators with some countries donating ventilators to others and also swapping ventilators.
“So . . . it is particularly pacifying that in the face of all of this, we are able to get these supplies here, which even if we had the money, we would not have been able to order.
“In addition, the technical experts will comprise research doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians with public health managers who will share their own knowledge and skills – and their real-life experiences of fighting COVID-19 – with Nigerian experts to strengthen our own management of cases, especially with regard to critical care.
“As we all know, this country (China) has had quite an experience with it,” he added.
The Most Needed PPE
The Minister stressed the usefulness of the equipment being brought in and how the country would benefit from the knowledge of the Chinese experts.
He said, “Now, this initiative will greatly build the capacity of our hard-working and resourceful Nigerian healthcare workers who are at the forefront of fighting the virus.
“But the most needed PPE and masks will also protect our frontline workers and mitigate the spread of this disease.
“We do have a window of opportunity to strengthen our response mechanisms through lessons we learn from any country that has had the experience and can provide a hands-on demonstration of how to deal with the outbreak and give Nigerian clinical workforce the opportunity of sharing global best practices.”
On Friday, Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, joined other members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to provide updates on steps the country is taking to combat the pandemic. Below are the six most important things he said:
1. Number of cases will continue to increase
Nigeria is nowhere yet at the finish line in terms of the number of new cases, according to the Minister. But if people strictly observe social distancing and other measures put in place such as hand-washing, things will get better.
What he said: We are already seeing what may be the indications of sustained community transmission in the sense that 30 per cent of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information; while 51 per cent are imported cases and 19 per cent are contacts of known cases.
We are using the small window of opportunity remaining to intensify investigations to identify cases and their sources. This is one of the purposes for which the lockdown of two states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was proclaimed by the President. These areas, especially Lagos, are primary epicentres. But also other parts of the federation will need to speed up their activities to detect and isolate COVID-19 patients. During and following the lockdown, we expect to see an increase in cases as a measure of improvement in case finding.
If all the social distancing and other measures are adhered to, the incidence of positive cases can be controlled.
2. Nigeria is ramping up testing
The country is working very hard to increase the number of coronavirus tests being carried out in the country. The Minister has noted this before, but he also noted that new milestones have been reached.
What he said: We have tested nearly 3,000 samples so far and we are working hard to scale up our capacity in a targeted approach.
Coronavirus treatment centre accreditation committee was inaugurated yesterday by the Honourable Minister of State for Health and (the committee) has begun developing an accreditation checklist, as well as a protocol for the management of isolation centres.
We are compiling a list of trained workers in the health sectors to man the centres as they become operational.
3. COVID-19 might be good for local innovation
The Minister said the country was looking inward in order to produce essential medical kits required to combat the pandemic.
What he said: Directors of the Federal Ministry of Health had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria to explore the potential for local production of medical consumables such as face-masks, gloves sanitizers and even equipment like ventilators. This is in view of the looming global shortages of medical supplies for response due to high demand by all countries.
4. No cure yet, but research is ongoing
Yes, chloroquine has been touted as the drug that might be quite useful in dealing with COVID-19, but nothing has been confirmed yet. In Nigeria, doctors are also still trying to figure out how to treat patients.
What he said: Clinical trials and other processes are ongoing to validate various therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment.
5. China is lending a helping hand
The country responsible for most of Nigeria’s recent infrastructure projects, China, has also been visible in the fight against COVID-19. According to the Minister, China is sending doctors and (more) kits to support the government’s efforts.
What he said: I have been notified of gifts of medical supplies from China, courtesy of a group of Chinese companies working here in Nigeria. A special cargo aircraft shall leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items which include commodities, Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), and ventilators.
Of great interest is that an 18-man team of medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers shall come along with the flight to assist us.
6. COVID-19 is a disaster, but life continues
While it might seem like COVID-19 is the most important health challenge right now, Nigeria still has to deal with other types of medical emergencies. The Minister reminded the medical community about that on Friday.
What he said: I must, at this juncture, commend frontline health workers who are doing a great job in case identification and management. As we prepare to contain COVID-19 outbreak, we must not lose sight of other health challenges in our country. Routine healthcare services must continue in all hospitals. Only a wing of tertiary centres need to be put to use for infected patients.
I also urge all states to find more beds for isolation and treatment, and this may include renting hotels. It is important that we do not drop but continue our services, including maternal and child health and immunisation. I shall communicate this to the commissioners of health of the states. I shall also instruct all federal health institutions to this effect and for them to work with state officials.
Those who have to deal with coronavirus patients are, as I said, to commit only a wing of their hospitals. And to this purpose, they have all been supplied with starter-packs of Personal Protective Equipment and consumables.
I want to remind you all again that all these efforts will not be effective if we do not cooperate fully with the government. We recognise that the lockdown may be difficult and inconvenient, but it is necessary for the good of us all.
The Nigerian Government has confirmed the second death from coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, announced this on Monday during the Presidential Task Force Briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
He said, “Till date, three persons have been discharged after successful treatment. But sadly, another fatality was recorded over the weekend in the person of a patient who had severe underlying illnesses.
“We have intensified contact tracing and our strategy remains to promptly detect cases, isolate them, and follow up with their contacts and also isolate and treat, in order to reduce the spread of the infection.”
“As of today, the 30th of March, 2020, we have recorded 111 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria of which 68 are in Lagos, 21 in the FCT, seven in Oyo, three in Ogun, two in Bauchi, two in Edo, two in Osun, two in Enugu, and one each in Benue, Ekiti, Kaduna and Rivers States,” Ehanire added.
He stressed that Nigeria has 111 confirmed cases of COVID-19, saying a majority of them were persons who came in from overseas.
According to the health minister, the highest number of confirmed cases are in Lagos and Abuja because they serve as the major gateways to the country.
He also informed the gathering that all retired but able-bodied staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Federal Ministry of Health were being recalled.
Ehanire warned Nigerians to protect the elderly among them, as well as those having underlying health issues as they were the most vulnerable.
In his opening remarks, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, informed the audience that the briefing would be a daily event.
He explained that the purpose was to give an update and minimise the incidence of fake news in the country.
Mustapha stressed that the briefing would be the only approved briefing of the task force, although appearances on TV by relevant members would be allowed.
He announced that President Muhammadu Buhari has constituted a committee headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to care for the economic challenges that the situation may bring for the time being.
The SGF also clarified the controversy triggered by the restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He allayed the fear of Nigerians, saying workers in the financial institutions were not included in the stay-at-home order declared by the President in his Sunday broadcast to the nation.
He briefed reporters at the boardroom of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Edo State, where he gave an update on coronavirus infection in the country.
According to the minister, Nigeria has adopted some important response strategies at the containment stage since the outbreak in China and subsequent spread to other countries.
He listed the measures to include identifying all contacts, ensure their strict isolation, and following up daily with checks for any symptoms of the disease.
Ehanire recalled that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) advised that samples should be taken from all contacts of the Index case for testing, following the recent experience from other countries.
“It is in this process that this new case was detected,” he said, stressing, “I repeat that the newly confirmed case in Nigeria is not a new importation, but a contact of the Index case, who has since been in isolation and was under clinical follow-up.”
“He presently does not have any clinical symptoms, is comfortable and in care at Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos.
“Recent studies in China have shown that increased surveillance, self-isolation and, in particular, contact tracing do reduce the risk of spread because further opportunities for transmission of the virus by the infected patient in the community are limited,” the minister added.
Ehanire said all other contacts of the index case in Ogun and Lagos would remain in isolation and testing would be carried out on those not yet tested, including some in other states.
The Nigerian government has confirmed the second case of coronavirus in the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, announced this on Monday at a press conference in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
Ehanire briefed reporters at the boardroom of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, where he gave an update on the coronavirus infection in the country.
He, however, noted that the newly confirmed case was a contact of the index case and not an importation into the country.
The minister said, “It is my duty, therefore, to announce a new case of coronavirus disease (CIVID-19) in Nigeria.”
“One of the important response strategies at the containment stage has been to identify all contacts, ensure their strict isolation, and to follow up daily with checks for any symptoms of the disease.
“Following recent experience from other countries and evident from newly published studies on non-symptomatic infections, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), advised that samples should be taken from all contacts of the index case for testing.
“It is in this process that these two cases were detected.”
This second case is a contact of the index case, in Ogun state. The new case has been in isolation and was tested as part of our strategy to test all contacts of the index case. pic.twitter.com/aTkzEy3qXo
Two new developments have taken place since the last briefing in Abuja on the coronavirus situation in Nigeria.
The first is that a team of researchers from various institutions in Nigeria, including scientists from the Centre for Human and Zoology Virology in LUTH, African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Redeemers University and the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Lagos, combined their efforts to successfully perform the genome sequencing of the coronavirus strain that the index case brought to Nigeria and proved it to be a match with the virus circulating in Italy and Wuhan.
This was coordinated by the Lagos State Ministry of Health and NCDC. It is the first time the sequencing of this virus has been performed in Africa.
The result has been shared with International Authorities and the Director-General of the World Health Organisation has extended congratulations to Nigerian scientists for this achievement.
The other development is that contact tracing and monitoring in respect of the coronavirus index case presently receiving treatment in Lagos, has been diligently and conscientiously pursued since 27 February when the case was first diagnosed.
As you know, 40 persons in Ogun and 20 in Lagos are under isolation and have remained free of any symptoms since.
Nevertheless, the Federal Ministry of Health, following best practice, decided to test these persons for the possible presence of coronavirus in their systems.
On 8th March 2020, scientists confirmed the presence of coronavirus in one of the contacts.
It is my duty, therefore, to announce a new case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nigeria.
The newly confirmed case is an Ogun State contact of the index case, but he has no significant clinical symptoms. This brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria today to two.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in China and subsequent spread to other countries, one of the important response strategies at the containment stage, has been to identify all contacts, ensure their strict isolation and to follow up daily with checks for any symptoms of the disease.
Following recent experience from other countries and evidence from newly published studies on non-symptomatic infections, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, advised that samples should be taken from all contacts of the index case for testing. It is in this process that this new case was detected.
I repeat that the newly confirmed case in Nigeria is not a new importation, but a contact of the Index case, who has since been in isolation and was under clinical follow-up.
He presently does not have any clinical symptoms, is comfortable and in care at Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos.
Recent studies in China have shown that increased surveillance, self-isolation and, in particular, contact tracing do reduce the risk of spread because further opportunities for transmission of the virus by the infected patient in the community are limited.
All other contacts of the index case in Ogun and Lagos will remain in isolation and testing will be carried out on those not yet tested, including some in other states.
On the case reported in the US of Nigerian origin, we are in touch with colleagues at the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and here in Abuja.
The case visited Lagos in February 2020. However, given the timelines between the time he was in Nigeria briefly and when he became ill, the likelihood that he was infected in Lagos is very low.
The Federal Ministry of Health, and Lagos and Ogun States Health Ministries assure citizens of our commitment to do all needed to control the spread of this outbreak.
Since the first case was confirmed in Nigeria on the 27th of February 2020, the National Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) in Abuja, continues to work closely with Lagos and Ogun State EOCs to coordinate response activities.
I again strongly advise against spreading misinformation to cause fear and panic. The Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC will continue to provide prompt and reliable updates and initiate all measures required to protect our people.
A globally emerging lesson here is that some people who contracted COVID-19 appear to experience zero or only mild illness and will recover; however, other patients develop more severe symptoms, especially if they have other underlying illnesses, or are weakened by old age.
I urge Nigerians to take care of their health and protect others by continuing to do the following:
• Regularly and thoroughly wash hands with soap & water for at least 30 seconds, if not possible use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
• Maintain at least 2 metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing repeatedly.
• Be sure you and people around you follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning, to cover the mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief if coughing or sneezing and disposing of used tissue immediately. Alternatively, use your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze, when no tissue is available.
• Do not mingle with people or congregate, but instead stay at home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough, sneezing, or difficulty in breathing.
• Please call NCDC toll-free number which is available 24/7 for guidance- 080097000010.
• Do not engage in lengthy self-medication
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels including Lagos State Ministry of Health, Ogun State Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Federal Ministry of Health.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has confirmed that two out of the three recent suspected cases of Coronavirus identified in Lagos are negative, while the result for the last is still being awaited.
Channels Television reported that the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, on Thursday, disclosed that three cases have been identified were being tested in the Lagos isolation centre.
One of those involved, he added, is a Nigerian who returned from France four days ago, a second entered the country from the United Kingdom and a third from China.
Dr Ehanire, while updating journalists on the recent development of the COVID-19 case in Nigeria on Friday, stressed that the results take some time to come out, but the country has only one confirmed case.
“As of the three cases, one of them, we are expecting the result; it takes some hours for the results to come out.”
The Minister urged Nigerian to desist from profiling or trying to know the identity of suspected cases.
“We must go away from the idea of focusing on Chinese or any particular nationality because a case that entered Nigeria, which is the index case is not Chinese.
“If we are profiling and focusing on the wrong areas, we risk losing the right thinking,” he maintained.
Adding, Dr Ehanire said that authorities have already strengthened the screening of every passenger using the country’s entry-point, noting that soon, passengers departing the country will be screened.
“People should maintain good social distance. We have already strengthened the screening of every passenger that enters this country.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday contradicted the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on the payment of N620 million to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), an amount budgeted for the emergency response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Contrary to the announcement that the money had been paid to the agency in full, the lawmaker stressed that no kobo was released.
He, therefore, asked the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to immediately release the money to the health agency.
The minister, at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday last week, said the Federal Government had released every fund needed by the Port Health Services and the NCDC, which he described as the nation’s first and second lines of defence for coronavirus.
According to him, the Port Health Services received about N70 million while the NCDC got N620 million.
Ehanire admitted that Nigeria used to have very little quantity of reagents to diagnose coronavirus, but the supply of the substances has been improved.
The Senate President, however, said, “I am sad, we are indeed actually sad, that of the N620 million that was supposed to be released to this place for fixing of everything here to NCDC, not a kobo has been released.
“We are going to get across to the Minister of Finance and all the other authorities that have anything to do with this to release this money latest between today and tomorrow (Thursday).”
Lawan spoke when he led the leadership of the Senate on a tour of isolation centres located at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada.
He regretted that the temporary isolation centre was not in good shape, stressing that it doesn’t look ready to receive any patient.
“We are in an emergency, even if we don’t have people who are affected, we shouldn’t just rest on our oars.
“We have to do everything and anything possible to fix that temporary isolation centre to be prepared to receive anyone who falls sick in this respect,” said the lawmaker.
The Senate President was worried that Nigeria has yet to have a completed Isolation Centre in the north-central geo-political zone that would provide emergency response to disease outbreak in the country.
He, therefore, asked those saddled with leadership responsibilities in the country to live up to expectations through the timely discharge of their mandates and duties.
Lawan said, “There’s no way that Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, with a population of 200 million, and yet the Federal Capital and six surrounding states of the North Central; you don’t have one room that you can call an isolation centre, where anyone who unfortunately falls into this crisis will be taken to. This is not acceptable.
“So, we are going to ensure that the money is released, we are going to put pressure. This is what they are supposed to do, and they must do it.”
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on Monday revealed that the coronavirus index case in Lagos is responding very well to treatment at the infectious diseases hospital in Yaba, Lagos State.
The Minister, who spoke at a news conference in Abuja, maintained that all who had contacts with the index case, both in Lagos and Ogun states, are currently being managed, as none of the suspected cases has tested positive to the virus.
He also noted that all suspected cases in Plateau state, where the State’s Ministry of Health quarantined about 40 persons who came in contact with a Chinese miner, are under close monitoring.
Meanwhile, the Minister warned the public against panicking and assured citizens of the Federal Government’s preparedness to contain the virus.
“We should all remain calm and avoid panic at this time,” Ehanire said. “Everyone should regularly and thoroughly wash hands with soap or use alcohol-based sanitisers to disinfect their hands, maintain one-metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This is called social distancing.
“Make sure you and the people around you follow good respiratory hygiene, which means covering your mouth and your nose with a handkerchief or tissue when you cough or sneeze, or if you do not have any of those immediately at hand, cough and sneeze into your bent elbow; immediately dispose of used tissue after use.”
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on Monday reported that four Chinese nationals quarantined in Plateau state have tested negative for Covid-19.
The Plateau state government had reported four suspected cases of the coronavirus on Saturday and placed the individuals on quarantine.
However, the Minister, in a press briefing, said “none of these cases have any symptoms” and that they have all “been tested at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reference laboratory and they are all negative for coronavirus infection.”
He went on to note that the state has placed them under supervised isolation for 14 days.
“We will continue to monitor the global situation with cases spreading quickly in countries as they are doing now,” Ehanire said.