As the number of lives lost to COVID-19 in Nigeria rose to 191 on Tuesday, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 is worried at the new trend in the increasing number of deaths. Osagie Ehanire, minster for health and a member of the PTF blamed the soaring national figure on the decision by some elites not to surrender themselves for treatment at designated centres. Ehanire noted that even though this latter figure seemed low compared to other countries, “A disturbing picture emerging from the statistics is that not only are most fatalities observed to be linked with pre-existing diseases, many of them are educated, well-to-do people who chose home-base care where complications suddenly developed and they had to be rushed to hospitals”.
The health minister said “Experience is beginning to show that breathing complications in COVID-19 patients can arise with little or no notice” stressing that “This is an added reason why all persons should seek medical attention when they test positive”. Chairman of the PTF, and secretary to the government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha in this regard, assured those still struggling with the disease that help was available and advised them not to go underground. “It is important to talk about it and to seek help. Every effort spares humanity the agony of the spread of the virus”, he posited
Mustapha and Ehanire spoke on Tuesday at the daily press conference by the PTF to bring Nigerians up to date on the COVID-19 situation report in the country. The health minister said 216 new cases were recorded on Monday giving an aggregate number of 6,175 in 34 States and the Federal Capital Territory. The breakdown of the new figures showed that Lagos State topped the list with 74 cases, followed by Katsina, Oyo, Kano and Edo with 33, 19, 17, and 13 cases respectively. Zamfara has 10, while Ogun, Gombe, and Borno States recorded eight cases each. Bauchi and Kwara recorded seven new cases while the Federal Capital Territory, FCT has four, Kaduna and Enugu three each and Rivers State had two. According to Ehanire, 1,644 patients have been treated and discharged from care “but we have sadly recorded 191 deaths in 26 states plus the Federal Capital Territory”.
Underscoring the extension of the eased lockdown approved by the president, Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, Ehanire posited that it was of great importance that “we, members of the health sector and citizens endeavour to use this period to dedicate our efforts to strive for the best outcomes, but also be prepared and prepare for the worst”. He said “as we learn more about coronavirus every day, we must be ready to adjust our strategy based on knowledge and evidence”.
Ehanire said to continue strengthening response in states, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, had been assessing isolation centres all over the country with recent exercises in Yenagoa and Oshogbo, adding that they would also continue providing diagnostic commodities and facilities in collaboration with partners. “The ministerial task team led by a director in the federal ministry of health to Kano has reported improvements in processes and indices of Kano and also of strategies to control the increasing cases of COVID-19 infection in the entire region by ramping up testing, isolation and case management capabilities”, he stated.
Further emphasising the need for compliance by Nigerians with laid down rules for life to return to normal, Ehanire asserted that no policing should be needed to do the right thing, and educated the people on the mandatory and correct use of the face masks each for the protection of the other. “Masks must be worn and washed daily and ironed where possible. Masks should cover the mouth and the nose and should not be left under the chin especially during close quarter conversations lest its purpose is defeated. New understanding is that droplets dispersal takes place even during normal speech and the common use of masks can significantly limit the risk of transmission especially where people live in close settings”.
He further advised that tissues must be used when coughing and sneezing and then disposed of, while the stay at home advisory also needed to be more strictly adhered. He warned against citizens circumventing the ban on inter-state travel by hiding in goods trucks.
Chairman of the PTF said Nigeria’s approach to easing the COVID-19 lockdown was to “delicately balance between safety and economic consideration” before the economy would be fully reopened. He therefore appealed to Nigerians to diligently comply with measures put in place as the country goes into the first week of the extension of phase one under the eased lockdown regime.
“I must also emphasise that the two additional weeks should be utilized by businesses, offices, professional bodies, places of worship, educational institutions awaiting reopening to plan and adopt new strategies under the COVID-19 era in line with the guidelines issued…Above all, behavioral change is a must for every citizen because COVID-19 has changed the world completely. The PTF COVID-19 is committed and determined to continue to provide the required leadership for this national response”, Mustapha assured Nigerians.
He said in the coming days, intense consultations would be deepened with different segments of society, including the state governments, security agencies, religious and community leaders to ensure a coordinated implementation of the measures. “As I mentioned yesterday, specific instructions have been issued to security agencies to strictly enforce the measures. I therefore admonish Nigerians to please observe the restrictions in full” the PTF chairman stated.