The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday, revealed that 113 health workers had been infected with COVID-19.
Ehanire, who disclosed this at the press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, said they included workers in the public and private health facilities.
He, therefore, reiterated his advice to health workers that it was dangerous to treat coronavirus patients without using personal protective equipment.
The minister had, at the task force media briefing in Abuja on April 23, said about 40 health workers in the country had tested positive for coronavirus.
Ehanire, who lauded health workers for their commitment to the war against COVID-19, warned them against treating patients without the PPE.
He said, “Please, do not treat any patient without using the PPE. Frontline health workers must undertake refresher training at intervals. This warning has become necessary due to the number of health workers, who have tested positive for COVID-19. They are over 40 now and they have been quarantined.”
But the Nigerian Medical Association, through its National President, Dr Francis Faduyile, in its reaction, said most of those who contracted COVID-19 were not health workers treating COVID-19 patients, but personnel in other hospitals.
On Thursday, the health minister said the risk of being infected with COVID-19 was the reason why the task force warned health workers against treating patients without using the PPE.
He said, “The latest figure we have is that 113 health workers have been infected. They are not all public health workers. There are some from private hospitals.
“If you hear us speak frequently against treating coronavirus in private clinics, we are actually referring to people who do so without precaution and training. They risk infecting themselves and their families. Health care workers with no training have no business handling coronavirus.
“As for those who do not have equipment, we have said that we will provide protective equipment. Let me remind you that there is a global shortage. They (the pieces of equipment) are really scarce but we are doing what we can to make sure our frontline workers have the requirement. We also have a stockpile that we can send quickly. For example, we sent a stockpile to Kano.”
COVID-19 patients seeking alternative treatment, FG raises the alarm
The minister also stated that the country would be in a difficult position if infected persons continued to hide or seek alternative treatment instead of approaching government.
He added, “People should come out and seek treatment, not to hide. The ones that we worry most about are the people who hide and look for alternative treatment. They are lost to our counting.”
Quit, if you can’t cope, minister tells frontline health workers
The minister noted that health care workers went through a lot of pressure during a crisis period. He called on those who could not handle the pressure to quit.
He, however, said that government would continue to provide mental health and counselling support for those feeling the impact of the pressure.
He said, “It is very important for health care workers to realise that nobody is forced. Everybody is a volunteer. Those who cannot handle it have the option of being asked to be excused and someone else will come in.”
The minister allayed the fear of survival for those infected with COVID-19, saying that enough evidence had shown that the majority of infected persons would survive the virus.
“The recovery rate is 95 per cent or more. Out of 100 people that are infected, about 80 of them will have mild or no symptoms. Fifteen will have fairly severe symptoms, but not critical, while less than five per cent will have critical symptoms.
“What this means is that nobody really needs to be afraid. It is a dangerous disease that can affect a large number of people and bring health system to its knees. The five per cent can be so many, but there is no need to have a stigma.”
Donate your buildings as isolation centres, minister begs Nigerians
He said as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control aimed to test two million people in the next three months more buildings would be needed as isolation centres.
The minister stated, “I have appealed to citizens to make their property available temporarily for this purpose. I am sure that after that, there are many property owners who will come up and donate to state governments for a period of time to be used for this function.
“We are not out of space now but we are making the appeal ahead of time so that we have these facilities ready.”
Ehanire said that he was aware that the hazard allowance of health workers in the frontline of COVID-19 fight was being negotiated, but said that it did not include that of environmental health personnel.
Ehanire stated also that test capacity of the 15 laboratories in Nigeria had reached 2500. He, therefore, called on Nigerians to take advantage of the facilities.
Rapid test kits: Don’t put people’s lives at risk, NCDC warns states
At the briefing, the Director General of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said although each state had the right to make its procurement decision, it was important to seek advice from the centre in order not to put the lives of the people at risk.
He said rapid test kits, which had the capacity to test a large number of people, had yet to be validated by the World Health Organisation.
He said, “We live in a federal structure so every state government can make its own procurement decisions. We can only advise them and the advice has remained consistent with what the evidence shows.
“The evidence at the moment is that rapid kits don’t have sufficient sensitivity, the ability to detect positive cases.
“My responsibility is to make sure that every result we give, if they say people have this disease, they have the highest likelihood that they have it. That is one of the NCDC mandates. I hope they (state governments) will take the advice, if not, they may actually put their own citizens at risk and that is what we don’t really want.”
On a bill at the House of Representatives, the NCDC DG warned against coming up with a health law in the middle of a crisis, stressing that it might not stand the test of time.
The bill in question is for an Act to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill. It was sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila and it seeks to empower the NCDC and make it more proactive.
The NCDC boss stated that it was a good development that state governments were clamouring for molecular laboratories. He said it would help in building a lasting health system capable of responding to emergencies
Lagos needs more beds for COVID-19 patients
He also reiterated the need for bed spaces, saying Lagos was battling with a shortage amidst surge in cases.
As of Wednesday, Lagos State had recorded 931 cases, while the total number of people infected nationwide stood at 1,728.
The state has treatment centres at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba and Onikan among others.
But on Thursday, the director general said the state needed more bed spaces for COVID-19 patients.
He stated, “There is struggling (for bed spaces) especially in Lagos. The biggest challenge is Lagos where bed spaces are really tight. Across the country, we have about 3,500 bed spaces identified that are available for COVID-19. We are going to work more to make bed spaces available but we have to change our strategy. We are struggling at the moment. Our policy has not changed, but the pressure is there.
“In Lagos, Abuja and Kano, instead of waiting for people to call, we are going to where the patients are. We have set up specific testing locations in collaboration and under the leadership of states and the FCT to increase the samples being collected for cases that actually meet the case definition.”
He, however, warned against stigmatising COVID-19 positive Nigerians so that they would not be ashamed to come out for treatment.
Ihekweazu said two laboratories were functioning in Kano, adding that another one would be set up soon.
The chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, said the group had sent medical items to aid Kano State’s fight against COVID-19.
According to him, medical materials such as 280 protective gowns, 51 face shields, 538 examination gloves, 25 boot covers, medical masks and surgical caps and thermometers have been sent to the state.
PTF coordinator’s father, retired banker die in Kano
The PTF chairman announced also that the task force coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, lost his father, Alhaji Aliyu Daneji, on Wednesday.
Daneji, who was a permanent secretary in the Kano State Ministry of Finance from 1972 to 1975, died at the age of 95.
Also a retired director with the defunct Bank of the North, Rufai Abdulmalik, died on Thursday morning.
A family source told WE4WE REPORTS that Abdulmalik died at a federal health facility in the city.
A cousin of the late retired banker, Tiijjani Aliyu, who confirmed the death said,”I have just received the sad news and I’m heading to the hospital.”
There were reports that no fewer than 100 people died in the state within three days. Those who died included professors and Alhaji Uba Adamu, the father of the Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University.
Kano to publish pictures of fleeing COVID-19 patients
Meanwhile, the state task force on COVID-19 says it will soon publish the pictures of the two remaining patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and are still at large.
The Coordinator of the task force , Dr Tijjani Husain, disclosed this in an interview with WE4WE REPORTS in Kano on Thursday.
Recall that one the three patients who tested positive for the virus was arrested and taken to one of the isolation centres in the city. The task force is still looking for the remaining two.
He said the decision to publish the pictures of the fleeing patients was borne out of efforts to ensure that the patients were arrested and brought to an isolation centre for treatment.
“Their pictures will be published in some national dailies and with this, we hope to get them,” he said.
Lagos got largest share of Jack Ma kits –NCDC
In a related development, the NCDC said Lagos State got the largest number of COVID-19 response kits donated by Jack Ma.
The Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, had donated 100,000 ordinary face masks, 9,999 coverall gowns, 20,000 runs of reagents for testing and 913 face shields to help Nigeria in the fight against coronavirus. The donation to Nigeria was part of the 500,000 kits donated to 53 African countries.
NCDC said on its tweeter handle, @NCDCgov, that Lagos was given 27,678 face masks, 2596 coverall gowns and 165 face shields. It stated that the state got the amount because a priority was given to the state with the highest number of cases at the time of distribution.
The distribution chart showed that Federal Capital Territory got the second highest with 14,115 face masks, 1,906 coverall gowns and 161 face shields. Bauchi, Edo, Osun, Oyo, Rivers and Ekiti states got 1,912 face masks, 291 coverall gowns and 26 face shields, while Ogun got 4,375 face masks, 671 coverall gowns and 58 face shields.
Stay alert, NMA, Tomori tell health workers
Meanwhile, a former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof Oyewale Tomori, and the NMA have urged the federal and state governments to provide enough PPE for health workers in the country.
Tomori, a professor of virology, in an interview with one of our correspondents, also urged Nigerians to be honest about their travel and medical histories.
He said, “Government must provide health workers with the basic protective equipment, They should not be short of that at all. Secondly, they (health workers) must increase their awareness that COVID-19 is around and be more careful. Thirdly, our people must be honest and transparent and tell doctors what their problem is which must include travel history.”
The NMA President, Faduyile, urged health workers to have a high index of suspicion in the discharge of their duties.
He said, “The health workers must have a high index of suspicion in the discharge of their duties. Also, many health workers relax and do not put on the appropriate PPE.
“Health workers must be trained better so that they do not get themselves infected while either donning or doffing the PPE.”
The NMA first Vice President Dr Kenneth Tijo, on his part, said aside from providing personal protective equipment for health workers, the government must train them in how to use the PPE appropriately.