By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
On 27 May 2020.
As Nigeria records reduction in mortality trend, continuous improvement in recoveries
The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF) has assured Nigerian children that all hands are on deck to reopen the schools at a safe time and urged States, local governments, proprietors and other stakeholders to begin to take steps that will facilitate an early and safe reopening.
Speaking at the daily Press conference yesterday in Abuja, Minister of State for Education, Barry. Emeka Nwajiuba said that until the government is sure that these children can go to school, return safely without bringing this Covid-19 material, it will not take that risk of reopening the schools yet.
Nwajiuba who observed that the announcement that schools are reopening on 8th June 2020 did not emanate from the government said that the government will work with the guidance of experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) before it reopens the schools adding that that the Federal Ministry of Education will publish a kind of Post-COVID guidelines for school reopening in spite of Covid-19, disclosed that we want all our children to come into schools by the time they will be able to do physical distancing.
The minister said the government is working on a model to ensure that all the children do not return to their schools at the same time to ensure physical and social distancing as well as proper sanitation and hygiene at every school.
Nwajiuba said the government is working on a model to ensure that all the children do not return to their schools at the same time to ensure physical and social distancing as well as proper sanitation and hygiene at every school.
According to him, “The plan entails adopting a two-shift system and allowing those who will write exams to return earlier than others.
Use this period to upgrade skills and think of how to make their teachings impactful. Those running the secondary schools should think of what to do so that when.
“We are looking at sanitary conditions of all the schools. SUBEB should use some of the monies we give them to upgrade sanitary conditions in schools. We are also looking at having sanitization booths working with NASENI. It is a forewarning to private and State governments to ensure that these things are put in place before schools can reopen”
He urged state governments and owners of private schools to plan ahead on how to ensure maximum safety for students when the resumption plan is unveiled.
Chairman of PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha observed that the 2020 Children’s Day brings to mind the need to build a legacy that would guarantee a safe and secured future for our children adding that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation was faced with the challenge of out of school children which has now been compounded by the compelling need for closure of schools as part of the measures to limit the spread of the virus.
According to him, “The PTF has been deliberating on this situation and wish to inform Nigerians that the Federal Ministry of Education will roll out measures to be put in place for safe re-opening of our schools. The PTF wishes to use the occasion of this celebration to congratulate our children and assure them, their parents and all stakeholders alike, that all hands are on deck to reopen the schools at a safe time”.
The SGF who announced that the World Health Organization (WHO), has temporarily suspended all clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19, noted that this advice was informed by a study which identified that the use of hydroxy-chloroquine, either alone or with other drugs, has been responsible for a high number of deaths.
Boss Mustapha observed that this precautionary measure by the WHO underscores the importance of not only seeking expert medical advice but also ensuring that all claims to treatment by scientists and researchers, whether conventional or traditional should be subjected to scientific certification protocols by NAFDAC and other relevant institutions so as to guarantee the efficacy of the discovery.
He said, “In our briefing of Thursday 21st, May 2020 PTF categorically advised Nigerians against self-medication in treating COVID -19. Particularly, the use of Hydroxy-chloroquine was discouraged because it had not been certified for use in treating COVID-19. We have read in the media about the side effects of the use of this drug from COVID-19 patients that survived as well as those who took it outside clinical supervision”.
The SGF stated that studies have shown that countries in Africa are so far experiencing a lower rate of transmission, fewer severe cases, and fewer deaths than had been predicted in previous estimates. A recent publication by WHO on risk modelling for 47 countries in the Africa Region predicts 82,000-190,000 deaths during the first year of the pandemic. However, African countries need to take measure to respond to this worst-case situation while also ensuring the continuation of existing services would certainly stretch our already burdened health systems.
Boss Mustapha observed that Countries in the region need to progressively increase their capacity to detect cases, not just to know the extent of the outbreak, but also to identify and initiate care for people most at risk. “They also need to expand capacity to mitigate the implications of widespread community transmission of COVID-19”.
He said that the PTF is strengthening community engagement in the control of COVID-19 while a protocol has been developed to give community members greater involvement and ownership in identifying and supporting the case management process.
“The PTF observed activities nationwide and the reports received were mixed. We, however, remain committed to the pursuit of strategies that would promote our well-being and channel resources towards efforts that would guarantee we overcome this pandemic while limiting its negative effects on our individual and collective survival.
Also speaking, Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunmibe Mamora disclosed that there is a general reduction in mortality trend and continuous improvement in recoveries as shown in discharges compared to the increase in the number of confirmed cases.
He, however, said that the government is concerned about the increasing number of confirmed cases because very high cases could seriously exceed the capacity of our health system to cope. Routine cases may also suffer as a result.
Mamora observed that while most of those who died are associated with comorbidities, we find that 3 out of 4 of those who have been discharged were without comorbidities. This is consistent with the fact that risks are higher for those with other illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and other chronic non- communicable diseases”.
He said, “Therefore the non-pharmaceutical preventive approach is still our best strategy. At present, we have a total of 112 treatment and isolation centres in all the 36 states and FCT with 5,324 beds. While only five states including the FCT have at least 300 beds as prescribed for isolation and treatment, 21 states have less than 100-bed spaces.As the number of confirmed cases increases, there is an urgent need to expand our treatment centres across the country. I, therefore, call on the State governors and philanthropists to take active and deliberate steps to scale up the number of beds for isolation and treatment of confirmed cases in their states”.
The minister who noted that there are global efforts to find a cure for the disease and Nigeria is part of that effort as the government has received a few proposals for local remedies for the disease which have been forwarded to the relevant agencies for evaluation.
Momora insisted that while Nigeria is anxious to find a cure for the disease, the Federal Government will not compromise the health of any Nigerian. We are not prepared to do trial and error with the health of our people. Whatever is approved for use in Nigeria must meet the required standard as determined by the relevant agencies.
According to him, “For a preparation to be approved for use in Nigeria, it must be subjected to safety, toxicological and efficacy tests as well as clinical trials.Last week, I led the Federal Ministry of Health team to a virtual meeting with Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practitioners to discuss and explore opportunities for local solutions to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The meeting provided an opportunity for the practitioners to understand the procedures for validating medicines for use in the country. We were also able to find common grounds for collaboration. The government will support every genuine effort aimed at finding local solutions to the pandemic.
The minister noted that the Traditional Medicine Practitioners still have issues with procedures for getting registered with NAFDAC, issues of intellectual property rights, issue of funding, request to have traditional medicine ward to exist side by side with the orthodox medicine ward and having volunteered for testing of their drugs. Will see how funding will be made available within the PTF. While we are anxious to find a cure for Coronavirus disease, the government will not compromise with the health of Nigerians
“As we prepare to move into the next phase of the response. Including the easing of the lockdown, we have conducted a high-level technical session on strategic outputs of Mid-Action Review (MAR) and identified priority activities for the next phase of the response. In addition, we have commenced the development of sector-specific advisories on re-opening. Training of health workers on case management is ongoing in more states”, he added.
On his part, Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said that the country is learning in real-time about the outbreak, stressing that the longest viability of the virus is 10 days even though it could last for more.
Chikwe noted that the NCDC is reviewing the case management guidelines to review the duration of time people spend at the hospital and change our response