The federal government Wednesday raised the alarm that community transmission of COVID-19 pandemic was now on the rise than the imported cases.
The concerns came as a 15-man medical team from China Wednesday arrived the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja to help Nigeria in the fight against the pandemic.
The team arrived amidst opposition by Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) that the Chinese personnel should not be engaged when most trained doctors were yet to be employed.
The NMA said the government’s decision was “a thing of embarrassment to the membership of the association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions.”
Similarly, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) also told the federal government to drop the plan, insisting that Nigeria was already handling the challenge the right way.
But the federal government consistently maintains that the Chinese doctors were coming to offer a helping at no cost to the federal government.
In its Wednesday update, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced 22 new case, 15 of which it said were in Lagos, four in FCT, two in Bauchi and one in Edo
The new cases bring the total number to 276 in Nigeria.
Raising concerns over the rising community transmission of the virus, national coordinator for the fight against COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, said all public and private health care institutions should look out for patients presenting unusual respiratory tract infections, especially those he said “cannot be explained.”
He spoke Wednesday at a live update of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Aliyu said such symptoms had become key indicator for testing for coronavirus infection, stressing that from a public health perspective, one of the most effective ways of cutting transmission was to keep away from one another
Sani said: “We are only as strong as our weakest link. More of our cases are now community-linked. We are having fewer cases that are linked to travel abroad or contact with people who have been abroad. Our healthcare services need to look out for this alert.
“At the same time, I would like to encourage the public, those that have suspicion that they have symptoms related to coronavirus, not to be afraid but to seek testing and treatment.
“In the vast majority of cases-more than at least 80 per cent of cases of coronavirus infection- most people will have mild or moderate symptoms and will be well.
“But in a small minority of cases, particularly those that are susceptible or at high risk for severe illness such as those with underlying medical conditions and those that are immuno-suppressed or those that are elderly, particularly above the age of 70, they could end up with very severe disease,” he further added.
Meanwhile, a 15-member Chinese medical team Wednesday arrived Abuja on an Air Peace-chartered flight from China.
The team members, who are mainly experts in infectious diseases, respiratory illness, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery and anaesthesiology, landed at about 5:15 pm.
They were received by the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian; Executive Director, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, Mr. Jacques Liao, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehainre and some top officials of the ministries of foreign affairs and health.
Ahead of their arrival, the CCECC boss, Mr. Liao, had said they would come with their drugs, and equipment to carry out COVID-19 tests on the staff of the company.
The CCECC boss, had in a statement in Abuja Tuesday, said the medical team would be coming with 16-ton test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, drugs, infrared thermometer and other items ordered by the federal government.
He dismissed the controversy over the team’s visit, saying, “the primary purpose of the team is to provide CECC employees with critical and necessary healthcare.”
“All members of the working team have tested negative for COVID-19 and shall commence their stay in Nigeria by spending 14 days in quarantine.
“The primary purpose of the team is to provide CCECC employees with critical and necessary health care assistance. They are also coming with adequate personal protective equipment and medical items for the employees,” he had said.
Liao also hinted on likely knowledge-sharing on COVID-19 between the visiting doctors and their Nigerian counterparts, saying this was in response to the Nigerian government’s request.
In a related development, the federal government Wednesday said private healthcare facilities with capacity to manage the pandemic must seek government’s certification.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha said this during an update on the body’s activities in Abuja.
He said all the current emergency isolation and treatment centres in the country were subjected to scrutiny and certification before they became operational.
“The expansion of the infrastructure for treatment is important. However, private hospitals that have capacity to manage COVID-19 cases shall seek certification by the Committee of Infectious Disease Experts assembled by the Federal Ministry of Health for standardisation and safety of frontline staff and other patients.
“It may interest you to know that all emergency isolation and treatment centres established by the PTF have also undergone this process in view of the danger posed by this infectious disease,” he said.
On the restriction order on movements in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states, the SGF said President Muhammadu Buhari would be advised on the next steps to be taken to contain the spread of the disease in the country.
He said the Task Force, in conjunction with the Accountant General of the Federation, had published the accounts into which donations towards the anti-COVID-19 efforts would be paid.
“Today is the 10th day of lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory. As expected, we will continue to evaluate the impact of the restriction order on the spread of the virus and level of compliance.
“The president will be appropriately advised within the coming days on the next step to take. Again, I feel compelled to underscore the importance of collaboration with the PTF by Nigerians.
“Our compliance with the directives and orders given is in the best interest of humanity and to save lives. I am pleased to inform you that the PTF, working in collaboration with the Accountant General of the Federation, have concluded and published details of accounts into which donations by well-meaning members of the society and corporate organisations can be channelled.
“I must emphasise that transparency and accountability shall remain the hallmark of all transactions under COVID-19 activities. Within the coming days, Nigeria shall be receiving equipment and other technical support through the United Nations System, as well as other donors. You will be adequately briefed when such deliveries are made,” he said.
Also speaking, Minister of State for Health Mr. Olorunimbe Mamora said Nigeria has so far recorded 254 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“Lagos remains the epicentre with 130, with 50 cases in FCT, 20 in Osun, 11 in Edo, 11 in Oyo, 6 in Bauchi, 5 each in Akwa Ibom and Kaduna, 4 in Ogun, 2 each in Enugu, Ekiti, Kwara and Rivers, and 1 each in Benue, Delta, Katsina and Ondo. The spike in Osun is linked to the arrival of Nigerians to that state from ECOWAS countries. Several groups of Nigerians have made similar intentions known to return.
“Those discharged from treatment are 44 of which seven are from the UATH center. We unfortunately have 6 corona related fatalities in total. There are presently 204 active cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria. The DG of NCDC will give further details.
“We have nine laboratories for testing as at today for COVID-19, to be augmented over time by other laboratories in the public and private sector,” the minister further said.
The minister appealed to state governments to emulate Lagos state that currently has enhanced preparedness and response in the state.
“We are sure other governors shall prepare in the same way, with infection control compliant isolation centres and aggressive community surveillance,” he said.
The minister also commended health workers for their commitment, hard work and sacrifice in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has drastically changed the pace and style of life in commemoration of World Health Day which is observed on April 7 each year.
He said: “Through training, provision of guidelines and personal protective equipment, we continue to enhance the understanding and capacity of our frontline workers for this novel disease.
“I urge all health workers to apply infection prevention and control (IPC) protocols always and maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19.
“The resources on NCDC COVID-19 website covid19.ncdc.gov.ng, including national case definition guidelines, are being constantly updated. To health workers I say, “Your well-being is a priority to us, and we cannot thank you enough for the work that you do in protecting the health of Nigerians.”
“I want to strongly advise citizens against giving false information of symptoms or travel history to healthcare workers, when seeking care, at this critical time. Doing so puts the health of health professionals at risk of infection and also deprives them of comprehensive information to properly diagnose and manage illnesses.
“Those who tested positive for COVID-19 must report to designated treatment centre for safe isolation and care, even if they feel well, because the danger of this disease is that those who do not have any symptoms are still as infectious as those with symptoms and need to be isolated, for the sake of their families, friends and the public.
“Health facilities, both public and private, are called upon not to reject patients without giving them advisory on what to do, but to follow NCDC guidelines and refer suspect cases to COVID-19 test sites. In all cases essential health service is to be rendered, including emergencies, since the arrival of coronavirus does not mean disappearance of other diseases.
“Additionally, all Health facilities are reminded that coronavirus is an extremely dangerous pathogen, which spreads very easily. It is not advisable to accept persons suspected of such infection for treatment if the facility is not so accredited, but to offer them a referral to test centers or accredited treatment centers. Health workers and other patients and visitors will otherwise be put at great risk.
“We are engaging the Association of Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria and the Guild of Medical Directors to adequately engage their members accordingly.
“Unauthorised management of this disease and compromise of medical ethics can aggravate this public health emergency at community level and place national security in jeopardy. In this respect, I wish it to be known that there is enough bed space in our accredited hospitals to handle the present number of positive cases in Nigeria and also that the FMoH is upgrading its capacity to transfer diagnosed COVID-19 to treatment at accredited centers.
“The health sector must not lose the gains we have made in the last few years as we combat COVID-19, but continue support to our health workers at all levels.
“I must highlight the generosity of individuals, groups, corporate Organizations, public and private, who have made donations and offered support in various ways to the national response. Donors include Health sector associations like the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria, JOHESU and both Nigerian and foreign businesses, civil society organisations, bilateral and multi-lateral partners and foreign governments.”
Meanwhile, the much-awaited 67 Nigerians resident in Ivory Coast Wednesday arrived at Seme Border Post in a luxurious bus with registration number Osun XA 240 EJG.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that most of the passengers in the bus were women, children and few men.
NAN reports that officials from Lagos State Ministry of Health arrived the border post around 4:00 p.m Wednesday in three Toyota Coaster buses and took the returnees to isolation centres in Badagry for tests and quarantine.
The Nigerians, who left Ivory Coast Sunday, were delayed on their way because of the border closures in Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAN gathered.
An official of Nigeria Immigration Service in Seme who did not want his name mentioned, said they had earlier informed the Lagos state government of their arrival.
He said t most of the returnees were from Ejigbo in Osun, resident in Ivory Coast but decided to come back to Nigeria when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the country.
Eighteen of the 127 Nigerians who returned to Osun state from the country penultimate week tested positive.
Cote d’Ivoire has 345 cases of Coronavirus.
Obasanjo, others want $600bn IMF support
Also, about 165 global leaders, including a former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, have called for a concerted global response to the coronavirus pandemic led by the G-20 countries.
They made the call in a letter signed by 92 former presidents and prime ministers, along with current economic and health leaders in the developed and developing world.
The leaders demanded the mobilisation of vaccines, cure, test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health workers, and also called for the creation of a G-20 executive task force and a global pledging conference which would approve and co-ordinate a multi-billion dollar anti-coronavirus fund.
The leaders sought a swift consensus on a proposal to mobilise $500-$600billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support developing countries to fight the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic.
The leaders called for a global action to raise $8billion emergency global health fund to prevent a second wave of coronavirus; coordinated fiscal stimuli, including a resolution by the multilateral finance organizations to waive the debt interest payments for the poorest countries, including $44billion due this year from Africa, to avoid a recession becoming a depression.
They said about $35 billion is needed for ventilators, test kits and protective equipment for health workers.
The leaders also wanted about $150 billion to be provided for preventing a second wave of the disease in countries now struggling to come out of the first wave of the disease.
“All health systems – even the most sophisticated and best-funded are buckling under the pressures of the deadly virus,” they said.
“The economic emergency will not be resolved until the health emergency is addressed: the health emergency will not end simply by conquering the disease in one country alone but by ensuring recovery from COVID-19 in all countries,” the statement added.
“World leaders must immediately agree to commit $8 billion – as set out by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board – to fill the most urgent gaps in the COVID-19 response. This includes $1billion this year for WHO, $3 billion for vaccines and $2.25 billion for therapeutics,” the leaders further demanded.