The Nigerian government Thursday admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted on the nation’s economy.
To this end, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that some measures be put in place to protect the poor and the less privileged members of the society from unnecessary hardships occasioned by the virus.
These were major highlights of the meeting between the Presidential Committee on the Impact of the Coronavirus on Nigeria’s Economy and the president.
Briefing journalists in Abuja after the meeting, the committee chair and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed, said the committee briefed the president on current happenings around the world due to COVID-19 and its impact on the country’s economy.
She told the State House correspondents that the president also directed the ministry to ensure that “critical infrastructure like roads, rails are protected and as much as possible, use local inputs so that the country retains value within her economy.’’
On the directives given, Mrs. Ahmed said: “Well, he has directed that we should make sure that salaries are paid, make critical infrastructures like roads, rails are protected, as much as possible use local inputs so that we retain value within our economy.
“And also make sure that we take measures that protect the poor and the vulnerable.”
She also said the purpose of the meeting was to update the president on situations that are evolving on a daily basis.
“This meeting was just to brief Mr. President as the situation we are in keeps evolving on a daily basis, as the health crisis gradually expands, affecting states and also the lockdown that has been ordered to help curtail expansion of the health crisis.
“The consequences of the lockdown are the additional slowing down of the economy and the measures that we need to take to mitigate the negative consequences of the slow trade and businesses,” the minister said.
Also speaking, Minister of State Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva, who is also a member of the committee, said: “The economy is not in the best of shapes due to COVID-19 and oil prices are collapsing every day, hence the need for the president to be constantly briefed.”
On his own part, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Godwin Emefiele, said: “The economy is not looking as simple as everyone thought it would be.
“The global economy, naturally, like we all know at this time, will naturally suffer growth problems and may even lead to recession globally.
“So we are trying to see what we can do as a country to rescue our own situation so we don’t go the direction many will go.”
‘COVID-19 may not abate’
Nigeria is likely to record more cases of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) progressively expands its testing capacity.
NCDC Director General Chikwe Ihekweazu said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Thursday in Abuja.
Ihekweazu said the COVID-19 is a virus that spreads rapidly from person to person and the NCDC measures must be very stringent.
While advising that COVID-19 is a serious health threat, and the situation was evolving daily.
“The risk would vary between and within communities, but given the increasing number of cases in the country, the risk to Nigerians was considered high.
“This does not mean that all Nigerians will get the disease. It means that there is already a significant impact on our health care system.
“If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact our health care system,” he advised.
He said the NCDC scaled up its capacity to conduct tests and produce results more quickly as Nigerians demanded.
The NDDC boss also said the NCDC has also expanded the criteria for who should be tested.
He said the agency initially recommended that testing everyone with symptoms of fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing, but only if they had these symptoms as well as a history of travelling to an area where cases were endemic, or being in close contact with someone who was diagnosed as positive.
Ihekweazu noted that expanding the number of laboratories that could perform COVID-19 testing was critical to getting a more accurate sense of how widespread the virus may be in the country.
He said the incubation period for COVID-19 was generally two-14 days, adding that NCDC was therefore using the window opportunity of the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states to promptly detect isolate and effectively treat cases.
“Like any medical test, there has to be a clinical reason to perform the procedure. In the case of COVID-19, someone must have symptoms of the disease like fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
“Travel to an area with active transmission of COVID-19 is also a factor, as well as close contact with someone who is sick or had travelled.
“It’s advisable for doctors to test their patients for other respiratory illnesses before submitting a COVID-19 test. At present, we do not recommend testing for those that do not have symptoms.
“It can take anywhere from two to 14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to develop and until they do, the test won’t pick up signs of the disease.
“It is more about making sure that you identify whether someone that has exposure develops disease or not. Testing them early on in their incubation period doesn’t help settle that question.
“Even those who have been asked to quarantine often will not be tested until they have symptoms,” he explained.
He noted that the COVID-19 test, which involves a nose or a throat swab, could detect the disease but it cannot tell doctors how severe the case would become.
“We want Nigerians to keep in mind that we have the capacity to test but we want to make sure that those tests are used in the best way possible, at the state and national level we don’t have unlimited supplies.
“We want to focus on individuals who are in a high risk situation,” Ihekweazu noted.
The DG urged Nigerians to continue to think ahead about the actions that they could take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in country.
He, however, said together, Nigerians could slow the spread of COVID-19 by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance between each other.
“Physical social distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak.
“This means making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others, including avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings, avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes.
“Limiting contact with people at higher risk like older persons and those in poor health, keeping a distance of at least two arms-length approximately two metres from others,” he advised.
NIS boss Babandede
Meanwhile, Comptroller General Nigeria Immigration Service Muhammed Babandede has described his COVID-19 infection as a humbling experience.
The NIS boss was quoted as speaking for the first time from isolation since testing positive for COVID-19.
The CGI, who spoke in a video released Wednesday night, thanked Nigerians for their generosity in prayers and love.
“I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to be sick because it gives me the opportunity to humble myself, to also know that I am loved by such a large number of people,” he said.
Babandede said: “I tested positive for COVID-19. I have been in self-isolation since my return from the UK on Sunday 22nd of this month with British Airways in Lagos.”
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I will like to thank all my friends, loved ones, officers and men, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria and abroad for the enormous prayers for my quick recovery. I am very grateful for your prayers. In reality, your prayers are helping me recover very quickly,” he said.
“Today, the 1st of April, I am sending this short video to you to tell you I’m doing well and recovering gradually.
While urging the people to always wash their hands and maintain social distancing, the NIS boos said there was need to continue to pray that Nigeria does not head towards any disaster.
He called on citizens to sustain their prayer towards ensuring the number of cases does not escalate.
“I send my love to you, especially people from my village–people from Kano, Lagos, Abuja, everywhere I can’t even mention. Thank you for your love. Maa Salam,” the video ended on a note of appreciation.
Cases now 184, 11 discharged
In a related development, the Lagos state Ministry of Health Thursday discharged 11 patients from the Infectious Disease Centre Yaba, following their recovery from COVID-19.
Lagos state governor and incident commander for COVID-19 in the state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, gave the update via Twitter.
Sanwo-Olu said the discharged patients are two females and nine males, all of whom tested negative twice to confirm they had fully recovered.
“I am happy to break to you, my good people of Lagos, the news of the release today of 11 more patients from our facility in Yaba.”
“They have fully recovered and have tested negative to COVID-9 and have been allowed to return home to their families. The patients include two females and nine males. Their results came out negative in two rounds of tests,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted.
This brings the total number of discharged patients in Lagos to 19, with one patient evacuated to the United States.
Sanwo-Olu commended the efforts of the Lagos state health workers over the recovery of the patients through professional delivery of service.
The governor said although the state had begun to record community infection, it would remain vigilant; assuring that the virus would soon be a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, the presidential task force on COVID-19 Thursday gave an update on the number of confirmed cases which it put at 184 and two deaths.
A breakdown of the figure showed Lagos has 98, FCT – 38, Osun – 14, Oyo – 8, Akwa Ibom – 5, Ogun – 4, Edo – 4, Kaduna – 4, Bauchi – 3, Enugu – 2, Ekiti – 2, Rivers – 1 and Benue – 1.