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Nigeria moves to avoid overcrowding at isolation centres

By Terhemba Daka, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
27 March 2020   |   4:26 am
To ensure that the isolation centres in the country are not overcrowded, the Federal Government is to clinically classify cases of coronavirus infection according to their severity.

One of the isolation centres at Onikan Stadium in Lagos…yesterday

• Places infected persons into categories
• SGF, Ehanire, others, test negative
• Presidency fumigates Buhari’s offices, others
• We’re yet to be tested, Kyari’s aides, reporters lament

To ensure that the isolation centres in the country are not overcrowded, the Federal Government is to clinically classify cases of coronavirus infection according to their severity.

The classification would determine where any individual who tested positive for the coronavirus disease would be isolated for treatment.

Meanwhile, the tracing of all Federal Government officials who had contact with one of the presidential aides who tested positive for the killer virus has been completed and most of them tested negative.

Among those who tested negative were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.

It was learnt that an infected presidential aide was receiving treatment in an undisclosed “secure facility in the country, as he does not need to be in a category four treatment, but only requires a general treatment.”

Health Minister Ehanire who disclosed this while briefing journalists yesterday in Abuja explained that in treating coronavirus disease, the government had created four categories of patients. “While 80 percent of people who are infected with the virus may have little or no symptoms, some will have mild, some moderate and others severe symptoms, and may require oxygen and ventilators.”

According to Ehanire, those with severe symptoms are the ones that will go to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada while those with mild or moderate symptoms will be in the facilities where they will be taken care of.

“Because we are grading our cases in such ways, that is why Gwagwalada is not yet overcrowded. We are considering the severity of cases, otherwise, one isolation centre will be filled up if we are mixing all the cases together”.

On where the presidential aides who tested positive are being treated, Ehanire said: “The president’s aides who tested positive are receiving treatment in a secure facility in the country. They do not need category four type treatment, they require general treatment. They are in a secure government facility where they are being monitored and checked, but if they get to that critical level four type, they will be moved to another facility. With the symptoms and levels they are in, they can be treated in a facility that is able to handle the symptoms they are displaying. Any other person who has the same symptoms can be classified like that.

“There are casual contacts and close contacts and the contact tracing had been done. I am one of those tested and the result came out negative. The permanent secretary and the secretary to the government of the federation also tested negative. Every other person that did the test has to reveal his status by himself. “

The minister disclosed that by yesterday, 51 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease had been recorded in Nigeria, of which 32 are in Lagos State, 10 in FCT, three in Ogun State and one each in Ekiti, Oyo, Edo, Bauchi, Osun and Rivers states.

According to him, out of the 51 cases, 37 have immediate travel history to one or more of the coronavirus-affected countries in the last two weeks; eight had close contacts with confirmed cases while six neither have any recent travel history or contact with infected people.

“While two persons have been cured and discharged from treatment, we have recorded just one fatality. All 48 presently active cases are clinically stable with only mild or moderate symptoms,” the minister said.

The minister said that the Federal Government was doing everything possible and leaving no stone unturned in efforts to contain the pandemic, adding that the presidential task force would continue to review the strategies and take steps as appropriate.

“One major item in Nigeria’s disease containment strategy is social distancing, which has been repeatedly announced. Directives have thus been issued at national and state levels to limit all large gatherings, including religious, social, political and schools, events. Some states have put the maximum number at a gathering at 50, but a general order will be announced.

“Markets have also been closed and alternative solutions to the food supply chain created in some states. More of the all-important social distancing measures shall be considered in the coming days. The inconveniences are regretted, but I urge all citizens to accept and practise them in good faith, as they are for our common good and in the interest of us all. More measures may need to be instituted by the federal and state governments as the situation evolves.”

Ehanire urged health facilities at all levels, whether public or private, to be on high alert, and implored healthcare workers of all cadres to maintain a high index of suspicion and to give full cooperation to contact tracers everywhere.

He urged Nigerians to avoid self-medication and use of chloroquine or derivatives till they are officially validated and approved by global authorities, warning that the mis-use of drugs could do harm.

He also warned: “Rapid test kits are said not to be reliable and have not been validated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). They are not being used here in Nigeria.

“We are learning lessons, we are lucky that we learnt a lot during the outbreak of Ebola and it is helping us very well. “We have requested the Chinese ambassador to give us information on how they have handled their situation. Others are also learning from us. There is room to do better, even countries that have strong health systems appear to be overwhelmed, if you don’t want to be overwhelmed, move fast.”

Following the report that the Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President, Abba Kyari, tested positive for the COVID-19, the presidency has begun the fumigation of the Aso Rock Villa.

The development came as some staff in the office of the CoS have also gone into self-isolation as the authorities failed to carry out a test on them.

Similarly, members of the State House Press Corps who were said to have had contacts with some governors during the National Economic Council, (NEC) held last week are in panic mood, praying to be considered for sundry tests by the relevant authorities.

“We are having psychological trauma because of the nature of our beat. We all need to be tested but we are being told that the test kits are not enough and until one begins to show symptoms of COVID-19,” some members of the State House Press Corps lamented.

It was learnt that some staff of the construction giant, Julius Berger, the company responsible for the maintenance of the Villa, have started sanitizing the keys to all the entry points to the offices and to the council chamber where meetings take place.

It was further learnt that some experts arrived at the Villa at about 9:30 a.m. yesterday to commence intensive fumigation of all offices and surroundings of the State House.