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PTF urges states to be cautious in lifting restrictions on large gatherings


Boss Mustapha

• Says Over 51% Of All Infected Persons Located In Nine Councils Across Nigeria
• At Last, Benue Index Patient Accepts To Be Tested, Result Being Awaited

The Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 has urged states lifting restrictions on large congregation of people to weigh their consequences in relation to creating opportunities for more seeding of the virus, thereby negating gains already made.

Chairman of the task force and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this at the daily press conference on COVID-19 yesterday in Abuja, noted that preliminary analysis has narrowed down the over 51 per cent of the total number of infected persons to nine councils across the country, all of which are densely populated. 

This, according to him, indicated that a critical element of taming the pandemic is to reduce opportunities for large gathering, sustaining the ban on inter-state movement and the nationwide curfew, as well as complying with the measures prescribed, such as washing of hands as frequently as necessary, using hand sanitiser, maintenance of social distancing, use of face mask in public places.

He stated: “In providing leadership for the fight against this pandemic, Mr. President did encourage state governments to adapt national guidelines as suitable to their states and expects that such adaptation should be informed by empirical evidence of progress made. 

“As we continue the countdown to the end of the first phase of eased lockdown approved by the President, the centrality of collaboration, especially with the citizenry, becomes very imperative. Our national response has always been guided by the science of the pandemic, as well the extent to which applied measures are helping to contain the virus without compromising basic elements of life-sustenance.

“Going forward, science and statistics shall play major roles in the decisions to be taken. Similarly, community engagement shall become a strategy of focus for the PTF.”

The SGF also lamented that present records show that the country might be experiencing more unnecessary deaths because hospitals are turning back non-COVID-19 related patients, adding: “We have also noticed a marked reduction in the delivery of non-COVID-19 related services in our hospitals.

“You will recall that the Minister of Health had on several occasions implored our health institutions not to jeopardise offering critical health services to patients who require attention. The PTF wishes to reiterate this call and request that health service providers should help relieve the burden of disease in the country by offering the required services.” 

Mustapha noted that the PTF had received media reports about an extrapolated level of prevalence of COVID-19 in Kano based on the number of some foreign nationals that have been evacuated from Nigeria, saying its team of experts were still on ground in Kano and were working round the clock, alongside the teams from the state, based on scientific and statistical analysis. 

He disclosed that the sum of N792, 121,613.89 has been credited into the TSA account from various in-country sources, noting: “I particularly want to commend the sacrifice of some ordinary Nigerians typified by the donations as low as N1, which for us, comes from the purest of hearts.”

Also speaking, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, revealed that the PTF has been able to persuade the Benue index patient, Mrs. Susan Idoko-Okpe, now popularly known as the Benue Lady, to allow her test sample to be taken to the laboratory for testing, adding that the result was being awaited and would be given to her in person any time from now. 

He noted that while a patient might disclose his/her result by him/herself, the ministry cannot do so, except with the permission of the one concerned.  

Ehanire stated that the situation in Kano has largely stabilised as a result of the good relationship between the visiting federal task team and Kano State Task Force on COVID-19, noting that this has manifested in the high number of new cases recorded daily, as all labs in Kano were now functioning and clearing the sample backlog, with over 350 tests done daily.

According to him, part of the mission in Kano is to assist state pathologists and scientists to unravel the mysteries around unexplained deaths in some states and the tools for forensic investigation have been jointly developed for a uniform approach and balanced results.

He noted that a strategy document of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA) was being developed and repurposed for application to Kano, as well as similar high density, high burden metropolis, such as Lagos, to respond more specifically to the challenges of COVID-19 tracing, tracking, testing, isolation and treatment in congested communities. 

The minister said the document, if implemented, could go a long way in addressing many challenges looming before the country.Ehanire observed that a team from the Federal Ministry of Health has been assembled to proceed to Sokoto and Borno states on fact-finding and support missions to engage with state authorities and determine material and technical needs, explaining that the most immediate probability is the prioritisation of these states for the deployment of repurposed gene expert machines as soon as the country starts receiving the cartridges in a few weeks to bring speed to testing.

The minister revealed that the case gender ratio remains about 70 to 30 per cent for men and women, respectively, while case fatality hovers around three per cent.“A steady rise in these figures is what we envisage with more diligent testing, treatment, isolation and tracing. Ability and capacity to keep up and align these activities with each other will determine the course of events as time goes on.

“We implore states and partners not to relent, but to keep up with the pace, which, in some states will increase well before it begins to decrease. “Adherence to advisory against inter-state travel and compliance with other simple measures, like use of masks and avoiding crowds, will significantly mitigate the burden,” he stated. 


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