COVID-19: Minister Raises Alarm Over Death Rate
THE Federal Government has warned that the fatality rate from COVID-19 related diseases in the country is too high for comfort.
Though the death rate currently stands at three percent, the Health Minister Osagie Ehanire is not comfortable with it.
Speaking at the daily briefing of the COVID-19 Presidential Taskforce in Abuja on Saturday, Ehanire said the death figure was bad enough.
The number of deaths from coronavirus as of Saturday night is 342, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Giving an update on the Coronavirus pandemic, Ehanire said: “because of the large numbers involved, even the three percent fatality rate is very high.
“In some countries that have been taken by surprise, the health system has been overwhelmed and they have lost hundreds and thousands of citizens to COVID-19.
“We in Nigeria are striving to make sure that our health system does not get overwhelmed by the number of cases.
“We are doing all the testing as rapidly as possible by identifying cases, putting the ones that are positive in quarantine, and those that are positive and have severe symptoms are being treated.
“We continue to monitor the situation. We are also looking at what happens in other African and West African countries, to see the steps that they are taking and learn from them.
“We are looking at our own strengths and weaknesses, health systems, lives and livelihoods, so that the economy does not suffer.”
Government, he stressed, was also working to “make sure that other diseases which routinely occur in our country are not neglected, especially the treatment of malaria and the provision of basic services like immunization, maternal, post-natal and child health, nutrition etc.”
He added: “We want to make sure that the fear or too much focus on COVID-19 will not cause the abandonment of other diseases. The neglect of other diseases causes more fatality than COVID-19.
“We also look to make sure that farmers can go to work; making sure that fertilisers are available so that harvest this year will not be compromised or reduced. This is to ensure that food shortages will not be added to the problem of CVOID-19.”
On the use of hydroxychloroquine and analysis of the herbal remedy from Madagascar, Ehanire said: “The Madagascar cure has been received by the Federal Ministry of Health and we have given samples to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), and the Ministry of Science and Technology, which also conducts experiments and validations. It is still being evaluated in Nigeria.
“Hydroxychloroquine has not been established as a cure; it is one of the drugs being used for clinical trials.
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“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set up a solidarity trial which allows treatment centres to use a certain number of drugs to see how they work, if they work and what the efficacy is.”
Also speaking at the briefing, Chairman of the Taskforce and Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha said Nigeria was targeting having at least one standard infectious disease laboratory in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
He said: “the Federal Ministry of Health has activated an NCDC-led national COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate the national public health response.
“At state-level, preparedness and response activities are being coordinated through Public Health EOCs in each State.”
Continuing, he said: “Before now, Nigeria only has about three testing laboratories nationwide for testing of infectious diseases.
“Hundred days of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the country can now boast of having 30 testing centers.
“The government is targeting having at least one standard infectious disease laboratory in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal capital Territory.”
In his own remarks, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of the NCDC, said that in the coming months, the center would continue to work with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Medical Laboratory and Science Council of Nigeria and other partners to carry out laboratory related research and validation, as Nigeria scales up its testing capacity.
His words: “as Nigeria’s Public Health Institute, NCDC continues to work alongside other agencies under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health, in leading the public health response to the outbreak.
“Prior to the confirmation of the first case, NCDC supported four laboratories within its molecular laboratory network to activate testing for COVID-19. Since then, the number of laboratories has increased to 30, with a combined minimum capacity of 10,000 tests daily.
“The goal is to expand to at least 10 more laboratories by the end of June, leveraging on Gene-Xpert capacity for Tuberculocis diagnosis.
“The safety of health workers has been at the forefront of Nigeria’s response strategy to COVID-19. Since the first case was confirmed, NCDC has supported the training of 13,000 health workers in infection prevention and control (IPC) as well as case management.
“In collaboration with the Departments of Hospital Services and Food and Drugs of the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC has also ensured that health workers are provided with the required personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce the risk of health workers’ Infection.
“With the support of Nigeria’s telecommunication companies, over 100 million text messages have been sent out since February 2020 reminding Nigerians about measures that can be taken to protect themselves from COVID-19.
“In the absence of a vaccine, Nigeria and the rest of the world must depend on public health, social measures and supportive management of confirmed cases.”