The Honorable Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire has disclosed that FMoH COVID-19 Accreditation Committee has begun the inspection of public and private treatment centers. This he said is in accordance to strict infectious disease management protocols, in order to increase bed capacity for COVID-19 isolation and treatment nationwide and also to protect health workers from harm.
The Minister revealed this at the Presidential Task Force briefing, where he confirmed that Nigeria has recorded 288 COVID-19 cases today, 10th April 2020. He said that “there are 14 new confirmed cases from two states, Lagos 13 and Delta 1”. He stated that Lagos remains the epicenter with 158 cases, FCT 54, 20 in Osun, 12 in Edo, 11 in Oyo, 8 in Bauchi, 5 each in Akwa-Ibom and Kaduna, 4 in Ogun, 2 each in Delta, Enugu, Ekiti, Kwara and Rivers state and one each in Benue, Kastina and Ondo.
Health Minister stated that there would be an inspection and accreditation tour to all states starting with those that have active COVID-19 cases. The Minister said that the bed space expansion will start with federal tertiary hospitals. He hinted also that Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) had commenced operation with a 60-bed isolation center.
Dr. Ehanire informed that the Federal Ministry of Heath through the Nigeria Center for Disease Control [NCDC], has continued to increase testing capacity for COVID-19. He said there are 9 laboratories capable of testing for COVID-19. He stated that there are 2 In Abuja: the National Reference Laboratory[NRL], Gaduwa and the Defence Reference Laboratory, Mogadishu, Abuja; 3 in Lagos: the NCDC Virology Laboratory in LUTH, the Lagos State Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory, and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research [NIMR]. Others are, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State; Virology Laboratory of UCH, Oyo State; Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki [FETHA], Ebonyi State; and the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases [ACEGID], Osun State. He stated that additional laboratories in Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Jos and Sokoto States are set to come online imminently.
Health Minister emphasized that NCDC has continued to support response activities and preparations in all states by timely deployment of Rapid Response Team to every outbreak state and had improved contact tracing, case management, risk communication and infection, prevention and control [IPC] measures. He indicated that providing training guidelines and personal protective equipment [PPE] has enhanced capacity and understanding of frontline workers for this novel disease.
Further speaking the Minister re-stated that a 16-ton of medical commodities and equipment worth USD$1.5 million arrived Abuja on Wednesday from Beijing, China. The equipment includes 50 ventilators and an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [ECMO] machine, used in worst case scenarios of COVID-19 treatment when a ventilator is no longer effective. The Minister hinted that this ECMO machine, whose export is restricted by many countries, may be the first and only one in Nigeria. He made known that the 15 member team of medical and technical advisers from china were screened and tested for COVID-19 before departing their country but also quarantined for 14 days. He stated also that Nigeria medical teams will begin scientific engagement with them in a few days via video conference, while they are quarantined. The Minister noted that all designated isolation and treatment centers have adequate supplies to manage cases, as there are no shortages of PPE for health workers. He said that “there is a limited supply of consumables in the market due to the increased global demand and decreased production due to public health crisis. We are, however, developing in-country manufacturing capability. Citizens should use the limited supply judiciously and bear in mind that this should not be a time of hoarding, price gouging and profiteering”. Stating also that, health workers should have priority in rationing of commodities because they are more at risk.
Federal Ministry of Health has engaged the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria [MAN] and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria [PMGMAN] to scale-up local capacity and seek innovative solutions. FMoH had also met with the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria [AGPMPN] and the Guild of Medical Directors to discuss collaboration between private medical practitioners and government in the COVID-19 national response. The Minister encouraged private practitioners to uphold the role in educating the public and protecting other patients and frontline workers by having a high index of suspicion to identify, advice and refer suspected cases to designated COVID-19 management facilities for testing, according to NCDC guidelines. He said also that private facilities should apply to the Federal Ministry of Health for accreditation, before engaging in treatment of COVID-19 patients, stating also that they share in the responsibility to maintain the essential and emergency services and ensure safe transfer of suspected cases by dialing the toll-free national emergency number 112, or the NCDC toll-free number 080097000010.
Dr. Ehanire stressed on;
· The importance of giving accurate and complete information of symptoms or travel history to health care workers when seeking care such as not to endanger or hinder proper diagnosis.
· Only designated treatment centers can provide safe isolation and management of COVID-19 patients, and avoid the spread of the virus to family members, friends and the public.
· All medical practitioners are reminded that that they should abstain from privately treating suspected COVID-19 cases in their homes, as they expose themselves, their loved ones, employees and patients to the infection. This is not a sickness to handle in the secret.
The Minister reiterated the importance of observing good respiratory hygiene, hand washing and social distancing while urging Nigerians to obey the stay at home order, and follow the guidelines of government. The Minister further noted that both public and private sector health workers should maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19, employ infection prevention and control [IPC] protocols and refer suspected cases to the testing sites and also visit NCDC COVID-19 websites covid19.gov.ng, for updated information. No citizen should be sent away without advice. He advised against rumor mongering, which he said creates needless fear and restiveness in the society.
The Honorable Minister of Health said that, “While the Government of Nigeria is encouraged by the commendation from the World Health Organization and the UN, we will not relax because we still need to further our strategy and sharpen our processes to face the coronavirus challenge, the magnitude of which we cannot guess”.
Head Media and Public Relations Unit