Speech by Hon. Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire, at The Ministerial Press Briefing on Covid-19

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SPEECH BY HON. MINISTER OF HEALTH DR. OSAGIE EHANIRE, AT THE MINISTERIAL PRESS BRIEFING ON COVID-19 ON 30TH MARCH 2020 IN ABUJA.

PROTOCOL
1. I welcome you all to today’s press briefing.
2. As of today, 30th of March 2020, we have recorded 111 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, of which 68 are in Lagos, 21 in FCT, 7 in Oyo, 3 in Ogun, 2 in Bauchi, 2 in Edo, 2 in Osun, 2 in Enugu and 1 each in Benue, Ekiti, Kaduna, and Rivers States. Majority of them are persons who came from overseas and others have been traced as close contacts of such returnees. The high number of imported cases in Lagos and Abuja is directly due to their function as country gateways for air travel.
3. Till date, three (3) persons have been discharged from successful treatment but sadly, another fatality was recorded over the weekend in the person of a patient who had underlying illness.
4. We have intensified contact tracing and our strategy remains to promptly detect cases, isolate them and follow up with contacts, isolate and treat, in order to reduce the spread of infection.
5. The Federal Ministry of Health is working closely with states and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, to review response activities and to institute measures to protect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians while the NCDC-led multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) continues to coordinate national response activities.
6. The NCDC has expanded its capacity by engaging hundreds of ad-hoc staff to support various areas of response including the call centers, contact tracing and follow-up of persons of interest. On the order of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, all retired but essential and able staff are to be recalled to service at this crucial period.
7. In addition, training is being conducted for medical personnel to support overall preparedness and response activities to prevent the virus from spreading to other states. These trainings will also benefit medical personnel from the armed forces, paramilitary, security and intelligence agencies.
8. Directives have been issued by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for all Federal Government stadia, pilgrims camps and other facilities to be converted to isolation centers and makeshift hospitals for use as and when the situation so demands.
9. We are also working hard to open-up as many testing sites as possible. With new additions to the case definition, persons with fever and either cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath in an area of medium or high prevalence of COVID-19, can test for the disease.
10. To meet the demand that will arise as a result of this expansion of the case definition, the NCDC has added a new laboratory to its network of molecular laboratories for COVID-19. This is the Virology Laboratory of University College Hospital, Oyo State. We project that in three (3) weeks, seven (7) more labs in Abakiliki, Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Sokoto will be added to this network to further expand testing capacity nationwide.
11. I urge the members of the public to note that testing is free and at no cost to the public. Anyone demanding to be paid or given a tip should be immediately reported to the appropriate authorities
12. Importantly, there are no Rapid Diagnostic Tests available that have been WHO validated, because they often give unreliable results. Unless you have been tested in one of the six molecular laboratories for COVID-19 in Nigeria, your results are most likely useless. If you think you fit the case definition of a suspect case, please call the NCDC or your State hotline for immediate testing. This is the only way to ensure you get suitable treatment.
13. As the situation evolves, we shall need to focus our limited resources on those persons, who actually need them most critically; from testing to treatment of confirmed cases. I wish to remind citizen of the importance of following the recommended protocol to request testing, so as to prevent further exposure and spread of the virus, by those infected with COVID-19.

14. During his address to Nigerians yesterday, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the lockdown of non-essential activities in Lagos State, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak; the FCT with the second highest number of cases; and Ogun State, given its proximity to Lagos. This is effective from 11pm today, 30th March, 2020 for an initial period of 14 days.
15. In the absence of a vaccine, preventive measures such as social distancing, have proven to be highly effective in curbing the spread of the disease in other parts of the world. It is therefore one of our major containment strategies in Nigeria. Directives have been issued at national and state level, to cancel all large gatherings including religious, social and political congregations, to shut down schools, events etc.
16. While train stations, land borders and international airports remain closed, precautionary measures are also being taken by the Federal Government to protect our seaports. Only ships that have been at sea for more than 14days can dock in our ports after crew members have been confirmed to be healthy and negative for COVID-19. An exception to the 14-day restriction are vessels carrying oil and gas products, where human interphase between crew and shore is absent or insignificant.
17. These measures may cause inconveniences, but I urge all citizens to accept and practice them in good faith, as they are for our common good and in the interest of us all. The earlier we collectively take responsibility, the sooner we can go back to living our normal lives.
18. The Federal Government has announced means of mitigating the effects of these lockdowns, including provision of relief materials and other financial policies.
19. Importantly, this fight against COVID-19 is not for the government alone, but for us all. With a few simple steps you can take responsibility and also join the collective effort against the disease;
● Frequently wash hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds. Alternatively, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
● Maintain social distance of at least five (5) feet between yourself and others
● Self-isolate for 14days if you have returned to the country in the last 14days. If during self-isolation you develop symptoms like cough, fever, shortness of breath (or difficulty in breathing) call the NCDC Connect Centre immediately on 080097000010
● Stay at home if ill, away from others
● Clean all frequently touched surfaces with disinfectants at least once a day
● Avoid crowds and large gatherings
● Cough or sneeze into a tissue with your nose and mouth covered. Dispose in a covered bin and wash your hands. Alternatively, sneeze into your elbow
● Get information only from official sources through the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC
In addition to the well-known advisory, I am recommending that all families be aware that the Elderly among them are particularly vulnerable and should be specially protected from needless contacts with children and persons who could be positive for coronavirus infections. The same should be said for all persons with known underlying diseases such as Tuberculosis, HIV, cancer etc.
20. The NCDC hotline is available 24/7 and toll-free, meaning you can call at no cost. Various States also have hotlines that can be called for direct state-specific questions on COVID-19. We are working on increasing the call capacity; the 112 line is open to all for COV1D-19 enquiries. We urge citizens to only use these channels for legitimate reporting and enquiries.
21. I urge you all to obey directives issued by Federal and State Governments and adhere strictly to social distancing measures. Together, we can beat COVID-19.
Thank you.