The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Tuesday, said the Federal Government was disturbed that COVID-19 deaths came from many educated, well-to-do Nigerians who chose home-based care and were only rushed to hospitals after sudden complications.
The minister, who stated this during the daily briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, advised everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 to seek medical attention, and not use home-based care or drugs without a doctor’s prescription.
Ehanire said five centres in the country were researching into possible COVID-19 drugs. He said chloroquine was one of such drugs.
The health minister said, “As we learn more about coronavirus every day, we must be ready to adjust our strategy, based on knowledge and evidence. As of Monday, we had sadly recorded 191 deaths in 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“Even though this figure seems low compared to other countries, a disturbing picture emerging from the statistics is that not only are most fatalities linked with pre-existing diseases, many are educated, well-to-do people, who chose home-based care, where they develop sudden complications and have to be rushed to hospital.
“Experience is showing that complications in COVID-19 patients can arise with little or no notice. This is an added reason why all persons should seek medical attention when they test positive.”
The minister said the ministry of health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control were assessing isolation centres across the country.
He added, “We have recently been in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, and Osogbo, Osun State. We will continue providing diagnostic commodities and facilities in collaboration with partners.”
Ehanire added, “On chloroquine, first, we do not at any time or in any way support self-medication. If you hear that anyone is taking medication of any type, it has to be something prescribed by his doctor. There are medicines that should not be in your hands unless they are prescribed by your doctor.
“There are medicines over-the-counter that you can buy. But there are prescription medicines, which you should not have unless your doctor prescribes them.”
Ehanire noted that a ministerial task team was already in Calabar, Cross River State – one of the two states with no COVID-19 cases s – and had useful meetings with state government officials.
The health minister added that the Federal Government had embarked on missions to states to ensure that normal medical services were restored in hospitals.
He said, “The Federal Ministry of Health places special priority on the maintenance of essential services in both private and public hospitals throughout the country, because of the serious harm that arises from neglecting routine healthcare services like immunisation, chronic disease management, and others due to fear of COVID-19 or sole focus on COVID-19.”
The health minister warned Nigerians to desist from buying sanitisers, unless they were at least 60 per cent alcohol-based and had been certified by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control.
On his part, the PTF Chairman and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the Madagascar’s herbal drug for COVID-19 was sent to Nigeria at no cost.
He also said the reopening of the economy would largely depend on the level of compliance with the guidelines issued for the control of the spread of the pandemic.
He said, ‘We have repeated that we didn’t ask for it. It was given to us by the government of Madagascar to African countries as their contribution towards solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The consignment for West Africa was dropped in Guinea Bissau and we were making effort to airlift. As God would have it, the President of Guinea Bissau visited our President last Saturday and came with our consignment of five cartons. They were handed over to me yesterday evening (Monday) sealed. It was handed over to me without an invoice, so I assume it didn’t come with any cost.”
The PTF chairman said Nigerians, especially the business sector, must use the period of the extended eased lockdown to prepare ahead of the reopening by adopting a change in attitude in order to contain the spread.
The PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the country must brace for the challenge because the pandemic would not go away in few weeks.
He said the conditions for the gradual easing of the lockdown were to slow down the pandemic and ensure there was no rebound.
The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said transmission of COVID-19 to most health workers occurred before the infected patients were diagnosed.
He explained, “Most of the transmissions to health care workers and (most) hospital infections have happened before the diagnosis is made because, once people know it’s a COVID-19 patient, they start dressing from top to bottom in Tyvek suits.”