The Federal Government Wednesday announced that it has released 70, 000 metric tonnes of grains from the Strategic National Reserve to alleviate the sufferings of many low-income earners whose sources of livelihood have been cut off by the two-week lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This came as the government announced that nine cases of the novel coronavirus have so far been treated and discharged, explaining that of the 151 people infected as of 12pm yesterday, 70 per cent of them are males while 30 per cent are females.
The government also disclosed that over 2, 000 persons have been tested so far, with 151 currently positive and two fatalities.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire disclosed this on Wednesday during a news briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.
On the 12 new cases discovered yesterday, the minister said they were passengers in a vehicle which came in from the Benin Republic. “In this case, they are citizens, knocking the door, asking for help. If they were not citizens, we would have turned them back,” he said.
Speaking further, the minister said: “A breakdown of the cases shows that 70 per cent are male, while about 30 per cent are female. The age range is mostly between 30 and 60 years. I must stress that both men and women of all ages can be infected.
“Nine persons have been successfully treated and discharged from hospital and two deaths are on record from COVID-19. Both persons had serious underlying ailments which no doubt aggravated their conditions.
“As of now, well over 2,000 persons have been tested with the hope of further expanding and improving diagnostic capacity across the board, to shorten turnaround time and increase volume.
Since this week, two more laboratories were added to NCDC network of molecular laboratories for COVID-19 at University College Hospital Ibadan and Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, increasing test sites to seven to start scaling up testing capacity with the hope of even further increase when human resources are mobilised for round-the-clock shift duty.
“A call is hereby issued for certified public health laboratory scientists, including retirees, to indicate readiness for duty by sending an email to NCDC or using the call lines.
“No Rapid Diagnostic Tests offered in the open market have been validated by the World Health Organization: the results they give are unreliable. You have to be tested in one of Nigeria’s presently seven COVID-19 molecular laboratories, to have valid results”, he explained.
“I held a conference call earlier today with State commissioners of Health, during which I urged them to identify and establish Isolation centres for the treatment of mild and moderate cases, as well as ICU’s. Lagos State has expanded its isolation wards to surge capacity.
“Ogun State Governor yesterday commissioned over 200-bed capacity isolation centres. I urge other states to prioritize identification of the same within their states beginning with tertiary hospitals. All facilities, including private facilities where Isolation and treatment of coronavirus infected persons are to be conducted, will be visited for accreditation by a team, comprising experts from NCDC, Federal Teaching Hospital Irrua, and headed by the Hon. Commissioner for Health of Lagos State.
“The Office of the National Security Adviser shall be invited to join since Coronavirus disease has national security implications. The team from Federal Specialist Hospital Irrua has arrived in Abuja”, he explained.
Chairman of the Taskforce and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha said of the 70, 000 metric tonnes of grains, the first tranche of 6, 000 would be distributed for people in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory FCT.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of 70, 000 Metric Tonnes of grains from the Strategic National Reserve to be distributed to the poor and vulnerable and those whose livelihood will be affected by the lockdown. The first tranche of about 6, 000 metric tonnes would go to Lagos, Ogun and the FCT while the remaining will go to other front line states in the fight against COVID-19,” he said.
“You will recall that Mr President in his national broadcast announced a number of restrictions, particularly in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja. You will also recall that the PTF met with Security Chiefs to review the Status of Implementation as it affects compliance and enforcement.
“We have received situation reports from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) on Inter-State traffic across the Country as at Tuesday, 31st March 2020. Indications are that there was a reasonable level of compliance with the Presidential directive which has led to a great reduction of traffic on major highways. We have however received reports of challenges arising from the enforcement of the Presidential directives by security agents generally and in States where Governors have also imposed their own measures.
“As we continue to dialogue to remove the bottlenecks, I am pleased to inform you that the PTF has developed an Implementation Guide and Protocols for the COVID-19 Lockdown Policy. This document will be widely circulated to all security agencies and will be discussed with sub-national entities for the purpose of building synergy in the fight against the virus.
Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, said of the over 5, 000 contacts at large, the centre is currently following up on 70 per cent of them.
“As at this morning, we are following up on 70 per cent of over 5, 000 contacts that we have identified. Every day, we are pushing that number higher and that is one of the key purposes of the lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun; to enable the teams find these contacts and make sure that they are well and those that are sick, bring them into care, and those that are well, follow them up for 14 days. This is the primary strategy at the moment”, he explained.
On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said to make the lockdown worthwhile for Nigerians, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, has asked Cable Television providers to allow subscribers continue to have access to local channels whenever they exhaust their subscriptions within this period.
“The NBC has already directed all Cable TV providers to run local channels even if subscriptions have not been paid,” he said.
Mohammed also added that banks are allowed to open and continue to provide services while observing all the safety protocols listed by relevant authorities.