The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has warned Nigerians on the looming danger ahead of the re-opening of the Nation’s economy if protocols meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 are not strictly adhered to.

Dr. Ehanire issued the warning during a press briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday, 10th August, 2020.

The Honourable Minister admitted that although the reopening of the economy may come with many benefits, “more is to be lost if the right things are not done.” He added that “there is need to prepare for societal changes that will arise as the economy reopens with increased transportation, trade and human interaction, including possible reopening of air travel. “We must make an effort to balance the benefits of a reactivated economy with the need to keep citizens safe, with no loss in gains so far made.”

Further, Dr. Ehanire disclosed that as of 10th August, 2020, Nigeria has tested 317,496 samples so far and has recorded 46,577 cases with 33,186 persons treated and discharged while 945 persons have been lost to the COVID-19 infection. He further revealed that the COVID-19 infections have now been identified in 549 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, adding that half the number of cases is concentrated in 20 Local Government areas. “Half of all cases in Nigeria so far are concentrated in 20 Local Government Areas, which could offer the attractive option of targeted attention, to focus on case finding, isolation, and treatment”, he said.

The Minister therefore reminded Nigerians that until a vaccine is found for the virus, adherence to the guidelines is the surest way to stay safe as according to him, “Many more Nigerians today personally knew a person who succumbed to COVID-19, and so I ask that we remind ourselves today that COVID-19 is still with us and will be for a long time. “Until there is a vaccine, the only options we have to protect ourselves, are still the non-pharmaceutical measures that are proven to be cheap and effective, such as the appropriate use of face masks, physical distancing, and avoiding crowds. If we do not adhere, there could be regrets”, Dr. Ehanire said.

While restating Government’s commitment to the fight against the pandemic, Dr. Ehanire listed some of the strategies being deployed to include: turning to gadgets that provide oxygen, like oxygen generators, which Government would like to have in many facilities, including General hospitals and larger Primary Health Centres.

Dr. Ehanire further mentioned that solar powered aggregates, where available, will be prioritized.

The Honourable Minister also reported that he has directed that “Federal Health Institutions with oxygen plants should activate them as a matter of priority and ensure they can deliver to their Accident and Emergency Department.”
He also listed activation of ambulance service to move patients to treatment centres under the guidance of Federal Ministry of Health as one of the strategies deployed to manage COVID-19 by the Health Team. “Our focus is still to reduce fatality to less than 1%, not only with preventive measures, but also with a strategy that encourages citizens to report early for treatment and for hospitals to attend to all patients in distress; most importantly, to be able to provide oxygen treatment”, he said.
The Honourable Minister also said that the continuity of normal health services, capacity building of health workers and their protection with PPEs, are the most critical activities. He urged State, LG authorities and healthcare workers to ensure that there is most rational and judicious use of such protective equipment is made.

Similarly, Dr. Ehanire informed that the National Council on Health (NCH) in its virtual Emergency Meeting held on Thursday, 6th August, 2020 approved the revised Guidelines for the Administration, Disbursement and Monitoring of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF), also called the BHCPF Guidelines 2020, which was suspended in January, to correct anomalies in the 2018 Operations Manual and the establishment of the National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System (NEMSAS), an innovative system to pool the assets of public and private sector ambulances and hospitals, to raise funds to augment government seed money, and to work with States to provide emergency medical care and patient transportation to all citizens whenever and wherever it is required and irrespective of immediate or potential ability to pay. These approvals, he said will no doubt give boost to the Nation’s fight against COVID-19.

Blessing Egbo
For: Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations.