SPEECH BY HON. MINISTER OF HEALTH, DR. OSAGIE EHANIRE AT THE PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE ON COVID-19 PRESS BRIEFING ON TUESDAY 19TH MAY, 2020

PRESS BRIEFING BY HON. MINISTER OF HEALTH, DR. OSAGIE EHANIRE AT THE PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE ON COVID-19 PRESS BRIEFING ON TUESDAY 19TH MAY, 2020 PROTOCOL

Yesterday, H.E the President authorized extending easing of restrictions in Lagos, Ogun and FCT by another two weeks. The lockdown in Kano was also extended by two weeks, to address remaining challenges to containing the increasing number of confirmed covid19 cases. It is of great importance that we, members of the health sector and citizens, endeavor to use this period to dedicate their effort to strive for the best, but also prepare for the worst. As we learn more about coronavirus every day, we must be ready to adjust our strategy, based on knowledge and evidence.

  1. As at yesterday, 18th May, 2020, a total of 216 new covid-19 cases had been recorded in Nigeria, the breakdown being as follows: Lagos(74), Katsina(33), Oyo(19), Kano (17), Edo(13), Zamfara(10), Ogun(8), Gombe(8) Borno(8), Bauchi(7), Kwara(7), FCT(4), Kaduna (3), Enugu (3) and Rivers(2), giving an aggregate number of confirmed cases of 6,175 in 34 States and the FCT. 1644 patients have been treated and discharged from care, but we have sadly recorded 191 deaths in 26 states and the FCT. Even though this figure seems low compared to other countries, a disturbing picture emerging from statistics is that not only are most fatalities observed to be linked with preexisting diseases, many are educated, well-to-do people, who chose home-based care, where they develop sudden complication and have to be rushed to hospital. Experience is showing that breathing 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.

  2. To continue strengthening response in States, the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Center for Disease Control are assessing Isolation centers all over the country, recently in Yenagoa and Oshogbo. We also continue providing diagnostic commodities and facilities in collaboration with partners.

  3. A Ministerial Task Team led by a Director of the Federal Ministry of Health arrived Calabar yesterday, Monday 18th May to interact with Cross River State Ministry of Health. They were well received and have had useful meetings with State Government officials, medical directors of Federal Health Institutions in the state and traditional rulers. The team is made up of experts of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, the Dept of Hospital Services, Dept of Public Health and Dept of Family Health, each with terms of refetence to work with relevant State officials to review and evaluate present status and needs of Cross River State. They will have audience to debrief H.E Cross River State Governor before they depart Calabar.

  4. The Ministerial Task Team to Kano reported improvements in the processes and indices of Kano, and also of strategies to control increasing cases of covid-19 infection in the entire region, by ramping up testing, isolation and case management capabilities. The team also paid a fact finding visit to Bornu State yesterday and make recommendations on supporting the strategy there. Viral infectious disease experts from Federal Teaching Hospital Irrua are supporting the State initiatives with hands-on training and confidence building of Health care workers.

  5. 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 RMNCH, immunization, chronic disease management, all due to fear of COVID-19 or sole focus on COVID-19. The missions to States therefore always include officials of NPHCDA and Dept of Family Health whose assignments are to Press for restoration of normal medical services.

  6. We started the session of the World Health Assembly that is held normally in Geneva, but yesterday for the first time ever by teleconference, where I delivered a statement on behalf of the government of Nigeria, focusing on our actions and interventions in curbing the spread of COVID19. It gives opportunity for countries to show solidarity, share experience, promote international cooperation in fighting this new virus. Another important outcome of the Assembly is emphasis on the need for cooperation among citizens and with their State authorities in the fight against COVID-19, a war to concern citizens no less than the State, and requiring that we support and comply with advisories that are for our survival. No policing should be needed to do the right thing.

  7. In this regard I urge abiding by the mandatory and correct use of masks by all of us, each for the protection of the other. Masks must worn and washed daily, ironed, where possible. Masks should cover mouth and nose and should not be left under the chin during close quarter conversation, lest its purpose is defeated. New understanding is that droplet dispersal takes place even during normal speech and common use of masks can significantly limit risk of transmission, especially in close settings. Tissues must be used when coughing, sneezing and then disposed of. The stay-at-home advisory needs to be more strictly adhered to and citizens need not undercut the ban on interstate travel by hiding in goods trucks.

  8. Finally, I wish to commend, as usual,frontline healthworkers who take responsibility for keeping us safe.

8.Thank you for listening.