COVID-19: SGF, Health Minister, test negative

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Moses Emorinken, Abuja


The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Abdullahi Mashi, have all tested negative to the (COVID-19).

This was disclosed by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday in Abuja during a press briefing on updates of COVID-19 across the country.

The Minister stressed that he cannot reveal the status of anybody unless the person gives him or the ministry the permission to do so, as it is a personal and confidential issue. He however, said that he had the permission of the SGF and Permanent Secretary to reveal their status.

According to him, “I have done my test and I am negative. The Permanent Secretary, has also done his test and he is negative. I have also been empowered by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to reveal his own test results which is that it is negative”.

Concerning an aide of the President who tested positive, the Minister said: “One aide of the President was tested and is in a secure government facility where he is being monitored and checked. I can tell you that the facility is inside Nigeria.

“In the treatment of COVID-19, we have four categories. The first category is that some people will have no symptoms at all; second will have mild symptoms; third will have moderate symptoms; and the fourth category will have severe symptoms, and may require oxygen and may even require a ventilator.

“Those ones with severe symptoms will go to University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada. The other categories will be in facilities where they can be taken care of. The aide who tested positive is receiving treatment at a secure facility, and does not need category four treatment (severely symptomatic), but requires only general medical treatment.

“If anybody gets to the level four type category, then, we will move him or her to a higher facility for treatment but that situation has not arisen”.

He further added: “It is because we are grading those that have been affected by the coronavirus this way, that is why you have not seen that Gwagwalada is overcrowded – the grading determines those who are going into secure facility or less sophisticated areas. We have capacity to handle cases right now

“I am not free to disclose to you anybody who tested and what their result was because these are personal issues. But those persons are free to disclose”.

He explained that the contact tracing of those who might have had contact with the said aide was efficiently done by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and he didn’t memorize the numbers of those involved. Therefore, cannot give figures.

With regards to the items donated by Jack Ma the Chinese billionaire to some African countries, Nigeria inclusive, the Minister said: “The inventory of it have been given to me and I have ordered that it be distributed and it is being carried out to all the various state and Lagos is getting the lion’s share.

“We have written a letter to Jack Ma foundation so thank him for what he sent to us. The mask is not for everybody. If as a doctor, for example, you are going into a place where a person who is positive is being treated, then, you will wear PPE. So, it is not everybody that needs it”.

Concerning that the test kits being used by the federal government are not effective to detect COVID-19, Ehanire explained that federal government only uses test kits that sanctioned, approved and to a largest extent supplied by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“There are many vendors who are offering us test kits from left to right, but we only use WHO accredited test kits because the results you get has to be reliable and dependable, and must meet all the criteria of protecting our citizens.

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“There are people who are developing rapid test kits and this kits Attesting order parameters, And those are the ones that are said to be unreliable. But we are not using those rapid tests kits Because they have not been verified or validated by the WHO. In fact, the manufacturers will tell you that when you use these rapid test kit, you should go and do the real test to confirm.

“Everyone will be tested regardless of your status and the same priority will be given to whether the market woman or the government official because anybody can affect everybody. That is why contact tracing is no respecter of status or some other social criteria but the fact that you are a contact of a person who has the virus”.

“As of today, 26th of March 2020, we have recorded 51 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease COVID-19 in Nigeria, of which 32 are in Lagos, 10 in FCT, 3 in Ogun and 1 each in Ekiti, Oyo, Edo, Bauchi, Osun and Rivers States.

“Of the 51 cases, 37 had immediate travel history to one or more of the coronavirus affected countries in the last 2 weeks, 8 are confirmed close contacts of confirmed cases and 6 have neither a recent travel history nor a known contact. While two persons have been cured and discharged from treatment we have recorded just one fatality. All 48 presently active cases are clinically stable with only mild or moderate symptoms.

“One major item in Nigeria’s disease containment strategy is social distancing, which has been repeatedly announced. Directives have thus been issued at national and state level, to limit all large gatherings including religious, social and political gatherings, schools, events etc. Some states have put the maximum number of gatherings at 50, but a general order will be announced.

“Importantly, I again remind all citizens that this is not an assignment for government alone, but for us all. I therefore urge you to play your part in your little way by taking social distancing very seriously, as a mark of your individual social responsibility, and your contribution to preventing the spread of the disease in Nigeria. Ensure you maintain at least 2 metres (5 feet) physical distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

“Markets have also been closed and alternative solutions to the food supply chain created in some states. More of the all-important social distancing measures shall be considered in the coming days. The inconveniences are regretted, 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,” he said.

Ehanire added: “The Federal Ministry of Health is working with Nigerian Customs Service and Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Ports Authority to ensure surveillance at land and sea borders. Ships coming in through the seaports are also subjected to mandatory health screening and clearance by Port Health Services, especially ships that sailed from high-risk ports, have been at sea for less than 14 days or that have crew members who are ill.

“Self-isolating for 15 days on return from any international travel or close contact with a recently returned person is advised. Call NCDC’s toll-free number: 080097000010 or the emergency on 112, which we are working to link together and expand for improved speed and efficiency.

“Avoid self-medication and use of Chloroquine or derivatives till they are officially validated and approved by global authorities mis-use of drugs can do harm. Nigerian doctors are participating in the clinical trials.

“That one of the only two ventilators at the isolation centre in University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, was taken to an undisclosed location is news to me and it is not true.

“Even the National Hospital in Abuja has over a dozen ventilators, and ventilators are only required in the most critical case. I do not think we have used it more than once on the patients we lost the other time.

“We are hoping and working that we do not get to the level where we have a large number of people in very severe and critical situations needing ventilators as some country are currently going through”.

Whether the virus can be transmitted sexually the Minister said: “I do believe it can be transmitted sexually, although I haven’t seen any official publication. I do believe that sexual relations amount to close contact also and therefore, a high risk of transmission”.