The federal government has explained the spike in the number of Covid-19 infections in the country, blaming it on the porous nature of Nigeria’s land borders and predicting that soon, there could be more infections in the eastern flank of the country as people move on foot across borders.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who stated this yesterday during the daily briefing of the Taskforce, added that the federal government would also put in place measures to control the movement of nomadic herdsmen who go across the border in search of greener pastures for their cattle.
On the border issue and movement of herdsmen, the SGF said; “This is a very serious issue because as they move around, sometimes they go in search of pastures across borders. It is a major challenge. We will look at that and begin to address it. But that also comes to one fundamental issue that has been very topical in the last one or two years. That is whether we need to make provision of land in our constituencies so that we can domesticate this nomadic pasturing. From one issue, it dovetailed into another. If we eventually get that done, this kind of issue will not arise. I acknowledge that yes, as long as they cross borders, they create a problem for tracking, for infection, because our neighbouring countries are not isolated from this pandemic right now.
“The report we are getting is that some of the infections that have surfaced, not confirmed though, from Akwa Ibom and some of the ones that might begin to show across the eastern flank will be as a result of people crossing just on foot across from other borders into Nigeria.
“We will be looking at that with the Minister of Interior to see how we can enforce those closures on the land borders through the established, designated outlays and also the porous areas that we have not been able to cover with facilities to restrict movements across the borders. You know we come from a long history of relationship with our neighbours that has shifted over the years. That has made substantially a long stretch of our borders to be porous and communities live across each other. That is an accident of history that we must live with, but we must find solutions for them”, Mustapha added.
The federal government also appealed to state governments to establish an expandable 300-bed capacity facility to hold suspected cases of the Novel Coronavirus before they are transferred into the isolation and treatment centres.
Making the plea, the SGF said; “We recognize strongly, the importance of synergy with the states. It is important that states, whether in the front line where cases have been reported or where cases have not been reported to intensify the preparation of facilities that will help in the event of a surge. Training of personnel in the management of these facilities is also a critical factor to the success of our strategy. The PTF shall intensify consultations with the Governors and other state agencies to achieve the much-needed collaboration. On the certification of more centres for treatment, the PTF has set up a team of experts now going round to inspect and certify the additional centres, nationwide. They are presently working in Abuja.
“We are requesting that the subnational governments should provide at least a 300-bed facility either a hotel or any facility that is available to them with options and graded in different categories so that they provide a place where they can provide basic nursing and other required procedures before patients are moved into the isolation centres or the teaching hospitals and any other health facilities. And those facilities should be expandable as the need arises”, he requested.
Meanwhile, the government has lamented the growing resort to fake news by some elements in the country, saying the development is distracting it from the fight against the Novel Coronavirus.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who stated this during the briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 also added that the donations Nigeria received from Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, are in good conditions and not contaminated.
“Fake News is actually distracting our fight against Covid-19 and I think this is quite unhelpful. It is trending on the social media that the equipment and aid that we received from China, from Jack Ma are all infected with the virus. This is not true. Also, I was quoted yesterday as having said that the PTF has distributed ₦5 billion to the most vulnerable people in the last 24 hours. That also is not correct”, he said.
Also speaking, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said 71 per cent of the over 6, 000 contacts at large have been traced, explaining that as more contacts are traced, the number of infected persons is expected to go higher.
Ehanire said; “As of 10 am today, 2nd of April, 2020, Nigeria has recorded 174 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 91 are in Lagos, 35 in FCT, 14 in Osun, 8 in Oyo, 5 in Akwa Ibom, 4 each in Ogun, Edo and Kaduna, 3 in Bauchi, 2 each in Enugu and Ekiti, and 1 each in Rivers and the Benue States.
“Those discharged from hospital care are still nine, but others are pending once final tests are done. Two fatalities are on record, these being cases with other serious pre-existing illnesses.
“As contact tracing and testing capacity are being ramped up, more and more cases will be found and the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases is expected to rise initially. We also worry about persons, especially Nigerians, returning to the country through land borders, who run a higher risk of infection while in a confined space for a long time, like transit in a crowded bus or car. Therefore, it is advisable that all travellers postpone non-essential travel, whether national or international. In this regard, Nigerians are also advised to remain where they are resident and so stay safe, except if returning home from a journey.
“With the expanded national case definition and the addition of two laboratories to the NCDC network of COVID-19 molecular laboratories, the national testing capacity has increased. Moreover, the lockdown in high burden States presents the advantage of reduced population mobility and leaves more people at home to be found during contact tracing. All of this means that more people and samples can be collected and tested more quickly, giving a shorter turnaround time, but it also means that more cases will be discovered initially than before. With 71% of the over presumed 6,000 or more contacts now traced, the number of confirmed cases will be rising dramatically. Contact tracing will still be intensified to reduce the number of outstanding cases”, he added.
Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu on his part announced that the organization currently has 15 rapid response teams supporting 15 states, describing it as the largest deployment of the specialised health team in Nigeria.
He added that the aid received from Jack Ma had since been distributed to all states of the Federation.
In a related development, Minister of State in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, has called on residents to ignore the rumour making the round on social media platforms claiming that over 100 asymptomatic patients of the Novel Coronavirus are in Kubwa General Hospital receiving treatment.
Aliyu who made the call during a fact-finding mission to the hospital management described the rumour as fake news, stressing that it is a rumour taken to an extreme point especially at this critical period.
The minister stated there are designated isolation centres where asymptomatic patients are kept in different parts of the territory, adding that her visit was not just a fact-finding mission but to restore confidence in the minds of people.
“We are here on the basis of a rumour that over 100 patients of COVID-19 are in this facility receiving treatment. But then, it is good to clarify and restore confidence in our people, because once the residents begin to lose confidence in the health sector, then we are in for a more serious problem.
“There are designated centres where COVID-19 patients are kept. However, there is a need to clear the air and to restore confidence. We want to hear from you, but before you speak to us, I notice a calm atmosphere both in the delivery ward to other wards in the hospital. I commend the management of this hospital,” she noted.
Earlier, the Chief Medical Director of Kubwa General Hospital, Dr Lasisi Muideen, said the hospital management was shocked and embarrassed by such negative report, stressing that there was no basis for any patriotic Nigerian to come up with such fabricated report.
Muideen emphasized that there was no single patient of COVID-19 in Kubwa General Hospital, noting that the hospital sees over 15, 000 patients every month in different fields.
According to him, “We saw it the same way others saw it in the social media, and we are so surprised that such news can go out concerning us. We believe there is no basis for anybody to post such a story. It is absolutely false and there is no truth about it.
“There is no single patient of COVID-19 in Kubwa General Hospital. The Federal Capital Territory Administration has been magnanimous to put up an institution like this in this place. This hospital sees over 15, 000 patients every month in different fields. This hospital serves both residents of FCT and other neighbouring states of Niger, Kogi, Kaduna and Nasarawa.
“As a matter of fact, I met a patient from Lagos state who came to the hospital because of our excellent service. This is the kind of story we hear about our service every day as a result of the commitment of the FCT Administration”.
The minister also monitored the decontamination of a major fly-over along Kubwa road and the decontamination of Kubwa market in the ongoing battle against coronavirus.