Press Briefing By Hon. Minister Of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire At The Presidential Task Force On COVID-19 Press Briefing On Monday 10th August, 2020

Protocol

As of 10th August, 2020, we have recorded 46,577 cases from 317,496 samples tested so far, while 33,186 persons have been treated and discharged. Sadly, 945 persons have been lost to the COVID-19 infection, which has now been identified in 549 of our 774 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.

2. The figures show that Nigeria is also sadly approaching the symbolic 1,000 number of fatalities, a grim reality that should be a wakeup call for us. 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 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. The urgency is accentuated by the 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.

3. Since Friday, 7th of August 2020, we have joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Mask Week, the aim of which is to reinforce the importance of wearing masks to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19, in the absence of a vaccine.

4. 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. The main covid19 symptoms include breathlessness, which responds well to oxygen supplementation as first measure. We are turning our preferences therefore to gadgets that provide oxygen, like oxygen generators to be in many facilities, including General hospitals and larger PHCs. Solar powered aggregates, where available, will be prioritized. Federal Health Institutions with oxygen plants should activate them as a matter of priority and ensure they can deliver to their A & E Dept.

5. The other measure is the activation of Ambulance service to move patients to treatment centres. This strategy worked well in Kano and all States should prepare to set up the system. The Federal Ministry of Health will provide guidance.

6.    The National Council on Health (NCH), which is the highest policy making body on matters relating to health in Nigeria held a virtual Emergency Meeting on Thursday, 6th August 2020, during which the revised Guidelines for the Administration, Disbursement and Monitoring of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF), also called the BHCPF Guidelines 2020, was approved. With this document, implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, which was suspended in January, to correct anomalies in the 2018 Operations Manual, has resumed and the process of disbursement of fund has now started, right on time to support much needed State efforts in their COVID-19 response. The new BHCPF has much better country ownership structure, offers a much improved benefit package and more robust fiduciary control for transparency and accountability. Development Partners are invited to support the new revitalization Plan in whatever manner they desire. We have made preparation to accommodate the varying programs and interests of Partners. The Ministry of Health is available to discuss and address the concerns and wishes of potential donors.

7. The continuity of normal health services, capacity building of health workers and their protection with PPEs, are the most critical activities we wish to see secured. Resilient health systems ensure BHCPF services continue to reach PHC health facilities, (both public and private), and referral cases to Secondary health facilities. It is critical in our present COVID 19 pandemic challenge, to use the opportunity to strengthen our Health systems. I also call on State, LG authorities and healthcare workers to ensure that the most rational and judicious use is made of all commodities.

8.    The National Council on Health also approved 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. It will be possible to considerably reduce COVID-19 mortality, including also maternal, child mortality, and post-crash mortality with a functional Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System that can rely on the combined assets of private and public sectors.

9. It was my pleasure to receive the new leadership of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in my office on Friday, 7th August 2020, with an opportunity to re-engage the Association for better collaboration in addressing challenges in the health sector. We shall continue to value the inputs of our colleagues and all frontline health workers in our response.

10.    Thank you for listening.

The Honourable Minister then responded to questions raised by journalists during the press briefing.

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