PRESS RELEASES (209)
With a view to ensuring public safety, the Federal Government has approved a new Advisory for Food Businesses which spells out safe food practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire gave the approval to the document which spells out the new advisory at the Ministry’s headquarters in Abuja on 5th June, 2020. He said the purpose of the advisory is to bring up possible measures to guide what food establishments and food retail markets have to put in place to ensure the integrity of the food supply chain across the country.
Dr. Ehanire who agreed with the World Health Organization (WHO) that it is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food and food packaging however said that because SARS COV-2 virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that are too heavy to remain in air, they may however land on openly displayed foods at open markets (neighborhood open markets) to go on to affect persons who may not take much care before consuming such foods.
Openly displayed foods at open markets (neighborhood open markets) therefore, the Honourable Minister of Health stated are a source of concern for most people even though there is currently no evidence of transmission of SARS COV-2 virus associated with food in open markets.
The Health Minister therefore advised strongly that consumers are required to wash fruits and vegetables with potable water and ensure good personal and respiratory hygiene around open food items.
Dr. Ehanire said that to ensure food hygiene and prevent COVID-19 in food businesses, all well-established food businesses are expected to have some form of Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) in place, and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) to manage food safety hazards and risks. The provision from these FSMSs laid down the foundation for ensuring safe foods at each stage of the food processing, manufacture and marketing chain. The idea, he said is the prevention of food contamination.
The newly approved ‘Advisory for Food Businesses on Safe Food Practices during COVID-19 Pandemic’ states the imperative for all food business operators to ensure that there are adequate measures in place to protect workers from contracting COVID-19 as well as strengthen food hygiene and sanitation, generally as well as embracing safe food handling practice.
The new advisory document further states the imperatives for the food business operators, retail stores and open markets to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs); strengthen its personal hygiene procedures; make available NAFDAC registered hand sanitizer for consumers on their way in and out of the food premises; introduce and enforce physical distancing measures in the food establishments amongst others.
The Advisory for Food Businesses for Safe Food Practices during Covid-19 Pandemic also directs safe transport of food and food business environment. “Delivery staff should not leave the vehicle during delivery, where possible, and should observe all the precautionary measures provided in the advisory document.”
More so, in the food business environment, the new advisory stated that staff or food handlers who are unwell should, under no condition be at a food business premises. This is because when an infected person handles food, it is possible to introduce virus to the work surfaces such as counter tops, cash register, etc. “However, if a staff is feeling unwell or showing symptoms of COVID-19, food managers should find a well-ventilated room or area for staff, if possible, the managers should immediately contact Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), through its toll free number 080097000010 or contact the respective State COVID-19 emergency numbers while they wait for proper advice, the document stated.
The new advisory also stated that the food manufacturers and retail markets are to liaise with relevant food regulatory agencies such as National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) for advice to ensure that food produced, marketed and sold are safe and wholesome for consumption.
A Copy of the ‘Advisory for Food Businesses on Safe Food Practices during COVID-19 Pandemic’ can be downloaded from Federal Ministry of Health Website: https://health.gov.ng/doc/Advisory-for-Food-Businesses-on-Safe-Food-Practices-During-the-COVID-19-Pandemic.pdf
By Nwokike Brendan
(Assistant Chief Information Officer)
For: Director (Information, Media & Public Relations)
The Federal Government has warned that the increase number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria should be a warning that the fatality rates will increase too; but gave the good news that there are measures to be taken to limit cases of fatality: “It is advisable to wear a face mask or a covering at any time, once outside the house, or when inside the house with persons who may have been exposed by the COVID-19.”
“Going to crowded places like market, or places of worship carries risk of increased exposure.” “I also stressed that being in a closed room increases the risk of exposure to infection in proportion to the number of people and the length of time spent with them because the likelihood of presence of positive person increases with the number and infection with time of exposure.”
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire further stated that since majority of fatalities cases are seen among people that are over 50 years of age, or those that have pre-existing ailments like diabetes, cancer, hypertension, kidney disease, HIV etc, these group of citizens has to be specially protected.
Dr. Osagie Ehanire disclosed these at the daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Press Briefing on Thursday, 18th of June, 2020. He also stated that the Nigerian Center for Disease Control yesterday announced 587 new confirmed COVID-19 cases bringing the total number to 17,735 which 5,967 were treated and discharged but lost 469 persons to the disease.
He advised that any person who tested positive and opted to stay home or elsewhere should move to a treatment center at the first sign of fever or shortness of breath. “A delay can be fatal because the disease progression can be unpredictable and faster than imagined. ”Dr. Ehanire also informed that he had the honour of joining Mr. President at the China-Africa Extraordinary Summit on Solidarity against the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in the week, where the desirability of sharing knowledge from research and experience was emphasized.
The Honourable Minister also disclosed that he signed a bilateral agreement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on cooperation in the area of public health and medical sciences. “The agreement is to start cooperation between both countries in these areas which are as follows:
(a) By exchanging experience in public health and health sciences
(b) The facilitation of visits by the scientists and exchanging information in research.
The Honourable Minister informed his audience that he inaugurated the Governing Council of the Pharmacist Council of Nigeria (PCN) on Monday, 15th June, 2020 where the Council was charged to refocus aspects of the profession to meet up with the realities of today as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought medical security to the fore front.
Speaking further, Dr. Ehanire disclosed that “We have updated the case management guidelines which reviewed changes like discharge criteria and medication used for the treatment of COVID-19 cases.” By this medication for treatment protocol, the Honourable Minister said that treatment centers will be getting an advisory to test applicability of a drug recently repurposed and found effective for treatment of COVID-19.”
He hinted the engagement of States and support for them in management of COVID-19 will continue to increase with increased capacity building, adding that the Ministry of Health will also be prioritizing the procurement of oxygen generators alongside ventilators as “our experience so far shows that oxygen supplementation is in high demand in treatment.”
By Grace Anyanwu
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations, FMOH.
For Guidance, Direction, Efficient Discharge Of Functions Of Council, Minister Of Health Inaugurates Pharmacists’ Council
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has inaugurated the Governing Council of the Pharmacist Council of Nigeria (PCN) to provide guidance and direction for the efficient discharge of the functions of the Council as stipulated in its enabling Act.
The Honourable Minister, who inaugurated the Council on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari partially through physical representation and virtually on Monday, 15th June, 2020, reiterated that the PCN is vital to the health care system as reflected in its functions of regulating training of pharmacist, pharmacy technicians and the practice of the profession. “Key issues that should engage the attention of this Council include: standard of training, code and ethics of practice, proliferation of illegal premises, unsatisfactory distribution of medicines and drug abuse”, the Minister said.
Dr. Ehanire further charged the newly inaugurated Council to refocus the various aspects of the profession to meet up with the realities of today; saying that “the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought to fore the vulnerability of the nation as it concerns medicines’ security. The inability of the nation to meet its needs of simple things such as face masks, surgical gloves, plaster, cotton bandage, and other related items must be addressed.”
“It is therefore paramount that the profession of pharmacy in Nigeria immediately starts to think of new ways of doing things, a situation where the focus is on importation of finished products and compounding of raw materials is clearly not acceptable. Strategies must be developed to utilize local resources for the production of pharmaceutical raw materials, (both incipient and active pharmaceutical ingredients). Our maize, yam, cassava, fruits and many others that go into waste due to poor storage need to be put into meaningful use for the pharmaceutical industry, the nation’s vast petroleum resources need to be also exploited”, the Minister charged.
The Honourable Minister further reiterated that “Players in the profession and the pharmaceutical industry need to think bigger things; they must dream dreams and build real pharmaceutical entities that will meet the expectations of the nation. Entrepreneurs need to pull resources in order to be strong and big enough to be able to dabble into the very competitive global market. Experience from Europe and America clearly shows that this is the way forward. The PCN Council should make efforts to bring all players in the industry together.”
He tasked the members of the Council under the Chairmanship of Prof. (Pharm). Ahmed. T. Mora to ensure that it aligns its functions with the vision of the President for the country on health as spelt out in the 2nd edition of the National Strategic Health Development Plan (2018-2020).
At the inauguration, Prof. (Pharm). Ahmed. T. Mora who was inaugurated as the chairman of the Governing Council of PCN assured the Minister, the Permanent Secretary, Health, Abdulaziz M. Abdullahi, and the Directors of Federal Ministry of Health who graced the inauguration as well as the Pharmacists who in their numbers attended the inauguration virtually and the nation that he will do his best to steer the PCN to resolve all the disputes and address all grey areas challenging the Pharmacists profession.
The PCN is a parastatal of Government established by Act Cap P17 LFN 2004, with the statutory responsibility of regulating and controlling pharmacy education, training and practice in all aspects and ramification.
By Blessing Efem
Director, Information, Media & Public Relations.
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who represented Nigeria and His Excellency, the Ambassador of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Jon Tong Chol who represented DPRK have taken the cooperation between the two countries in the area of Health to a level of putting pens to paper to endorse a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
While welcoming the Korean delegation to the MOU signing event which held at the Health Ministry’s Headquarters, Dr. Ehanire described the agreement to be on area which is very dear to the heart of Nigeria at the moment when the world and the country are passing through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister mentioned the areas of interest to Nigeria in the cooperation between the two countries to include that of public health and primary health care which he said “is even more urgent now at the stage of the community transmission of COVID-19, when the health systems of all the countries are being put to test.” The Minister further said that “We have seen strong and more resilient health systems around the world collapsing with the disease outbreak….It is a time when all countries need to revisit their health system, both the public health and the individual person’s health.”
Ehanire also said that this is a time when every country needs one another more than ever before. He disclosed to his visitors that “Nigeria has done very well to ensure that its health system does not collapse.” “COVID-19”, he said “is a virus which nobody knows its nature very well; the future is not very clear hence there is need for knowledge sharing, where the world and all humanity work together to defend their citizens.” “It is against this background that we are pleased to be a part of this agreement.” We know that our country is not among the richest and not among the most technologically developed. We are inclined to share your experiences, your level of development which we see as very valuable, therefore, Your Excellency, we take this agreement to be very sacrosanct to govern the relationship between Nigeria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the hope that other agreements will follow in other areas – education, research, and also in industrial life.”
The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) (North Korea) have over the years maintained a cordial relationship. Although there was no formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries, efforts in that direction began in 2014.
The DPRK forwarded a draft MOU in the field of Health and Medical Sciences, several interactions took place and a consensus was reached.
The Bilateral Branch of the Federal Ministry of Health forwarded the agreed document to the Legal Unit of the Health Ministry and secured the ratification of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice in March, 2017. This is in line with the protocol of diplomatic engagement with other countries.
A side meeting was held in May, 2018 during the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, both parties consolidated on the Agreement.
At the signing event of Wednesday, 17th June, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed of all the development and it gave approval for the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire to sign the Agreement on behalf of Nigeria with a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry Counselor, Prince Adewale Awolesi were present at the signing event.
Present at the MOU signing event were the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who signed on behalf of Nigeria; Mr. A.M. Abdullahi the Permanent Secretary, Health; Dr. Omobolanle Olowu, Director, PPP, FMOH; Barrister Gregory F. Zi, the Director, Legal Services, FMOH; the Director-General, National Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu; Dr. U.M. Ene-Obong, the Director, Public Health; Moshood Oluki Lawal, Director, Food, Drugs and Service, FMOH; Musa Ibrahim, Director, Health Planning, Research and Statistics, FMOH; Courage Adeniyi, Asst. Director, Bilateral FMOH; Dr. Chris Osa Isokpunwu, Director & Senior Technical Assistant to the Honourable Minister of Health; Special Assistant to the Honourable Minister of Health, Itohan Ehanire and Olujimi Oyetomi, the Director, Information, Media and Public Relations, FMOH.
The DPRK Team was led by His Excellency, the Ambassador of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Jon Tong Chol; and the team includes the 1st Secretary, Kim Chon Ji, DPRK Embassy in Nigeria; 2nd Secretary, Li Song H DPRK Embassy in Nigeria; and the 3rd Secretary, Kim Hyok, DPRK Embassy in Nigeria.
The highlight of the occasion was the signing of the M.O.U on Health by the Chief Representatives of both countries which was supervised by the Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of health. For her intervention, the Director, Public Health, FMoH, Dr. U.M. Ene-Obong, demanded that the DPRK Ambassador to Nigeria and his team should consider assisting Nigeria much in the areas of COVID-19 issue, elaborate work which FMoH has to do on “infection, prevention and control, risk communication and risk reduction as well as mental health issues, psychosocial, social issues and occupational health issues.”
The Director-General, National Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu in his intervention expressed the wish to have the DPRK’s model of Centre of Disease Control replicated in Nigeria saying “We are a large population but one model we’ve been looking up to in many years is the Korea Centre for Disease Control; we have looked up to the Korea model institute, model government agency that we will like to emulate in many ways. We have seen how you incorporated the response of all infectious diseases; safety from chronic diseases into one strategic public health agency responsible for the delivery of this critical functions to the people of Korea. We want to grow this relationship, we have been looking at the KCDC from a distance, but we look forward to potentially opening a door to bilateral visits between the leadership of KCDC inviting them to Nigeria, but also having the opportunity of visiting and seeing how you have grown that institute that has helped the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Korea.”
In rounding up, the Honourable Minister of Health said it is uppermost in the mindset of Nigeria to have universal health coverage to provide basic health to all citizens, hence our desire to learn all the models available in the world to help us achieve the objective. That is why we are also interested in your own system in your country.”
By Olujimi Oyetomi,
Director, Information, Media & Public Relations,
Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria.
COVID-19 Will Be Around For Long, So We Keep Learning, Studying Emerging Trends Says Ehanire Who Discloses Health Ministry’s 3-Year Health Sector Response Plan
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Ehanire has acknowledged that the global pandemic, COVID-19, will be around for a long time, which makes it imperative to keep learning in order to keep up with emerging trends as it pertains to the virus. Accordingly, Dr. Ehanire has disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health has developed a Health Sector Response Plan to cover the next 3 years. The plan, he said is divided into three strategic terms: near, medium and long.
Dr. Ehanire made this known at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Press Briefing on Monday June 15, 2020. According to him, the plan should be able to project into the future for at least three years. “No doubt, it will require modification and updating as we learn more about the disease.”
The Minister also informed that 403 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on June 14, 2020, which increased the total number to 16,085, with 5,220 persons treated and discharged while 420 persons were lost to the disease. “Despite the rising figures, the case fatality rate remains at about 3%, which is lower than many countries, but not a cause for relief. The increasing pace of testing will yield more cases, but we need to also be proactive in keeping fatalities low”.
Speaking further, he said “it is still strongly advised that those who test positive present themselves at a treatment center; this is most especially so for those with underlying ailments like diabetes, hypertension or are above 60 years of age as experience shows that COVID-19 symptoms can start mildly with slight fever, cough, loss of sense of smell or taste, but suddenly escalate to shortness of breath in no time. Lagos State reports that people who delay going to hospital and treating themselves first at home are the majority of victims, some barely making it to the doorstep of the hospital.”
He disclosed that a collaborative effort is being made with States to strengthen their response according to needs, consequently, a collaborative Team comprising of Representatives drawn from all relevant Departments to be led by the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Dr. Faisal Shuaib will be sent to Cross River State in the coming days to provide technical support and complement the work of the State Government.
Dr. Ehanire added that our response in tracing, testing and case management is driven by data and evidence and we adjust our protocols for Quarantine and treatment accordingly. He therefore urged the general public to adhere to all advisories and guidelines which include regular hand washing or use of alcoholic based hand sanitizers, maintenance of physical distancing and use of face mask at all times in public.
By Blessing Egbo
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations,
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has disclosed that efforts are in top gear to increase the number of laboratories with priority given to States which do not presently have a laboratory with PCR capability. He mentioned Cross River and Kogi States in particular.
Dr. Ehanire made this known at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Press Briefing on Monday, 15 June, 2020. He said that a collaborative effort is being made with States to strengthen their response according to needs; consequently, a collaborative team comprising of representatives of all relevant Departments to be led by the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib will be sent to Cross River State in the coming days to provide technical support and complement the work of the State Government.
The Minister further informed that 403 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on June 14, 2020, which increased the total number to 16,085, with 5,220 persons treated and discharged while 420 persons were lost to the disease. “Despite the rising figures, the case fatality rate remains at about 3%, which is lower than many countries, but not a cause for relief. The increasing pace of testing will yield more cases, but we need to also be proactive in keeping fatalities low”.
Speaking, he said “It is still strongly advised that those who test positive present themselves at a treatment center; this is most especially so for those with underlying ailments like diabetes, hypertension or are above 60 years of age as experience shows that COVID-19 symptoms can start mildly with slight fever, cough, loss of sense of smell or taste, but suddenly escalate to shortness of breath in no time. Lagos State reports that people who delay going to hospital and treating themselves first at home are the majority of victims, some barely making it to the doorstep of the hospital.”
Dr. Ehanire added that our response in tracing, testing and case management is driven by data and evidence and we adjust our protocols for Quarantine and treatment accordingly. He therefore, urged the general public to adhere to all advisories and guidelines which include regular hand washing or use of alcoholic based hand sanitizers, maintenance of physical distancing and use of face mask at all times in public.
By Blessing Egbo
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations,
FG Bemoans Deficit Of Safe Blood Pleads For More Voluntary Donors To Avert Avoidable Deaths As COVID-19 Makes For Further Shortage
Nigeria ‘s estimated blood need has been put at about 2 million units per year, whereas the current collection falls much less, leaving unmet needs that leads to avoidable deaths, morbidities and ill health. The Honourable Minister disclosed that in 2019, about 24,483 units of blood were collected and screened from volunteer blood donors through 17 Centres of the NBTS network, whereas 19,676 units of blood were issued to various hospitals nationwide for transfusion purposes. This gives a deficit of 4, 807 of blood issued over the voluntarily donated units.
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire in his statement to mark the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) 2020 marked on Sunday, 14th June, 2020 through a live Social Media engagement with a few representatives of the traditional media in attendance chose not only to celebrate regular donors but urged Nigerians to voluntarily donate blood because it is a critical and indispensable healthcare requirement both for treatment and urgent intervention which plays an essential life saving role in maternal and child care, especially bleeding after delivery, caring in severe anaemia, helping sickle cell disease, and victims of major accidents, and in emergency situations after natural or industrial disasters, the Minister stated.
Dr. Osagie Ehanire further said the need for voluntary blood donation is meant to assure individuals and communities of access to safe and quality assured blood and blood products. The 2020 World Blood Donor Day, celebrated every year on the 14th of June is meant to raise awareness on the need for safe blood transfusion as well as recognise and thank blood donors worldwide.
The Honourable Minister of health revealed that the theme for this year's WBDD campaign which is "Safe blood saves lives" and the slogan is "Give blood and make the world a healthier place" were adopted to focus on the notion that blood is life and donors give the gift of life to others.
Dr. Ehanire further expressed the observation that the need for safe blood is universal, but safe blood is still not accessible to many people in the world “as most low and middle income countries still struggle to make safe blood available to their citizens. The health Minister attributed this inaccessibility of many persons to safe blood to the quality of blood donation which he said is insufficient and the standardized equipment for testing blood is expensive and scarce; with situation further worsened, the world over by COVID-19. Globally, Dr. Ehanire revealed that 42% of blood collection and use is in high income countries that constitute just 16% of global population.
The Honourable Minister of Health however stated that the Nigeria National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS) is striving to provide adequate supplies of safe blood, screened with modern, fully automated enzyme linked immune-sorbent assay (ELISA) technology as well as increasing its scope of work by scaling up its annual blood collection rate and sustaining ongoing efforts to expand the reach of its services.
Going forward, Dr. Ehanire said that the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) is currently considering proposals for a major investment from public and private sectors to upgrade the capacity of the NBTS to enable it achieve its potential to produce blood components and plasma-derived medicinal products at a commercial scale that meets international best standards to enter the world market. He seized the opportunity to announce that the Legislative process of the bill for the establishment of the National Blood Service Commission is at an advanced stage and awaiting public hearing at the National Assembly. While calling on people of goodwill in Nigeria and the world over who are healthy to become life savers by volunteering to donate blood to make safe blood available to everyone in need of it, which is an act of solidarity and service to mankind.
The highlight of the event for the marking of the 14th June, 2020 edition of the World Blood Donor Day was when the Honourable Minister entertained questions from the his audience on Social Media as the few who were physically present.
For the questioner who asked to know if blood donated freely should be paid for, the Honourable Minister said that there are private enterprises involved in screening blood and taking donations. For the private enterprises, Dr. Ehanire said, the way they do their charges is at the private level. “But if one has the opportunity of seeing a National Blood Transfusion Service that is able to organize the blood donation and the quality of it will be assured to all citizens in emergency”, the Minister said: “Under no condition should anyone be charged to pay for blood in an emergency situation that would save his life when his life is at risk.”
For another question which says that the WHO stipulated that 1% of the population must be able to willingly donate blood and seeking to know what Federal Ministry of Health is doing to encourage more people to donate blood regularly, the Minister said: “That is why we are here to raise awareness amongst the population to let people know that donating blood provides the opportunity for availability for safe blood at hospitals and all areas where there are required for treatment and saving lives.” He added that “Nobody knows who will be in need of blood at anytime; you do not know if your relative or friend or even you might, before the end of the day or before the end of the week, be in a place where you require blood immediately and you will like to see that blood is available and that the blood is safe, screened and that it is what can save your life, or the life of a friend, or the life of a relative; therefore, awareness creation among the population for which we have already recognized the media and also events and activities like this, like the World Blood Donor Day are important in bringing to the minds of people, the importance of donating, screening, banking and making blood available through a well organized transport system to all parts of the country for all citizens.”
For another person seeking to know how this WBDD 2020 celebration is different from previous ones and what one may consider as some of the major achievements as the world has been celebrating WBDD yearly, Dr. Ehanire said: “This particular event is different because of the circumstance of the global infection going on, the activities that would normally be carried out are restricted; also, “here as we sit, we observe social distancing as you would have noticed, all of us have to wear masks and part of the activities that would have accompanied this day had to be redesigned, but nevertheless, the need for blood is still there and we have made it a point, despite the fact that it is a Sunday, the fact that there is COVID, we still mark this day so that citizens will know that it is a day and an activity that is taken seriously, as I said in my speech, giving blood is like giving life, if you say that blood is life, then you are helping someone; that person you may not know at all or turn out you may know. You are helping that person to save his life and that something for which your own joy and reward will be greater than you think.”
By Blessing Efem
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations.
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has disclosed that global experience indicates that 45% of persons who test positive for COVID-19 may show no symptoms or are asymptomatic.
The Minister made this statement at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 where he revealed that the proportion of asymptomatic cases compared to symptomatic cases in Nigeria is 61% to 35. “Research also shows that most people who contract the virus develop mild symptoms or do not experience any symptoms at all” said the Honourable Minister.
Dr. Ehanire revealed that asymptomatic patients are most infectious and can transmit the virus even if they do not look or feel ill, and sometimes, the Minister said such patients can be trivialized even by healthcare workers. This situation, he said, may explain the initial relatively high rate of infections among the health workers. “However, asymptomatic patients may no longer be infectious after 14days, even if PCR test identify RNA evidence of virus in them”, the Minister disclosed.
Dr. Ehanire also made it known that the grievances of the National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD) is being addressed: “On the issue of welfare and allowances to frontline health workers, conversations have been held with the Ministry of Finance, agencies and health-related associations. Complaints on availability of PPEs have been addressed with supply of materials to States and Federal Medical Centers. The disengaged Resident Doctors at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital have been recalled by the Board of Governors” indicating that the Federal Government has been working to resolve the grievances that the health workers may be habouring.
The Minister therefore appealed to the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to call a truce and show understanding and reciprocate Government’s efforts; assuring them that all their grievances will be addressed.
Speaking further, the Minister said that planning for targeted community sensitization activities have commenced in 20 high burden Local Government Areas, with workshop in infection prevention and control of COVID-19 for healthcare workers of public and private hospitals in the FCT.
Dr. Ehanire also disclosed that the reforms for guidelines to make operational, the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) “is almost ready and will be revealed after presentation to stakeholders.” "Errors have been addressed and the new document vastly improves on the earlier version", the Minister stated.
The Health Minister disclosed the status of COVID-19 infections as at 11th of June 2020 to be confirmed at 13,873 with 409 new infections. While calling on all to adhere to health advisories and guidelines, as well as observe non-pharmaceutical measures issued by FMoH, he reiterated that the cheapest and easiest way to protecting oneself is to wear a mask, especially now that confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria continue to rise, thus raising the risk.
By Blessing Efem.
Olujimi Oyetomi, (Director, Information, Media & Public Relations.)
50-60 Percent Of Hitherto Unexplained Deaths In Kano May Have Been Or Triggered By COVID-19 Says Dr. Ehanire
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has stated that investigations suggest that 50-60% of the deaths that occurred in Kano may have been triggered or due to corona virus.
The Minister stated this at the daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Briefing where he revealed that the Federal Ministry of Health’s Team sent to Kano conducted series of verbal autopsy which revealed that up to 60% of the hitherto unexplained deaths in Kano may have been due to COVID-19.
Dr. Ehanire further said that the Ministerial Task team sent to Kano supported the State’s Response team with commodities, training, technical and confidence building measures, and disclosed also that the team was later extended to fact finding excursions to 5 other States in the North. “With the observations and recommendations from the 3- Weeks assignment, the committee developed a Strategic Incident Action Plan to strengthen coordination capacity of the health workers and improve community engagement”, the Minister disclosed. He further said that 150 Kano State health workers were infected at the time the Ministerial Task team to Kano arrived, “but as at when they left, there was no more report of an infection among health workers who had received training on infection prevention and control, thus restoring confidence”, he stated.
On the deaths in Kano in April, Dr. Ehanire disclosed that the Ministerial Task team confirmed from graveyards records that a total of 979 deaths were recorded in 8 municipal LGAs in the State, at a rate of 43 deaths per day with a peak in the second week of April. “As at the beginning of May, death rates had reduced to 11 deaths per day as it used to be. Verbal autopsy revealed that about 56% of deaths had occurred at home while 38% were in hospitals.” The Minister therefore surmised that investigations have it that between 50-60% of the deaths may have been triggered or due to COVID-19 in the face of pre-existing ailments with most fatalities occurring in persons over the age of 65.
Further reports by the Honourable Minister at the briefing revealed that a 2 day Webinar was held on the effect of COVID-19 on health and care management of the elderly, conducted in collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO): A critical look was made at various aspects of the impact of the disease on the elderly who are at a higher risk of infection. The outcome, the Minister said, provides grounds for policy direction for care of the elderly during and beyond COVID-19 pandemic.
While updating further, Dr. Ehanire said that over 76,800 have been tested for corona virus with a record of 12,486 confirmed cases in 35 States and FCT. 3,959 persons have been successfully treated and discharged with sadly 454 deaths recorded. He said that “since our entry into the community transmission phase, we have begun more aggressive tracking and testing with an increased laboratory network capacity from the initial 5 laboratories to presently 30 molecular laboratories which has reduced turnaround time and increased case finding”, with a plan for at least one laboratory in every State of the Federation. Management of infected cases is being reviewed and improved, with revised clinical guidelines to be published in accordance with learning’s and evolving dynamics associated with COVID-19 and global best practices. This includes new discharge protocols, treatment for asymptomatic or symptomatic cases with various clinical conditions.
By Blessing Efem.
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations.
SATURDAY, 6TH JUNE, 2020: Realizing that a good percentage of critical mass of stakeholders and public of Federal Ministry of Health and Nigerians are users of Twitter and Face Book, the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire decided to seize the opportunity of 100 days of CVID-19 in Nigeria, which actually occurred the day before (5th June, 2020) to connect with and update this vital stakeholders and public with the responses of his Ministry’s team and to answer burning questions and inquiries from them. Index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria actually occurred on 27th February, 2020.
From 16.03 hours, emerging from another engagement, Dr. Ehanire came into the setting for the Social Media engagement with apologies to those who may not know why he was held up from coming to a programme which his Director of Media & Public Relations and Aides have sensitized the social media users to begin by 16.00.
The live social media engagement was novel and the Honourable Minister began by updating with a speech which reminded the audience that the the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria on 27th February. 2020 and that in the very eventful 100 days since then, Nigeria has recorded 11,844 cases of COVID-19 in 35 States and FCT. Of these, 3,696 persons have been successfully treated and discharged, and we have sadly recorded 333 deaths.
Dr. Ehanire also briefed on the response by his Ministry: “In the past 100 days we have consistently striven for the best outcomes for the citizens of Nigeria, while preparing for the worst-case scenario. Nigeria has significantly scaled-up testing capacity, surveillance, community mobilisation, coordination, contact tracing, community awareness and other factors.”
Employing bullet points to itemize the achievements of Federal Ministry of Health during the last 100 days of responding to the pandemic, the Honourable Minister of Health revealed that the Ministry achieved the followings and more for the Health Sector:
- 6,650 total bed capacity for the management of COVID-19 cases;
- Deployment of Rapid Response Team has increased from 15 States to 34 States;
- Vigilant monitoring of international borders at land, sea and air points of entry (POE) by the Division of Port Health Services;
- Deployment of Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP) graduates to support the fieldwork in the emergency operation centres (EOCs);
- Development of risk communication strategies;
- Development of a health sector response action plan;
- Creation of a Ministerial expert advisory committee;
- Development of standard operation procedures (SOPs), protocols and guidelines in collaboration with partners for: mental health; decontamination and burial; occupational health and safety especially for staff in isolation centres;
- Training of 170 master-trainers on infection, prevention and control (IPC), who have now trained over 16,000 personnel;
- Efficient distribution of key personal protective equipment (PPE) in all states and federal health institutions;
- Special Ministerial Team deployed to Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Bornu, Gombe, Katsina States to support response efforts;
- Activation of ambulance services including capacity building in Kano and spreading nationwide.
Dr. Ehanire also mentioned that the parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) have brought all their expertise to bear in responding to the pandemic. He said: “I would like to highlight achievements of 4 of our parastatals in this presentation:
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).”
The Honourable Minister added that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), under whose mandate many of the outbreak response measures fall, has recorded laudable milestones such as:
- Activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at Level 3, to coordinate the health sector response and publication of daily situation reports, to make data available to Nigerians;
- Scaling-up from 2 molecular laboratories at the beginning of the pandemic, to 30 laboratories which have a combined minimum capacity to carry out 35,000 tests daily;
- Deployment of National Rapid Response Teams (100) totalling over 100 personnel to the 35 States and FCT with confirmed cases, to support capacity strengthening of State RRTs, as well as outbreak investigation and response activities;
- Development and dissemination of guidelines based on emerging evidence on case management, infection prevention and control, use of masks, risk communications and other key areas of the response;
- Through the World Bank funded REDISSE project, development of a support package for every State in Nigeria, worth 100 million naira each;
Establishment of supply chain for laboratory supplies.
The Honourable Minister also expressed the observation that since this Coronavirus Disease is novel to the world, research has been an integral part of the COVID-19 pandemic response in Nigeria, as in other countries. Research institutions under the Federal Ministry of Health have been hard at work. He disclosed that the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) has:
- Maintained a supply chain of locally manufactured commodities including hand sanitizers, which are key to supporting disruption of the transmission;
- Initiated locally conceptualised clinical trials;
- Articulated a contextual scientific framework for validating and evaluating claims of local and international phytomedicinal products purported to cure or manage COVID-19;
- Released regular evidence-based advisories on quality of products used for COVID-19;
Use of the Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS) for surveillance in all 36 States and the FCT, creating an efficient and automated process for data collection and analysis.
Even when the social media engagement was meant to be very brief, Dr. Ehanire still took time to explain more to his audience the role of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) which earned the nation international commendation for the work of the that organization - NIMR in genetic sequencing of the index COVID-19 case.
The institute, the Minister said, has also provided laboratory back up for Lagos State and established a drive- and walk-through testing centre, as well as a do-it- yourself swab sampling for COVID-19 test in Lagos.
Other achievements of NIMR include which the Honourable Minister itemized include:
- Production of Viral Transport Medium (VTM) for COVID-19 sample collection;
- Conducting clinical trials with Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH);
- Laboratory experiment on COVID-19 vaccine production;
- Development of point of care COVID-19 PCR testing and RNA extraction kits;
- Community assessment of sero-prevalence of COVID-19 transmission;
It was as if Dr. Osagie Ehanire was using the social media engagement with Twitter and Face Book users to rehearse response update of Nigeria to COVID-19 when he would also not spare reporting on the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) which he disclosed has set up an innovative model and protocol for Community based case management of covid-19 positive cases with little or no symptoms, using boarding house premises of community schools.
On efforts to ensure that essential and Routine Health care delivery are retained, the Honourable Minister said that FMoH is working with its Departments of Hospital Services, Public Health and Family Health to ensure that essential and Routine Health care delivery are retained and RMNCH+N and immunization and other emergency services do not suffer a breakdown. He added that FMoH has continued to engage and support States, by paying on the spot visits, to share in their COVID-19 response activities. “We also continue to urge healthcare workers to maintain a high index of suspicion when treating patients.”
Dr. Ehanire rounded up his speech with appeal to the public: “We advise all citizens to please use a face mask when leaving their houses, wash hands regularly, use sanitizers and observe physical distancing. Please adhere to advisories and continue to take precautions as we forge ahead together in the fight against COVID-19.”
Questions for which answers and clarifications were sought as well as suggestions by the critical mass of stakeholders and public of Federal Ministry of Health and Nigerians through Twitter and Face Book dwelt largely on the address of update by the Honourable Minister which were diligently and patiently answered and attended to.
By Olujimi Oyetomi
Director, Information, Media & Public Relations,
6th June, 2020.