The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Monday said the Federal Government and the World Health Organisation were carrying out COVID-19 drug trial in the Federal Capital Territory and fives states.
Ehanire, who disclosed this at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 press briefing in Abuja, listed the states as Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano.
The minister confirmed that Nigeria was expecting a herbal drug, COVID Organic, from Madagascar. The drug was reported to have been used by the Indian Ocean island country to cure patients, who tested positive for COVID-19.
Also, the PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had directed the airlifting of COVID Organic to Nigeria.
However, both Ehanire and Mustapha said the herbal drug would be subjected to scientific analyses in the country.
According to them, the drug will only be used in Nigeria after it has been confirmed to be safe and working.
The WHO had said it had not approved the use of the drug, but Madagascar President, Andry Rajoelina, slammed the organisation for not endorsing it.
“If it were a European country which had discovered this remedy, would there be so many doubts?,’’ Rajoelina had asked in an exclusive interview with France 24, a Paris-based international television news network.
He added, “The problem is that it comes from Africa. And they cannot accept that a country like Madagascar, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has discovered this formula to save the world.”
But at the PTF press briefing on Monday, Nigeria’s health minister explained the Federal Government’s efforts to combat the virus.
He said senior officials of the Federal Ministry of Health held a video meeting with Chinese medical and academic experts in Beijing on Monday to seek further treatment strategies from China.
According to him, Nigeria is taking part in the WHO solidarity international clinical trial, which is aimed at finding an effective treatment for COVID-19.
The trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improves survival.
He stated, “On the WHO treatment, the Federal Government is cooperating with the WHO on treatment regimen solidarity trial with the following enrolled; Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano.”
He also spoke on strange deaths in Kano, Sokoto and Bauchi states.
He stated, “On the update in Kano, the ministerial task team deployed to assist in the containment effort and provide direction in managing the COVID-19 situation has made significant gains. The investigation into unexplained deaths in the state has to complete its work.
“On Katsina, a detailed report is being awaited and it is expected to provide a roadmap to addressing the challenges in line with the response pillars. A contingent of the ministry team in Kano will also visit Bauchi State on a fact-finding mission. A team will later visit Sokoto at the invitation of the state authorities on a similar mission.”
We won’t give Madagascar COVID-19 cure to our people until we confirm it’s safe, working – FG
Ehanire added that the Federal Government would send the COVID-19 cure being expected from Madagascar for analyses and comparison with the Nigerian strain to identify similarities, differences, as well as how it works.
Madagascar was reported on Monday to have offered African countries its COVID-19 cure. According to the report, the consignments for Nigeria were sent Guinea Bissau, from where they will be brought to the country.
Speaking on the herbal cure, the minister said, “With regard to the cure from Madagascar, it is making the news and we have promised of being able to get samples of the botanical products. We will be speaking with the health experts and the scientific community on how to use it. We will also give it to the research community here to examine and see what they can do with it. We understand that it is something called artemisia annua which also grows here.
“But we will like to, if we get that sample, compare it with the strain here whether they are identical and see what properties it has. Things like that are subjected to analyses to see what works there and how it works.
“Obviously all countries in the world are interested in finding a cure and we are not different. So we will look at all possibilities and all options. But before we give it to our people, we will make sure that it is actually safe and it actually works.”
Buhari orders airlifting of Madagascar’s cure
The PTF chairman said the task force would soon release a new protocol on COVID-19 after reviewing existing guidelines.
Mustapha said the President had given permission to freight a consignment of Madagascar’s COVID-19 organic from Guinea Bissau for treatment and cure of the disease.
He, however, said the drug would only be administered after undergoing all necessary validation process with relevant agencies of the government as in the case of drug research and approval to guarantee safety of Nigerians.
Mustapha stated, “On the Madagascar’s syrup, it is being freighted to Guinea Bissau by the President of Madagascar. Certain allocations have been made to different countries. We have an indication of the quantity for Nigeria.
“I have received instructions from Mr President to freight it home with a clear instruction that I should subject it to the validation process similar to what will happen to any medicine, vaccine or syrup that is discovered internally.”
No special provisions for physically challenged pupils, says FG
The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, said that there was no “special provisions” for learning as it concerned physically challenged pupils during the COVID-19 pandemic other than the materials they were given before school closure.
The minister added that apart from the blind, who were given Braille materials home, and the deaf pupils who had sign language interpreters during television learning, other pupils with a form of physical limitation would have to make use of the online resources made available by the Federal Ministry of Education.
Also at the PTF briefing, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said it had increased testing capacity to 23 laboratories across the country.
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated that the agency spent the weekend doing a review of its work.
Ihekweazu said, “Now, we have 23 labs across the network that have to be kept going. The surveillance systems have to keep working. Whether it’s Saturday or Sunday, these things have to work.”
Community transmission in Lagos, Kano, other northern states
According to him, the country has to accept that there is community transmission, especially in Lagos, Kano and in a few other cities in northern Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory.
He stated, “In those areas, we will have to adapt our response to face the realities: this is a virus that is very easily transmissible, irrespective of the hard work that is being done across the country.
“So, as it spreads to other cities, we adapt and change our response in order to manage that. We keep pushing in states that have not yet collected samples to do a bit more.”
According to him, the agency has issued guidelines for private laboratories that want to take part in COVID-19 tests.
“So, any private sector lab that wants to join the COVID-19 testing can go and pick up these guidelines that we’re going to publish on our website tonight, look through it, define what they need to do to be able to join the network and we will support them through that process.”
The National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the PTF would continue to prioritise human and economic needs of the people based on global guidelines and protection of health services.
He also assured of the Federal Government’s determination to protect jobs in the formal and informal sector in spite of the pandemic.
Aliyu said the PTF had placed special interest on COVID-19 cases in the North- East and North -West as well as the spikes in hot spots in the country.
He emphasised the need for governors to identify spaces for isolation of persons who tested positive for coronavirus.
He expressed concerns that many states had yet to provide the 300-bed space.
PTF asks states to convert schools, abandoned buildings to isolation centres
He said, “It is important we start considering schools, academic institutions and even abandoned buildings because we need to build our isolation capacity.”
Catholic bishop gives 425 hospitals as isolation centres
He stated, “I wish to remind our governors that the Catholic Bishops Conference has volunteered all the 425 hospitals and clinics nationwide for adaptation and use as isolation centres. Governors are encouraged to please approach Catholic bishops in their states to access these facilities.”
The SGF expressed regret over reports of attacks and threats to lives of health workers at isolation and treatment centres by patients.
He said, “Let me underscore the fact that these frontline workers constantly put their lives on the line to make sure persons infected are provided with the best care possible to enable them become healthy citizens again.
South-South, S’West get tough on almajarai, increase surveillance at borders
There were indications on Monday that states in the South-West and South-South had stepped up measures to check the influx of Quranic education pupils, popularly known as Almajirai from the North into their states.
The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, in an interview with The PUNCH, indicated border communities had been sensitised to the need for them to be vigilant and report strange movements.
On his part, the Chairman of South-South Governors forum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, who is also the Delta State governor, said youths had been recruited to assist security agents to detect unauthorised movements and stop people from entering the state.
The President had in his broadcast on April 27 imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on all parts of the country as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. He also banned inter-state movements.
But in spite of the ban on inter-state movements, Almajarai, who are being dislodged from streets in northern states, are being hidden in trucks and brought to the South.
The Northern Governors’ Forum had at their meeting outlawed Almajarai.
The Kwara State Police Command had on Saturday intercepted Lagos-bound 200 Almajirai at the Moro Local Government Area of the state.
According to the command’s spokesman, Ajayi Okesanmi, the Almajirai were coming from Funtua in Katsina State.
Also on Sunday, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Ondo State Command intercepted 13 Almajirai along Ilesa-Akure Road.
On Saturday, the Cross River State Government and security operatives intercepted and sent back a truck carrying no fewer than 30 Quoranic education pupils at the Gakem-Benue border in the state.
The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Akeredolu on Monday declared that the influx of the Almajirai was already being contained by the government of the six states of the region.
The governor, in an interview with journalists in Akure, said the Almajirai were mostly destitute and were very vulnerable to the infection of the deadly coronavirus disease.
The governor said, “The influx of young people from some states in the northern part of Nigeria into our states is new and embarrassing experience and it is a matter of serious concern.
“Their massive influx into other states, particularly in South-West coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 constitutes a great threat in many respects and calls for concern.
“The government has set up an effective and already running system of containment which returns the Almajirai to their states of origin. On this, my message to the people at this time is to remain vigilant and be conscious of happenings in their environment.
Report importation of Almajirai, Akeredolu tells communities
“You are enjoined to report cases of such importation of Almajirai to appropriate authorities to help us effectively curtail community transmission of COVID-19.”
The Chairman of the South-South Governor’s Forum, Okowa, said youths had been recruited to assist security agencies in detecting illegal movements.
Okowa stated this through his Chief Press Secretary. Mr. Olise Ifejika. He frowned upon the manner people crossed borders against government order.
He said, “We are aware that some persons are being moved from one part of the country to the other. In response to that, Delta now formed a task force made up mainly of community youths to support the security agencies at the border.
“And they are really doing it. So all those things about people coming in has been seriously reduced. You may be aware that last Saturday, we visited these boys and the governor told them not to allow unauthorised vehicles to enter the state.
For Almajiria, the chief press secretary said although the state had not recorded any influx, he said Delta State was working with other states in ensuring adequate security within the region.