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FG to release policy on use of facemasks

…As PTF sets 5 KPIs for self

The Federal Government will on Tuesday (April 7), release a national policy on the use of facemasks. The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu said this during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 in Abuja on Monday.

Ihekweazu informed that the policy on facemasks is almost completed and would be released tomorrow, 7th April for every Nigerian to align with.

He further listed five Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on which the work of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) would be measured going forward. He said the five key targets have been set for teams in Abuja and Lagos.

According to him, government plans to test 200 samples per day in Lagos and 100 samples per day in Abuja by the end of this week. He added that government targets collection of samples from symptomatic individuals happen within 8 hours of notification of the state team.

Ihekweazu said another target is to ensure that the turnaround time for conducting a test and release of the result will be less than 24 hours. This according to him became necessary because samples sometime come in late in the evening which means that the results will be available the next day.

“Number four is to isolate patients in less than 6 hours after they have received a positive result at the state level. We plan to isolate every confirmed case,” he said.

In addition to this, the NCDC boss stressed that contact tracing was very important. He noted that the process has become strenuous because each new case could have up to 40 contacts unlike when each case previously had only tens of contacts. Ihekweazu informed that about 30 percent of all confirmed cases in the country have been found through contact tracing.

The Director-General explained that the essence of the target is to improve the efficiency of the process, which he said would be used to measure the effectiveness of “our work.”

“The targets may seem a bit broad at the moment, but we will tighten this everyday over the next few days, because we need to show that the time given to us by President Muhammadu Buhari is worth the sacrifice that Nigerians are making,” he explained.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, while speaking during the briefing, said 5,000 samples had been tested so far. Ehanire added that the government was working to scale up its capacity to respond to the virus. He informed that additional treatment centres had been identified in the FCT which will provide a minimum of 400 beds.

The ministers said the centres are currently under renovation and repair. He added that the hospital Accreditation Committee had inspected and accredited three centres in Abuja and will continue with the exercise.

The minister however, informed that the increase in cases with no clear epidemiological definition called for a need to discuss changes in Nigeria’s public advisory.

Ehanire, while fielding questions from journalists on ramping up manufacturing for food and pharmaceutical equipment needed to curb the spread of the virus, said the Ministry was already talking with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) on closing up gaps on the pharmaceutical equipment needed to address the pandemic.

“I did say that the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is working with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to work on the possibility of generating the products here.

“These include the production of the ventilators. The driving force at a time of the concern is that if other countries are competing in even securing their own productions since the rising case of the global pandemic, it is expedient that we also grow our own local capacity to close up the manufacturing of what we needed,” he added.

Also speaking at the briefing, the PTF Coordinator, Sani Aliyu, asked Nigerians to adhere strictly to the lockdown protocols which are being reviewed regularly together with the security agencies, emphasizing that Nigerians should, “Please stay home! Stay home!! Stay home!!! It will protect you”.

Contributing during the briefing, Mohammad Mahmood, the Minister of Environment, said the ministry is initiating road tracing, facility tracing and equipment tracing as a strategy in the containment process of Covid-19:

“About last week or so, when a number of people were conveyed from our border with Benin-Republic into Nigeria, about four people were tested positive in that particular bus.

“What we want to initiate is to keep track of that trace from those that tested positive and this information normally we wouldn’t get from NCDC and the Ministry of Health, we want to know the route taken by that particular means of transportation.”

”Number 2, are facilities; whether these people are taken straight to an isolation center or treatment center. Do they stop somewhere and are kept for a while before moving them to the next facilities? We want to know that.

“Thirdly the bus itself or whatever means of transportation which perceptively has been contaminated by the people that are positive, we also want to know, because we don’t want to convey positive cases, drop them and take the same vehicle to pick up other people, the possibility of that vehicle being contaminated is there,” he added. He noted the federal ministry is initiating this to step up the war against the virus.

The Minister however, urged Nigerians to reach out to environmental officials for clarity on any information: “In terms of information, we have our environmental officials. Please, if you have any questions and you can’t reach us on the phone, once you see this people, ask them, they will be able to give you information counsel you or refer you to where you can have additional information,” he said.


Harrison Edeh, James Kwen, Godsgift Onyedinefu, Cynthia Egboboh, and Godsgift Wada, Abuja

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