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22 May 2020

FG asks churches, mosques, others to submit guidelines for reopening

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday, said COVID-19 patients, who spent a long period at isolation centres were at the risk of depression.

Ehanire, who stated this in Abuja at the press conference of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said government planned to deploy psychologists in isolation centres to take care of such patients.

At the press conference, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the task force was reluctant to adopt home treatment it once proposed because of conditions under which Nigerians live.

He also asked professional groups and faith-based organisations, including churches and mosques, to submit guidelines for reopening to the NCDC to review and advise.

But explaining effects of long treatment on some patients, the health minister stated, “On the mental health issue of those in isolation, who have stayed a little bit longer, some people do get a little bit of mental depression. This mental health issue is under consideration. It (a policy) is also being developed in states to have psychologists create things to engage those in isolation.”

He also said the Federal Government had intervened in the sit-at-home protest embarked upon on Wednesday by the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, following harassments by the police, who were enforcing a nationwide curfew imposed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)

The minister stated, “With regard to the industrial action by doctors in Lagos, I spoke with the NMA Chairman of the Lagos Chapter on Wednesday to dissuade the doctors from the planned sit-at-home protest in the state, and I listened to their complaints too on harassment at security check points.”

The health minister said the Federal Government’s team sent to Cross River State on Monday had returned and its report stated that there was no confirmed case yet in the state.

Besides Cross River State, Kogi State has not recorded any COVID-19 case, but the NCDC officials, who were sent to the North-Central state went back to Abuja without accomplishing their mission following the insistence of the state government that they must be in isolation for 14 days.

On Thursday, the minister noted that an analysis of the 200 COVID-19 deaths recorded so far in the country revealed a 70-30 per cent ratio for males and females.

He said Nigerians who were being evacuated from other countries should not disobey the 14-day compulsory quarantine agreement they signed as a condition for their evacuation.

He said, “On the issue of evacuees, there are issues with compliance. Although part of the conversation we have had with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that those who are leaving the foreign countries must understand that they are going to be in quarantine for 14 days.

“It is a requirement for the country and it is something they signed for. It is part of the agreement.”

The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, at the press briefing, advised state governments to ensure restriction of movements between local government areas except for healthcare.

The PTF chairman also raised the alarm that the government had received reports of abuse and misuse of chloroquine as a cure for coronavirus.

He said, “Through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, we have received reports that Nigerians have been purchasing hydroxychloroquine in large quantities.

“We wish to reiterate that this drug has not been certified for use in treating COVID-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities. Self-medication of any kind is fraught with the danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties.

“We, therefore strongly warn against self-medication. If you are sick, please seek medical advice and if you are confirmed positive, kindly self-isolate in an approved facility. The COVID-19 is highly infectious and dangerous.”

Mustapha urged Nigerians to be cautious during the celebration of the Eidel-Fitri in order to avoid the spread of the virus.

He said, “The foregoing admonition becomes critical as we prepare for celebrations at the end of the month of Ramadan.

“It is the prayer of the PTF that we shall all celebrate this Sallah and many more in good health and beseech the Almighty to accept our supplication and look upon our nation and the world, with mercy.

The SGF also cautioned the police and other security agencies against harassing journalists, health workers and other essential workers.

He expressed concerns that they were still being daily harassed despite clear guidelines issued on essential workers.

He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, essential workers, including our indefatigable medical personnel, diligent journalists, courageous fire service personnel, telecommunications workers, are all exempted.

“The Inspector General of Police has further clarified the categories of essential workers in alignment with the guidelines and has issued instructions to security agents to work on the approved exemptions.

“With this clarification, we sincerely hope that the persistent complaints of harassment by these categories of essential workers, especially medical personnel and journalists would be put to rest so that we can harmoniously work in battling this pandemic.

“The PTF COVID-19 urges all essential workers to go about their legitimate duties carrying with them valid means of identification and to exercise courtesy in approaching security personnel.”

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