Eniola Akinkuotu, Olufemi Atoyebi, Adelani Adepegba, Tobi Aworinde, Dayo Ojerinde, Abiodun Nejo, Patrick Odey, Edward Nnachi,  Bola Bamigbola and Wale Oyewale

The Federal Government on Thursday said it had succeeded in tracing 3,550 people who came in contact with patients infected with COVID-19 in the country.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who disclosed this at a press conference organised in Abuja by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the 3,550 people were being monitored for symptoms of coronavirus.

The NCDC said this as there were concerns in the country over the rising COVID-19 cases, which increased to 190 on Thursday.

In Osun State, residents of Ejigbo, where six Cote d’Ivoire returnees tested positive, stayed indoor for fear of contracting the virus.

But in Abuja, the NCDC assured Nigerians that the Federal Government was fighting the virus.

Ihekweazu had, at a  press conference on Tuesday, said  government  was searching for  5,000 people who came in contact with COVID-19 positive patients

The director general, who said there was an urgent need to get such people and prevent community transmission of the virus, said many of the contacts came from abroad and gave wrong phone numbers and addresses on the flights they boarded.

On Thursday, Ihekweazu was asked the extent government had gone in tracing the contacts following the two-week lockdown the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) ordered in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states.

He responded, “We have traced and monitoring 71 per cent of all of them. By the end of today, that figure will increase. This is what this period of two weeks is for. Lagos has been transformational in the last few days. The teams have been able to move incredibly across the state to monitor all these contacts.

“The early cases had large number of contacts.  Many of them were on planes and we have to basically contact everyone. But everyone we identify now has a maximum of 30 or 40 contacts. So the number of contacts in confirmed cases is reducing because we no longer have people that were exposed to a plane.”

On the kits donated to the country by a Chinese billionaire, he said every state government was asked to come to Abuja to collect its share of the kits.

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No preferential treatment for those in isolation –NCDC boss

He also said there was no preferential treatment for anyone in all the coronavirus isolation centres across the country.

He said, “There is no preferential care at treatment centres. Everybody is getting the same level of care in Abuja and Lagos and health care workers are really working hard to make sure everybody is supported through the period of care.”

FG asks NMA to open register for volunteers, retired doctors

At the press conference,  the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said registers would be opened, particularly in Abuja and Lagos for retired health workers who would be recalled to strengthen the workforce for COVID-19.

Ehanire disclosed that he had met with the Nigerian Medical Association, adding that the association had promised to assist government in the fight against coronavirus.

He said, “Yesterday, I had a meeting with the Nigerian Medical Association leaders. We have urged them to invite retired members particularly in Lagos and Abuja to register and volunteer their services.”

Lockdown: FG exempts fertiliser transport

The Chairman of the  Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha,  said the movement of vehicles transporting fertilizer across Lagos, Ogun and the FCT had been included in the list of services exempted from the lockdown.

Govt recommends 300-bed limit for COVID-19 isolation centres

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said, “We are requesting that the sub-national governments should provide at least a 300-bed facility; either a hotel or other facilities.”

According to him, such facilities should contain basic nursing and other required procedures before patients are moved in.

He added, “Those facilities starting from 300 beds should be expanded as the need arises.”

Satellite markets, others also join exemption list

The National Coordinator for the fight against COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu,  at the press conference,  said businesses  exempted  from the lockdown  also included markets, food stores and supermarkets.

He explained  that the neighbourhood markets were essential services that could open for four hours every other day.

Aliyu, however, explained that operators of such facilities were expected to provide equipment for measuring body temperature and sanitising hands.

He said, “The decision of the PTF is that satellite markets will operate every other day from 10 am to 2 pm. This does not refer to the main markets that are already closed and neither does it refer to markets that had been closed by local authorities. We do not expect them to open.

“But for markets that supply neighbourhood , we will allow them to operate for just four hours  every other day.

“I need to re-emphasise to shop owners, particularly those operating supermarkets and food stores,  that they are allowed to operate only if they are dealing with food and perishable items, including pharmaceuticals.”