From Moses Emorinken, Abuja

The 15 personnel of the Chinese medical team are to be tested today to ascertain their Coronavirus (COVID-19) status, the Federal Government disclosed on Wednesday.

The medical professionals, with expertise in infectious disease, respiratory illness, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery and anesthesiology, were sent into seclusion on their arrival from China 14 days ago.

They have had several conferences with directors, experts and technical officers of the Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other relevant authorities from isolation.

Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who dropped the hint during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, said: “I was reminded that the people who came from China had spent 14 days in quarantine and I ordered that the test be done. The COVID-19 test swabs are to be taken tomorrow and the test will be done to finalise if any of them has any infection.”

Concerning the news of halting of testing in Kano State as a result of little or no reagents in the laboratories, Ehanire said: “As for the testing in Kano, there was a report that they had reduced availability of reagents and they were supplied that.

“In addition to that, there was a temporary halt in activities because some of the work persons in the laboratory got infected and the laboratory had to be shut down for decontamination, which was just temporary. With regard to supplies of reagents, they had been replenished. They now have personal protective equipment (PPE) and reagents.

“The role of primary health care is very important in this exercise in the sense that now we are in the community transmission phase. We have passed that era when people used to think that the coronavirus infection was something for rich people who came from abroad.

“Now that it has gotten to the community transmission level, it is really down to the grassroots, and the role of the primary health care comes into play. It is very important for them to be able to do surveillance and raise the index of suspicion.

“We are doing targeted testing, and right now, cluster testing has been very helpful in being able to identify places; that’s why you see so many of them now being discovered in the Lagos area and also in Abuja.”

Dr. Ehanire described reports that the coronavirus can hide in the testis of men, thereby spreading from there and causing damages, as contentious at the moment, with no definitive evidence.

“As for the hazard allowance for frontline health workers, work is still going on and within the next week, you will see the result.

“It has not yet been finalised but we have met with all the stakeholders, organisations, doctors, and we have also prepared the promises that were made and also the rates that may have been used in other places. The results will come with time.

“The PPE is one of the most precious commodities you can think of now. We are looking for a good stockpile because we want to be able to protect our frontline health workers to make sure they don’t run short.

“We have also told them to use these commodities very judiciously because they are extremely scarce in the market. We are exploring the possibility of procuring from local manufacturers because manufacturers have come up to say that they’re able to make PPE for us.

“We don’t have enough PPE, but we have enough for the purpose that we are in at this time and we are definitely looking for more.

“Concerning the burial of persons who have died from coronavirus, there is a protocol for it and there is a section in the department of public health of the Federal Ministry of Health that is responsible for safe and dignified burials of persons with infectious diseases. The ministry of environment works with the ministry of health in order to be able to see that that part of it is well created.”

The minister also said the government has developed protocols for effective transportation of COVID-19 patients to specialised treatment centers and between treatment centers within the Fedral Capital Territory (FCT).

He spoke of plans to replicate such in all states of the federation.

According to Ehanire, aircrafts belonging to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have been placed on standby to convey patients smoothly to treatment centres.

He said: “To ensure best treatment options for Nigerians, a protocol for a patient transport system has been developed for the FCT and to be set up in all states of the federation, meant to smoothly convey patients to specialised treatment centers or between treatment centers. The NAF and NEMA have aircraft on standby for us to move.

“Twenty-seven Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) have been deployed to states by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), to support the COVID-19 response, most recently to Abia, Gombe and Sokoto states.”

He said the government has been working to increase the capacity and activate more laboratories – both public and private – for COVID-19 testing, with the final purpose of having one or more public health laboratories with PCR capability in every state.

Ehanire said: “Citizens are reminded that COVID-19 has a cure rate of over 90 per cent, if those with the typical symptoms report early for testing and treatment or quarantine. It can save you from the severe complications of the infection, or also help to reduce spread and save your loved ones from getting infected by you.

“Those with existing medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, TB, HIV, cancer should take special care, to obey the injunctions for preventing infection.”

On the emergency National Council of Health (NCH) meeting via teleconference, the minister said the council reviewed the status and align all responses to COVID-19 outbreak in the country.