FG Can’t Cope with Increasing Coronavirus Cases – Minister

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said the Federal Ministry of Health has shortlisted for further investigations, three Nigerian drugs, which have the potential to cure COVID-19 or treat its symptoms.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed this on Wednesday at the PTF press conference in Abuja, where the ministry of health warned that Nigeria’s health system could not cope with increasing COVID-19 cases.

But Mustapha said three shortlisted drugs would be subjected to further investigations by relevant health agencies.

It was reported that the Federal Ministry of Health was screening 19 local firms for production of herbal drugs that could possibly treat or cure COVID-19.

The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, who confirmed the screening, said the companies had been asked to submit samples of their drugs.

At the PTF press briefing on Wednesday, Mustapha disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health had held a virtual meeting with some researchers and scientists who had made claims about COVID-19 cure and shortlisted three for further research.

He stated, “As a measure of the importance attached to research and development of local capacity for finding a cure to the COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Health held a virtual meeting with a number of researchers and scientists with claims to cure for COVID 19 and out of the numerous claimants, three were found to deserve further investigation and have been forwarded to the relevant authorities for appropriate review.

“Similarly, efforts are being made by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to subject some locally manufactured COVID-19 equipment to verification and subsequent certification.”

The task force also backed the decision of the World Health Organisation to suspend clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of the novel coronavirus.

The PTF Chairman, Mustapha, therefore cautioned the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and other relevant agencies to ensure that all claims to treatment by scientists and researchers were subjected to scientific certification protocols.

The WHO had on Monday suspended the hydroxychloroquine trials because of the high mortalities among patients the drug was administered on.

On Tuesday, NAFDAC Director General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, said the agency would go ahead with the trial on the grounds that it had been effective in the treatment of COVID- 19 patients, especially those at the mild stage of the virus.

PTF advises NAFDAC, others on chloroquine

But Boss Mustapha urged NAFDAC to subject all claims to scientific investigations.

He said, “In our briefing of Thursday May 21, the PTF categorically advised Nigerians against self-medication in treating COVID -19. Particularly, the use of hydroxychloroquine, was discouraged because it had not been certified for use in treating COVID-19.

“We have read in the media about the side effects of the use of this drug from COVID-19 patients that survived as well as those who took it outside clinical supervision.

“The World Health Organisation has temporarily suspended all clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19. This advice was informed by a study which identified that the use of hydroxychloroquine, either alone or with other drugs, has been responsible for a high number of deaths.

“This precautionary measure by the WHO underscores the importance of not only seeking expert medical advice but also ensuring that all claims to treatment by scientists and researchers, whether conventional or traditional, should be subjected to scientific certification protocols by NAFDAC and other relevant institutions so as to guarantee the efficacy of the discovery.”

The PTF also said a protocol had been developed to give community members greater involvement and ownership in identifying and supporting the case management process.

Mustapha said the details would be unfolded in the coming days.

The SGF said allowances of security agents and frontline medical workers would be paid as soon as the National Assembly approved the 2020 Budget Appropriation (Amendment) Bill.

He said, “You are aware that the National Assembly is cutting short its recess to reconvene tomorrow to consider the adjustment to the 2020 budget. You don’t begin to apply certain amount of money…you wait for approvals.

“I believe by the time the leadership of the National Assembly considers the adjustment which has become of necessity because of the economic impact of COVID-19, I can assure everybody will be paid the stipends they are entitled to.”

Responding to a question, the SGF said on March 11, the Minister of Agriculture presented a memo of N13.9 bn to the Federal Executive Council for monitoring and surveillance, and control of trans-boundary movement of animals pests and diseases, and rehabilitation of major abattoirs.

He said, “It is very true, we are expecting an invasion of locust, particularly, in the northern part of the country.”

COVID-19: FG suspends evacuation of stranded Nigerians

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has suspended further evacuation of Nigerians stranded abroad pending when a new protocol already designed for that purpose will start.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, announced this during at the task force press conference.

Onyeama said the new arrangement would require citizens returning from overseas to be tested before their flights back home.

The minister said, “Now, there is going to be a change in that protocol and that is going to affect the timing of any further evacuation that we are going to undertake.

“So, anybody that is going to be evacuated will, first of all, undergo a test from the country they are leaving from, at least five days before travel and not later than nine days before travel.

“That would be a pre-condition for boarding a flight to Nigeria; so a pre-flight test and if it’s positive, of course, they would not be able to get on the flight; if they are negative, they can get on the flight.”

Onyeama said after the tests abroad, those who tested positive would be required to stay back for treatment, noting that only individuals who returned negative would be allowed to board the flight.

According to him, the samples of the returnees would be taken on arrival in the country and their passports confiscated, adding that they would go on self-isolation in their homes.

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