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FG releases N386m to fight coronavirus

The federal government has released N386m to forestall unforeseen outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 virus, hitherto known as coronavirus.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) received a sum of N315m while N71m was released to the port health services division of the ministry for improved surveillance at the ports of entry.

Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Abdullahi Mashi, disclosed these on Friday during a media parley in Abuja.

According to him: “Intervention requests were made to the Presidency and because of the level of emergency, the Ministry of Finance consented to the request. I can confirm to you that N71m was released to the port health services division of the ministry. Also, NCDC have been given N315m. Another request is still in the pipeline”.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, submitted a memo to the Presidency about two weeks ago requesting for N620m to strengthen preparedness and interventions for proactive measures to prevent the importation of the coronavirus virus to the country.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Mamora, told reporters: “The COVID-19, which is a serious public health emergency of international concern, has a total number of confirmed cases globally of 75,748, with 2,129 deaths.

“Eight deaths are outside China – three in Japan, one in France, one in Philippines, two in Iran, one in Korea. The case fatality ratio (CFR) is 2.4 percent”.

Concerning the confirmed case of coronavirus in Egypt, the Minister said: “We know that a case was discovered in Egypt, which was the first in Africa and the patient is a foreigner.

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“It raised an alarm and we know that coronavirus is known for high index of suspicion, based on travel history when you don’t have case definition apparent in the patient.

“I’m not saying the case in Egypt was false positive or false negative but we will need authorities to give us relevant and information. All we know is that we were told that one case was discovered and was asymptomatic as at the time the test was carried out just based on the travel history. It came out positive then, and then, along the line, it was tested and was negative. I am sure the NCDC will be working to get the accurate information.

“As at now, there hasn’t been any other report or confirmed case in the whole of Africa, and Nigeria in particular, don’t have any case. Clinicians are being trained in the management of cases.

“Nigeria is developing a stockpile of medical supplies to be used in the event of any outbreak. Our capacity for testing in Nigeria has been enhanced as we have three laboratories currently – National Reference Laboratory in Abuja, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo state”.

Concerning latest report on Lassa fever, Mamora, said: “Between the 1st of January and 16th of February, we have had 586 confirmed cases and 103 deaths from 26 states.

“Edo state has the highest burden of confirmed cases of Lassa fever at 35 percent, followed by Ondo at 32 percent, and Ebonyi at 6 percent. The case fatality rate (CFR) is 17.6 percent.

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“There are five laboratories with capacity to test for Lassa fever within 24 hours’ turnaround time. We encourage our people to maintain good environmental and person hygiene.

“We are also aware of the case of unidentified killer disease in Benue. So far, what we have established is that it is more likely to be due to poisoning as a result of harmful practice of pouring Gamalin into a body of water with the view to killing fish, and people now eat the same fish.

“There is also the issue of the presence of high gathering of lead; so lead poisoning is also suspected as one of the factors in that outbreak in Benue. Also, samples have been taken and are undergoing analysis through NAFDAC and other labs”.

He advised that people should boil water before drinking and stop fetching water from places that have been established to be potential sources of the poisoning.

On reports that chloroquine is the preferred treatment for the COVID-19, a representative of the NCDC, said: “For chloroquine, it is still work in progress as a lot of research is going on.

“In China, they are having preliminary phased clinical trials using chloroquine and hydroxyl-chloroquine. They have enrolled about one hundred patients, and have administered chloroquine to them. It was found that the chloroquine-phosphate was superior to the controlled treatment in inhibiting the interpretation of the pneumonia that the patient had and improving lung imaging.

“By the time they did X-ray, they discovered that those on chloroquine had better lung imaging with findings than those on the controlled therapy, and that there was promotion of the virus negative conversion rate. These are still early findings that needs to be validated with more trials before we can say chloroquine is the treatment of choice. There are other treatment regimens that are being considered”.

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