The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has raised the alarm over an unhealthy practice of some Nigerians who pick face masks from rubbish dumps and sell them.
The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who raised the alarm at the PTF press briefing in Abuja, warned that such a practice would worsen the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
He also said northern state governments, which had been evacuating the Quranic school pupils, popularly known as Almajirai, to their states of origin should suspend it.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, also at the press briefing, said pathologists from Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina and Kano had been trained, adding that they were investigating deaths in the states.
The task force, shortly after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in his national broadcast on April 27 ordered gradual reopening of the economy, gave guidelines that would assist in flattening the COVID-19 curve in the country.
Among the guidelines are the compulsory use of face masks and maintaining social distance in public places. The government also banned a gathering of over 20 people and interstate movements.
Nigerians picking disposed face masks, PTF raises the alarm
Reviewing Nigerians’ adherence to the guidelines, Mustapha noted that people were still sharing face masks.
He said, “The unhealthy practice of picking disposed masks for whatever purpose is harmful to both the individual picking them and whoever procures them later.
“The PTF has become aware of the ongoing practice of sharing masks and picking of masks for recycling from dump sites. This places a lot of responsibility on all of us to be self-educated and to educate others.
“The following points are emphasised: Except for fabric masks, every disposable used mask is a hazardous medical waste and should be disposed of properly, preferably by burning.
“It is very risky to share masks as the virus is capable of remaining on surfaces for several hours and you could get infected.”
Suspend interstate movements of Almajirai, FG tells govs
The PTF also advised governors to suspend interstate movements of Almajirai so as not to frustrate efforts to combat the pandemic.
Northern Governors’ Forum, in a statement issued after its meeting on April 21 unanimously decided to ban the Almajirai system of education. They decided that the children should be sent back to their parents or states of origin.
States, which have been repatriating the Almajirai back to their states of origin include Kano and Nasarawa.
But some of the children have been diagnosed with COVID-19. For example, On May 2, the Kaduna State Government said 21 out of 61 Almajirai deported to the state from Kano tested positive for the virus.
Besides, some of the children are being hidden in vehicles carrying food and brought to the South, a development southern states have frowned upon.
Expressing concern about the development, the SGF said, “This is not the time for movement of Almajirai because of interstate lockdown. If you say interstate movements are banned, I don’t think that movements of Almajirai are essential movements.”
Mustapha urged state governments to align their actions and enforcement with the guidelines provided by the PTF.
“The virus does not respect boundaries neither does it respect status. All state governments are, therefore, urged to strengthen their monitoring and enforcement machinery in collaboration with the security agencies,” he stated.
You should be ready to go through validation, PTF tells researchers
The SGF urged researchers to come up with home grown drugs and vaccines for the treatment of COVID-19.
He, however, said they must be patient to go through the validation process to establish safety of their drugs and avoid litigation
He said, “Since the recording of the index case, Nigerians have clamoured for research into home grown solutions to COVID-19.
“The PTF, as part of its mandate, has continued to promote research and wishes to repeat its appeal to all our researchers to go through the validation process so as to enable humanity to benefit from their hard work and they in turn benefit from the intellectual property rights associated with such research.”
‘COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready until 2021’
He urged Nigerians to abide by the PTF guidelines to fight the virus.
Mustapha said, “Ordinarily, from the little literature I have read on COVID 19, we are not expecting any vaccine to be on the shelves until towards the end of 2021. That is for industries that have perfected the processes of manufacturing of this vaccine.”
The SGF also challenged the private sector to continue to support government in order to fortify the health system and infrastructure against present and future pandemics.
Responding to a question, the SGF said hotels accommodating Nigerians evacuated from abroad would be decontaminated after 14 days isolation of the returnees before receiving a new batch.
Also, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, lamented that large movements of people across state borders were frustrating efforts aimed at containing the pandemic.
He appealed to security agencies to rise to the challenge and stop the trend, except for essential services.
FG approves hazard allowances for COVID-19 health workers
Also at the press briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the Federal Government had signed a deal approving hazard allowances for health workers involved in the COVID-19 containment.
He said the agreement had been forwarded to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
Ehanire noted that the Nigerian Medical Association and other stakeholders were present at signing of the deal, which had also been forwarded to the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
PTF deploys pathologists to probe strange deaths Bauchi, Jigawa, others
He said the Federal Ministry of Health assembled and trained pathologists from Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina and Kano states who were thereafter sent to probe the strange deaths in the states.
He said, “With regard to the investigation in Kano (deaths), it is going to be a very scientific investigation and they will sit down to collate a report. They are trying to ensure that there is no room for error. I have not seen it yet, but it is in the pipeline.
“I have told the teams to bring pathologists to these states which are reporting these deaths. We have brought pathologists from Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Kano and others to develop a protocol and training by which they can now carry out this investigation.”
He said the ministry had developed a protocol for accreditation of hospitals, adding the protocol had been given to many states.
He also said some hospitals, including private and public facilities, had been accredited to treat the virus.
The minister stated, “The team that was sent to Kano has already been to four other states. The Federal Government and state hospitals; some private hospitals in Lagos, have been accredited by the accreditation team.”
He appealed to each state government to provide at least 300 bed spaces as isolation centres.
Ehanire also spoke about a COVID-19 patient at the National Hospital, Abuja, who allegedly insisted on her tests being conducted by the World Health Organisation officials.
The minister said, “On the lady at the National Hospital whom we have been engaging with. The history is already known that she came from the United Kingdom and has had three tests. She is due for another test, which she has refused to take. We strongly believe that she is by now negative but we have to be able to document it because we also work with guidelines released from the WHO.
“So, I called her on the phone and persuaded her to let them take the test. First, she gave me conditions that they (officials) must give her all her tests from the past. I gave an instruction and they took all her results, photocopies and gave them to her.”
Bar northern govs from deporting Almajirai, Reps tell FG
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to stop northern governors from deporting Almajirai from their states.
The House made the call at the plenary on Tuesday following the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Mrs Aishatu Dukku and Mr Shehu Kakale on the need to halt interstate movement of Almajirai.
Adopting the motion, the House resolved to “urge the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to enforce the interstate travel ban order (by the President) and direct the governors concerned to immediately halt the evacuation of the Almajirai.”
The House also urged the National Centre for Disease Control to “counsel the governors concerned on the threat posed by the evacuation of the children at this critical period.”
The legislative chamber further urged the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management to “include the Almajirai children among the beneficiaries of palliatives being distributed by the Federal Government to the less-privileged.”
Also, the House urged the Federal Ministry of Health to examine the health condition of the Almajirai children.
It urged the Northern Governors’ Forum to “rescind their decision on banning the system of education until those already in the system are provided for in the Universal Basic and Technical Education System.”
Moving the motion, Dukku recalled that governors, under the aegis of the Northern Governors’ Forum, had on April 21, 2020, issued a statement where they unanimously decided to ban the Almajirai system.
Dukku said, “The House is worried that the evacuation of the Almajirai is jeopardising the fight against COVID-19 due to the high level of movement of the children from different places and its attendant high risk of infection. The House is concerned that the evacuation of the children is against their fundamental human rights of residing anywhere in Nigeria as guaranteed in Chapter IV of the Constitution.”