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COVID-19: Nigeria to build screening, isolation centres near border entry points

By Raphael Izokpu

…NCDC now mandated to test 4,000 per day for covid-19

… appealed to banks to provide skeletal services

Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force Force (PTF) on Coronavirus (COVID-19) says that it plans to build isolation centres near the border entry points towards screening Nigerians and other national entering the country.

They are to be isolated for 14 days under Government supervision if they test positive for Coronavirus or any other contagious diseases. 

The Task Force also said that it has received a new mandate from President Muhammadu Buhari to conduct 4,000 tests per day.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said at the 11th joint briefing of the PTF on COVID-19 on Tuesday said that there are plans to build isolation points near the border entry points. 

According to him, “there are Nigerians coming by road who have to be allowed in. The protocol is to screen them and isolate them for 14 days under Government supervision.”

Dr Ehanire also disclosed that the United Nations medical equipment and supplies, including 50 ventilators with $2 million have arrived the country.

According to him: “They are being moved from Lagos to Abuja today. We will mobilize critical care doctors to every State to help set up ICUs and operate these ventilators.”

Director-General of National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that it will henceforth increase testing in Lagos State to 2,000 per day, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 1,000 and the rest of the country 1,000 per day.

But Dr Iheakweazu said that despite having 11 treating centers currently, the laboratories were being underutilized.

According to him, “we now have the capacity to test 1,500 people per day across the network. This capacity is not being fully utilized at the moment. The challenge right now is not the laboratory testing capacity. It is how active our public workforce is in identifying samples, collecting and sending them for testing.

“We have sufficient capacity to test 1,500 right now and we are not close to exhausting that capacity every day. But from today, we have to push even harder. Our target following Mr. President’s speech is to get 2,000 samples per day in Lagos, 1,000 in Abuja and 1,000 for the rest of the country.

“These are targets we have agreed and we will push up. If we don’t create more light into what we are doing, we don’t really understand where we are. The challenge is no longer with the laboratories. The challenge is in collecting samples from those identified as suspect cases.”

On how long it takes to complete a COVID19 test in the country, the NCDC boss said that “it takes 12 hours to report on negative case, longer for positive cases because we have to do repeat tests to confirm. So, on the whole, 12-24 hours from sample arrival at Labs, to result readiness.”

Ihekweazu also noted that goal of the lockdown is not to completely stop the outbreak saying “that’ll be difficult but instead to show that we can maintain sufficient levels of public health response within the context of a slowly-calibrated reopening of the economy. We now have two weeks to prove this.

The Presidential Task Force also appealed to banks to continue to give skeletal services to Nigerians as the government battles to flatten the curve of the disease.

National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said that “when we implemented the cessation of movement policy two weeks ago, we did make an exemption for banks to be allowed to engage in skeletal services and following that, the financial authorities released additional guidelines to the banks.

“We are appealing to the banks please continue to provide financial services, especially the availability of cash at the ATM and skeletal services within the banking halls. What is important for us is for banks to comply with our advice in terms of reducing mass gatherings, having hands disinfectants at the entrance point, monitoring of temperature and making sure that they observe the physical distancing measures that we have advised.”

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, explained that the lockdown extension for another two weeks in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states is because it is tied to the survival of the nation.

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