Remarks by the SGF at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) National Briefing on COVID-19 for 28th May, 2020.

OSGF at PTF on COVID 19 Briefing

I welcome you to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Thursday, 28th May, 2020.

2.In almost all of our briefings and communications, the PTF had made the need for a drastic change in our life style and behavior, a consequence of the COVID-19. This advisory is based on the fact that the battle is long term and the cure is still in the distant future, nearest being towards the end of 2021. We continue to urge our citizens to follow these advisories diligently.

3. This point is further underscored by the statistics coming from other parts of the world. A look at the global numbers showed that the world has recorded 5,778,551 cases and 356,722 deaths reporting from 251 countries.

4.Of particular note is the fact that a major nation reached the landmark of crossing beyond the 100,000 deaths in a system where the health care system is regarded as advanced.

5.Similarly, of note is the shift in the epi-center from Europe and the United States of America to South America, particularly, Brazil. The significance of the Brazil case resides in the similarities between Africa and South America which calls for caution.

6.The PTF therefore wishes to underscore the need to press further in the development of our infrastructure, intensify our non-pharmaceutical response, the need for our citizens to comply more and for our communities to get more involved. We say again, we cannot afford to be complacent, continue as if we are not under threat, doubt the virulent nature of COVID-19 and continue to allow the virus to ravage our communities because we are fully in the community phase of the spread.

7.Yesterday we informed you during the briefing that the Federal Ministry of Health held a virtual conference with the Traditional Medicine Practitioners of Nigeria. We also informed you that issues discussed covered intellectual property rights protection, need for Non-Disclosure Agreements and the funding opportunities for research and validation processes.

8.Unfortunately, the information put out in the media regarding shortlisting three (3) remedies from the Traditional Medicine Practitioners is totally misleading. For the avoidance of doubts, neither the PTF nor the Federal Ministry of Health has shortlisted any remedies. This can only be done after diligent processes and as may be advised by the relevant agencies.

9.The PTF has received rather sadly, reports of continued refusal by medical institutions to receive and treat patients for fear COVID-19. This has resulted in several unfortunate and avoidable fatalities and statistics has shown that there is a drastic drop in the percentage of attention being paid to other ailments not related to COVID-19. This situation is made worse by the fact that federal tertiary institutions have been mentioned among those rejecting patients for fear of COVID. This is not acceptable. We are saddened by this development.

10. The Minister of Health has reached out at to all Medical Directors directing them to continue providing regular medical services so that we do not end up with avoidable deaths. Truth be told, we are having more deaths from non-attendance to other diseases than even COVID-19. The reason for the greater emphasis on COVID-19 is because it is a pandemic and if not curtailed, has a capacity of wiping out large segments of our population.

11.The PTF also urge all the Chief Medical Directors and private health service providers to attend to other health challenges, which continue to confront our people on a daily basis. Of course, the guidelines for dealing with patients presenting COVID-19-like symptoms are available and if these are applied by our medical service providers, there would be lesser risks of exposure to the virus.

12.Within the next seventy-two hours, the PTF will conclude its assessment on the impact of the measures put in place and further recommendations would be submitted to the President for a decision.

13.While we take necessary steps, the PTF would continue to appeal to Nigerians on the need to take this fight with utmost diligence. It is for self, it is for your family and it is for the whole community. On our part, we are sparing no effort at coordinating the National response, collaborating with all necessary stakeholders and supporting sub-national entities in their individual state responses, which we always maintain, should be in synergy with the National Response.

14.Today, the PTF expanded the scope of collaboration and experience sharing to the ECOWAS Region. This is in keeping with the role of Mr. President as the ECOWAS COVID-19 Champion. This interface through the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), will be deepened as part of the short, medium and long-term objectives for controlling the pandemic. The essence of this regional effort is underscored by the huge population of Nigeria and the trade activities across the borders.

15.I now call on the Hon. Minister(s) of Health, the DG NCDC and the National Coordinator to update the nation.

16.I thank you all for your kind attention.