Nigeria to convert hotels, schools to isolate COVID-19 patients

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The Federal Government has called on hotels and schools to get ready to be used for isolating COVID-19 patients in the event of the overflow of hospitals.

Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire stated this at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday.

According to him, there have been complaints of inadequate bed spaces, especially in Lagos, which has 4,012 patients, the highest in Nigeria.

This is even as he said Nigeria has confirmed a total of 8,733 COVID-19 patients, assuring that the situation in Nigeria would not ‘experience horrific scenes of bed space shortages seen in some European hospitals.

‘We are, not surprisingly, worried about the increasing number of COVID-19 confirmed cases; first because every life matters, but also because of the capacity of our health system to cope,’ he said.

‘Nigeria presently has over 112 treatment and isolation centres in the 35 states and FCT with over 5,000 beds, but not all states have made it up to at least 300 beds prescribed for isolation and treatment.

‘I had the privilege of commissioning one such centre yesterday, a re-purposed hospital in Benin City, Edo State, with 300 beds, including ICU and an Edo State-owned PCR testing laboratory. We need to continue increasing bed capacity to match the probable number of patients so that we do not experience horrific scenes of bed space shortages seen in some European hospitals.

‘In event of overflow, we can require hotels and school dormitories to be prepared for level 1 (Quarantine) and level 2 Isolation (of COVID-19 positive with zero or mild symptoms), to free hospital beds to be dedicated to level 3, (moderate to severe cases) and level 4, (high dependency and Intensive care unit). I, therefore, call on activists and philanthropists to work with State governments in concerted steps to scale up non-pharmaceutical measures and beef up infrastructural assets for isolation and treatment in their states.

‘Though we are in the community transmission phase of response, easing social restrictions is desirable, but only if we can meet up with expectations that will not allow a spike in infection rates. This is what has led certain countries to reintroduce lockdowns. We are reviewing health sector specific advisories on re-opening the economy.

‘In event of overflow, we can require hotels and school dormitories to be prepared for level 1 (Quarantine) and level 2 Isolation (of COVID-19 positive with zero or mild symptoms), to free hospital beds to be dedicated to level 3, (moderate to severe cases) and level 4, (high dependency and Intensive care unit).’

Ehanire also stressed the importance of using masks outside our homes and social distance.

On mortality rate, he said: ‘It is too early for us to generalise about mortality rates. But people with preexisting conditions are more vulnerable and need to better protect themselves.’

He assured: ‘We shall continue to engage our traditional, business, religious, and community leaders.’

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said there are currently no valid rapid test kits for COVID-19.

It said some of these rapid test kits are only right 50 per cent of the time.

NCDC DG Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who made the disclosure, assured that the centre is working very hard to increase the country’s Polymerase chain reaction(PCR) capacity for testing across the country.

Dr Ihekweazu also advised that as organizations and businesses open up, the focus should be on prevention not testing their staff.

Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, on his part, said his ministry has produced over 25 radio and TV jingles to create awareness on COVID-19.

PTF National Coordinator Dr Sani Aliyu said the Federal Government will continue to provide an enabling environment to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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