The federal government has said with its new testing capacity for COVID-19, it is targeting, at least, some two million tests by the end of June. Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed.
Mustapha said contrary to insinuations doing the rounds about another lockdown, the federal government was only contemplating “isolated lockdowns” in troubled parts of the country.
This was as President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday in Abuja, received the Malagasy native formulation against the COVID-19 pandemic, a supply delivered by the President of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, at the State House.
The President however stated that he would follow the advice of the scientific community. Meanwhile, NCDC announced 176 new positive cases late yesterday night, raising the tall to a total of 5,621 confirmed positive cases in the country. Those discharged stood at 1,472 while number of deaths rose to 176. Lagos recorded the highest number of new cases with 95, followed by Oyo state with 31, FCT 11, Niger State 8 etc.
In a related development, the Sierra Leonean government appointed a Nigerian medical practitioner in the country, Dr. Laoluwa Adejayan, as head of that country’s COVID-19 taskforce.
In Lagos State, health workers, at the weekend, delivered one of the COVID-19 patients of a baby boy through caesarean section at the Gbagada Isolation Centre. And the state discharged 67 more patients from four of its isolation centres after they tested negative at two consecutive times for the coronavirus.
Bayelsa State also discharged two recovered patients, leaving the state with one active case. Speaking on measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Mustapha flatly dismissed the possibility of another nationwide lockdown.
He said the idea was no longer expedient in view of some of the latest developments. But he said some cluster areas in certain parts of the country would be closely monitored for possible intervention as might be deemed necessary and advised by experts.
The SGF said with the aid of development partners, the country’s testing capacity had gone up significantly, with Nigeria projecting to test at least two million people by the end of next month.
Mustapha had on Tuesday inaugurated a 250-bed COVID-19 Treatment Centre, donated by THISDAY Media and Technology Group, being the company’s contribution to the fight against the spread of the pandemic.
The treatment centre, which is situated at the THISDAY Dome, Abuja, is co-powered by Sahara Group and supported by Coalition Against COVID-19 (CA-COVID), AFC and CCECC. Other donors include Egbin Plc, the Wood Factory, the regent Schools, Ebewele Brown Bespoke and Syari Clothier, Mama Cass, Traffic CLO, Urban Cuisine, Phase 3 Telecoms and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), with the express backing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Ministry of Health, and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Designed to do 200 tests a day, which could be scaled up to 400 and subsequently 1000, as required, the treatment centre has been further enhanced with a 54 gene molecular mobile laboratory, in addition to some 10,000 reagents and requisite kits.
It was in view of this initiative and similar supports from far and near that Mustapha expressed the confidence that the country would hit a two million testing mark by the end of June.
The SGF said the ramped up testing would help to guide the medical experts on the way forward, since the figures would enhance planning as well as response to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Further addressing the swirling speculations that another lockdown might be imminent given the general state of response to the pandemic, Mustapha said such a decision was not on the cards yet, especially given that enforcement had not been as impressive as envisaged in the overall plan against the spread of the virus.
He was, however, sure there might be isolated lockdowns in some parts of the country, which might not affect the entire states in question but the affected portions of the states for ease of administration, enforcement and monitoring. This, he said, would be worked out with the states in question with a view to ensuring that the rest of the country was not put at risk, citing the federal government’s intervention in Kano State as an example of how the isolated lockdown as well as the involvement of the federal government might look.
He noted that the federal government was closely monitoring the situation reports across the country to be able to ascertain when and where to come in, mentioning specifically the climbing numbers in Lagos, which he said was being religiously monitored.
Receiving the Madagascan native formulation from President Embalo, who had brought along with him samples of the traditional medicine as distributed to other African nations by Madagascar, Buhari said it would not be administered until scientifically proven. He said he would not allow administration of any new medicines on Nigerians until it had gone through necessary trial.
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, Buhari insisted that his position on all herbal or traditional medicines remained the same, pointing out that only the medicines’ approval by Nigeria’s relevant institutions would determine its use in the country.
“We have our institutions, systems and processes in the country. Any such formulations should be sent to them for verification. I will not put it to use without the endorsement of our institutions,” he said.
The statement quoted the Guinea Bissau’s President as saying he had also visited Buhari to seek his fatherly counsel on his plan to constitute a “government of national unity” as well as his administration’s proposed war against corruption.
Embalo, the statement noted, told Buhari that having stabilised his country after the tussles, which accompanied the general election that produced him, obtaining Buhari’s counsel on the above moves had become important.
Embalo was also said to have told Buhari that his new government met a number of challenges, which he said would require the tremendous assistance of “big brother” Nigeria to address.
“Problems of Guinea Bissau are problems of Nigeria. I have come to you as your son. I need your help and assistance to make the people happy. I will not let you down, neither will I put you in any difficult situation,” he was quoted as saying
Buhari, while responding to Embalo’s submissions, commended him on his ascension as his country’s president and his efforts to stabilise the country.
He told the visiting president, “I commend your political dexterity in getting the opposition to join the proposed unity government.” He reiterated Nigeria’s determination to keep West Africa politically stable and promised to support the new government in Guinea Bissau.
“I will cooperate and help in every way possible,” Buhari assured his guest.
The Nigerian president also used the opportunity of Embalo’s visit to commend “the good work” of the President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou, as the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in the sub-region, particularly for keeping him informed about events in the region.