The 11th virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N8.49 billion for the procurement of 12 items for the testing of Coronavirus by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The memo was presented by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on behalf of the centre at the Council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking to State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting alongside ministers of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Environment, Muhammad Mahmood, Ehanire said the procurement was part of the preparedness for community transmission which was going on and had affected over 586 local government areas, adding that the materials were needed to expand testing capacities and diagnostic capabilities.
“We have already made plans to have at least one sample collection centre in every local government, minimum of 774 and these resources will be necessary to go around the 774 local government areas to ensure that persons in rural areas and small towns are not excluded and to ensure that not only the big cities are the ones that are being attended to.”
On why the PTF was reluctant in introducing rapid test kits, which makes results available in minutes as against PCR (polymerise chain reaction) tests, Ehanire said: “It is not that nobody is thinking of rapid diagnostic test, it is being used all over the world even in Nigeria today but the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts have said that this test is not very reliable and that it also delivered a significant number of false positive or negative result. So, if you go to a place where a percentage of test result can give you a wrong result, then you have to be careful. Whereas the PRC test, that is the polymerise chain reaction test is accurate and reliable. So if you want to know how accurate a person is positive, that is the test you ought to do, that is the recommendation of World Health Organisation.”
On the disregard for COVID-19 protocols at the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign flag off in Edo State and the funeral rites of Senator Buruji Kashamu, the health minister said: “There is something the laws says; it says you must hold election at certain time. Nobody was anticipating that COVID-19 will pop up and the dilemma where INEC and the ministry of health face now is not peculiar to Nigeria, there are many other countries that are facing thiskind of problem. Just a few days ago, Belarus held presidential election because their constitution gives them a deadline within which it must be held. Other countries have held elections, some have defied elections depending on how each country assesses its own risk. And in Nigeria where the case infection rate is relatively low compared to other countries which is about two per cent, globally is nearly four per cent and then the weight of distribution of the cases is not even. There are some states that do not have that heavy infection rate and others have high infection rate. So, you have to weigh the benefits if you can manage the risk, because it is the same risk like opening the skies, the borders, going to churches, mosques, markets – there is a lot of risk communications we are dealing with. But there are things that need not be, for example, a football match were people can crowd in the stadium, you can say this one can wait, it is not compulsory. In churches where it is more organised, if it cannot be, then you pray at home. For market, we gave advisory, make sure you put on mask, and ensure it is arranged in a way that you can control the crowd.
“The same advisory is given to politics and in some area, it is difficult like in cases of funerals. We gave the number of people who can attend, or even marriage. So the same advisory is given to all political parties, organisers and we are looking to them for the necessary sense of responsibility to comply. But it is also difficult going by observation for people who are under emotions to actually follow the guidelines and scenes like what you described came up. But in places of worship and other kinds of gatherings, they follow the guidelines. So it is that situation where you are balancing what the constitution says and then start enforcing things that people will read another meaning into.”
Also speaking on the issue, the information minister said: “As a matter fact this matter came up at the last PTF briefing, and the coordinator said that we will continue to advise social distancing in whatever gathering. It has been proven that wearing mask saves many lives and we will continue to harp on it that people should take personal responsibility