The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said this on Monday in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
According to Ehanire, as at August 10, 2020, Nigeria has recorded 46,577 cases from 317,496 samples tested so far, while 33,186 persons have been treated and discharged.
He said that 945 persons have been lost to the COVID-19 disease, which had now been identified in 549 of the 774 local government areas.
“Half of all cases in Nigeria so far are concentrated in 20 Local Government areas, which could offer the attractive option of targeted attention, to focus on case finding, isolation and treatment.
“The figures show that Nigeria is also sadly approaching the symbolic 1,000 number of fatalities, a grim reality that should be a wake up call for us,” he said.
The minister said that many more Nigerians today personally knew a person who succumbed to COVID-19, warning that COVID-19 was still around and would be for a long time.
He said, “until there is vaccine, the only options we have to protect ourselves, are still the non-pharmaceutical measures that are proven to be cheap and effective, such as the appropriate use of face masks, physical distancing and avoiding crowds.
”If we do not adhere, there could be regrets.
“The urgency is accentuated by the need to prepare for societal changes that will arise as the economy reopens with increased transportation, trade and human interaction, including possible reopening of air travel.”
Ehanire, however, said that there must be effort to balance the benefits of a reactivated economy with the need to keep the citizens safe, with no loss in gains so far made.
He said that since Friday, August 7, Nigeria had joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Mask Week, the aimed of which was to reinforce the importance of wearing masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in the absence of a vaccine.
“Our focus is still to reduce fatality to less than one per cent, not only with preventive measures, but also with a strategy that encourages citizens to report early for treatment and for hospitals to attend to all patients in distress; most importantly to be able to provide oxygen treatment.”
Ehanire said that the main COVID-19 symptoms include breathlessness, which responds well to oxygen supplementation as first measure.
He noted that the government was turning its preferences to gadgets that provide oxygen, like oxygen generators to be in many facilities, including General hospitals and larger Primary Health Centres (PHCs).
He stated that solar powered aggregates, where available, would be prioritized.
He added that Federal Health Institutions with oxygen plants should activate them as a matter of priority and ensure their delivery to their Accident & Emergency (A&E) Departments.
According to him, the other measure is the activation of ambulance service to move patients to treatment centres.
”This strategy worked well in Kano and all states should prepare to set up the system.”
The minister also disclosed that the National Council on Health (NCH), which is the highest policy making body on matters relating to health in Nigeria, held a virtual Emergency Meeting on Thursday, August 6.
He said the meeting approved the revised Guidelines for the Administration, Disbursement and Monitoring of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF), also called the BHCPF Guidelines 2020.
According to him, with this document, implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, which was suspended in January, to correct anomalies in the 2018 Operations Manual, has resumed.
Ehanire said that the process of disbursement of fund had now started, right on time to support the much needed state efforts in the COVID-19 response.
“The new BHCPF has much better country ownership structure, offers a much improved benefit package and more robust fiduciary control for transparency and accountability.
”Development Partners are invited to support the new revitalization plan in whatever manner they desire,” he said.
He said that the NCH also approved the establishment of the National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System (NEMSAS), which is an innovative system to pool the assets of public and private sector ambulances and hospitals.
The minister explained that the pooled assets were ”to raise funds to augment government seed money, and to work with states to provide emergency medical care and patient transportation to all citizens whenever and wherever it is required and irrespective of immediate or potential ability to pay.”