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COVID-19: Intra-state travel aiding community transmission – FG

…says stigmatisation of patients affecting war against virus

COVID-19: Intra-state travel aiding community transmission – FG

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday expressed concern that despite the presidential lockdown order in some states and the directives of some state governors restricting movements, intra-state travels have continued, aiding community transmission of coronavirus.

“We have noticed that community spread of the virus is now being traced to people embarking on intra-state travel. We need to try and restrict our movement in order to stop the spread of the virus,” Sani Aliyu, national coordinator of the Presidential Task Force, said during the daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in Abuja.

Nigeria has recorded 407 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as at 6:00pm on Thursday, April 16. 128 patients have been discharged while with 12 deaths have been recorded.

Aliyu emphasised that restriction of intra-state travel has become more important than ever with the news of people being smuggled within and out of Lagos, saying it was hampering the efforts being made to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Tracking COVID-19 in Nigeria

Total Coronavirus Cases, Apr 16442
Total Coronavirus Deaths, Apr 1613
Year-to-Date change in NSE ASI-16
Balance in Excess Crude Account, Dec 2019 (million)$70
Brent Crude ($ per barrel)28

He stressed the need for donors to adhere to the protocols of health and safety as they distribute palliatives in the local communities, saying there was need to conform to physical distancing while distributing such relief materials.

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“It is a serious public safety concern when donors don’t adhere to safety and health protocols. I enjoin donors to ensure that the physical guidance restrictions we have are abided by,” Aliyu stressed.

He said donors should liaise with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure that donations are relevant to what is needed to fight the pandemic.

Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) and chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, in his opening remarks during the briefing, warned against violation of the restriction-of-movement order imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari on the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States, stressing that it was made to save the lives of Nigerians from the rampaging coronavirus.

Emphasising that Nigeria is in a state of war against an invisible enemy, Mustapha said “compliance with the advisories for personal hygiene, social distancing, restriction of movement, early reporting of symptoms and wearing of masks regularly, especially in public, remain the best measures for the prevention of infections and to slow down the spread”.

“Let me also advise that whenever you are outside the confines of your homes, make sure it is for very legitimate reasons covered by the exemption or within the hours relaxed for the purchase of basic items. Similarly, you should carry with you a valid means of identification,” he said.

Mustapha said that the government would continue to monitor developments around the country and provide guidance to sub-national entities and all Nigerians on measures to take to strengthen their systems and to minimise the risk of infection.

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“The PTF continues to count on the collective cooperation of all Nigerians in our effort to contain the spread of this deadly virus,” he said.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), expressed deep concern over the stigmatisation of people infected with COVID-19 or who have undergone test, saying it could weaken the fight against the pandemic.

He said the fear of being stigmatised by their fellow Nigerians has caused some contacts to go into hiding, rather than avail themselves for testing, isolation and treatment.

The DG said even as government has made progress in scaling up the testing capacity among other measures, stigmatisation would cause all efforts to be counter-productive and have a profound impact on the strategy being deployed to tackle the disease.

The consequence of stigmatisation, he said, is that people who have this virus would go underground and end up infecting others, stalling fight against the virus.

“Stigmatisation is preventing our work from happening, because some contacts are hiding. If we stigmatise, it will disrupt our work. People will go underground, infect others and the cycle will continue,” Ihekweazu said.

He, therefore, urged Nigerians to desist form stigmatising people who are infected with the virus or who have been tested.

“This infection is just a virus, it does not get to you because you are bad or an elite. The infected people have families, they need to be respected, because the problem can also affect their mental well-being,” he said.

“We need to support and encourage those infected, show love to them and re-integrate them into the society. We should allow our humanity come through for us,” he further said.

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Ihekweazu announced that there are plans to enforce the use of face masks in crowded places, such as markets, to prevent spread of the disease.

Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, also urged Nigerians not to stigmatise people who have recovered or barely went for testing.

He said government is working to significantly increase Nigeria’s testing capacity this week, informing that there are now 13 laboratories in the country with capacity to test while more laboratories are on the way.

He urged states to engage with private sector to improve their capacity to test.
The minister also urged all who test positive for the virus to ensure that they go to an accredited centre.