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PTF warns against Hydrxoychloroquine purchase, NCDC urges more tests

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has warned against large purchase of Hydrxoychloroquine to treat the novel Coronavirus, saying the drug had not been certified for use.

Boss Mustapha
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha

Mr Mustapha Boss, the Chairman of PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said this at the PTF COVID-19 daily press briefing on Thursday, May 21, 2020 in Abuja.

He said through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, it had received reports that Nigerians had been purchasing Hydrxoychloroquine in large quantities to treat the virus.

“We wish to reiterate that this drug has not being certified for use in treating COVID-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities.“Self-medication of any kind is fraught with the danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties. We therefore strongly warn against self-medication,” he said.

According to him, “if you are sick, please seek medical advice and if you are confirmed positive, kindly self-isolate in an approved facility, the COVID-19 is highly infectious and dangerous”.

He stated that the PTF had continued to receive support, donation of equipment and solidarity messages from professional organisations.He acknowledged the support of Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) and the Chemical Society of Nigeria (CSN).

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Others were the NNPC and its partner, Messrs OCEA S.A, through its Nigerian representative, Mystrose Defense Systems Ltd.

Mustapha said May 20th served as a reminder to the world about the severity of the COVID-19 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) reminded the world that there was still a long way to go in fighting the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on state governments to intensify efforts to ramp up sample collection and testing for COVID-19.

Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the submission on Thursday in Abuja, against the backdrop of the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ihekweazu said that no matter how intensive the states’ preventive measures were, success in controlling the outbreak could not be assessed without estimating the actual burden of the disease, through testing.

“No matter how intensive preventive measures are, there’s no way to assess states’ success or failure in managing COVID-19 without conducting more tests to estimate the burden of the disease,” he said.

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Ihekweazu said that testing is critical to the national response,  adding “we will continue to scale up capacity.

“Our goal is to limit transmission”.

The director-general also stressed the need for Nigerians to support the public health response to COVID-19 by taking responsibility to limit transmission.

He noted that the health agency would continue to build up its testing capacity across the country.

Speaking on the pooling strategy for testing adopted by some countries, including Ghana, Ihekweazu said that Nigeria is implementing a testing strategy best suited for the country’s realities and needs.

He added that the frontline laboratory scientists were doing their best under the critical circumstances.

“We will continue to scale up our testing capacity. We are testing every sample we get daily.

“In terms of laboratory capacity, we are ready to do more,” Ihekweazu said.

The Pooling Testing is a method of testing samples from multiple patients with a single Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, and it was used previously in the early stages of the HIV epidemic when PCR costs were high.

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Meanwhile, Ihekweazu explained that COVID-19 patients caught dancing in a video, which has gone viral, were kept at the isolation centres so as not to spread the virus.

Ihekweazu said that it was wrong for Nigerians to make false assumptions about the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria based on the videos on social media.

The director-general assured that NCDC would continue to adapt its strategy as knowledge about the virus evolves.

He stated that the discharge criteria for any COVID-19 patient at the moment was a single negative COVID-19 test.

Ihekweazu also explained that the average duration of hospitalisation for COVID-19 patients is 11 days.

He said that government decided to do this due to limitations in bed spaces.

“Some people recover faster than others based on certain factors such as the strengths of their immune system.

“Full reopening of the economy will require the sacrifice of all Nigerians in taking responsibility and adhering to recommended measures,” he said. 

By Femi Ogunshola and Abujah Racheal

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