The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chike Ihekweazu, has said that the curfew imposed by state governments to halt the looting of warehouses and destruction of property have slowed down testing for COVID-19.
He said posting of results on the centre’s social media handles was halted out of respect for those who lost their lives as a result of the incidents of the past days.
Speaking at a media briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday, Ihekweazu said the nation must be careful about the expected spike in COVID-19 cases on account of the nationwide street protests.
He said, “Forty to 60 per cent of our testing cases are reported from Lagos. Our labs in Lagos have not been able to perform as they normally would for the past two to three weeks.
“As we move into the next two weeks, it will not take a rocket scientist to know that we have to watch the numbers very carefully.
“The reasons are obvious; we have gathered in our masses for whatever reason and for now, we have to keep our eyes open for the potential consequences. Those consequences are not inevitable; we can still do our part to prevent them.”
Encouraging Nigerians against despondency, the DG said, “We cannot let down our guards; we cannot afford to add this to the many challenges that we have. Many states have done well by raising their testing capacity. So, we must stay on the ball.”
Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has condemned the ongoing nationwide looting of warehouses, where COVID-19 palliatives are stored.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, cautioned Nigerians against further looting of the items, noting that their distribution to households were being done in phases.
He said, “We also understand that palliatives need to be distributed with the greatest urgency so that millions of struggling Nigerians can receive the economic support.”
Aliyu noted that CACOVID had not only supported the country with the provision of PPEs and test kits, but also technical supports, including Nigeria’s international travel portal for passengers coming into the country.
He also noted that the body had been working with states and the Federal Capital Territory under the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to procure, deliver and distribute palliatives to 1.7 million Nigerians and the most vulnerable households across the 774,000 local government areas and 36 states of the federation, including the FCT.
Aliyu recalled that the partnership between PTF and CACOVID started in April, noting that the food programme was meant to be delivered “in a staggered and controlled manner.”
He said, Only the Lagos warehouse is a private property; the rest of the warehouses have been state warehouses.
PFT coordinator said, “Out of the 11.7 million supplies ordered, 11 million were confirmed to have been delivered. In terms of the schedule, 17 states had 100 per cent delivery and a kick-off was conducted. Twelve states had over 85 per cent of delivery.
“Only eight states did not have a flag-off or formal handover of these commodities. Of the eight states, two had 100 per cent of deliveries and the process for a kick-off is currently in place. The remaining six states had 68 per cent of deliveries reached.
“Since the relief efforts began with CACOVID and the state governments in early August, official flagging-off and handover of the palliatives have taken place in 28 states and the FCT, and these states have been distributing food at various stages.”
“It is also important to clarify that some of these states must have actually bought their own palliatives that they are distributing. Some states have received near-complete or complete deliveries of the food items allotted to them.
“As of October 25, several states have confirmed the completion of their distribution. It is, therefore, quite concerning that we continue to see images of looting on the social media, giving all the work that has been going on and the goodwill of the private sector towards supporting the COVID-19 response.”
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, called for the immediate return of looted COVID-19 drugs and other medical consumables, saying the stealing of the items would impact the nation’s response against the pandemic.
According to him, most of the medicines and medical consumables in the stores were stored under controlled environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity.
He said the disruption of the conditions would render them ineffective and in some cases poisonous.
Mamora stated, “The NCDC warehouse in Idu (in Abuja) is used for the storage of medical and laboratory consumables and equipment. Destruction of these items will impact negatively on our response to this pandemic.
“I also call on all who are in possession of vaccines, medicine and other equipment and consumables to please return them. Those that can still be salvaged will be used and those that cannot will be disposed of properly.”