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COVID-19: FG cautions Nigerians against foreign travels to high-burden countries

22 foreign travellers test positive

Following the second wave of COVID-19-19 pandemic infections in some countries, the Federal Government has urged Nigerians against non-essential travel to such high burden countries.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, gave the warning on Thursday in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19-19.

This is as he said that in the past 24 hours, Nigeria recorded 155 new COVID-19-19 cases, bringing total confirmed cases to 59,738 out of 545,364 persons tested so far.

He also said that 51,403 cases have been discharged and 1,113 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the FCT and that while the recorded recovery rate is 86 percent, the fatality rate dipped marginally to about 1.85 percent.

Ehanire who said that a meeting of West African Ministers of  Health under the auspices of the West African Health Organization was held on 29th September by video conference, to review sub-regional experience in the management of the COVID-19-19 pandemic, as well as protocols for resumption of trade and commerce.

According to him, part of the learning from the meeting is that COVID-19-19 pandemic is evolving along similar patterns of reduction in case and fatalities in West Africa.

“While this provides some comfort that we are not out of place in our sub-region, we still have no reason for complacency.

“The so-called second wave of COVID-19-19 outbreaks we are seeing in several European countries and across the Atlantic, gives us reason for serious concern, coming, as they did, on the heels of what was believed to have been control they gained over the disease,” Ehanire said.

The minister said that as schools and economies reopen and international flights increase, the government is concerned that there may be a surge in the number of positive cases, if the nation do not step up the response strategies of trace, test, isolate and treat.

He noted that some countries have been compelled to introduce stricter social restrictions like closure of restaurants, bars, prohibition of gatherings of more than six persons, compulsory wearing of masks outdoors, and targeted lockdowns, among others, to address sharp increase in coronavirus infections.

He added that few countries, with strong Health systems, are showing stress and having to transfer patients to other hospitals.

“We are especially worried, about huge COVID-19-19 increases in certain countries with which we have high volume of human traffic. The Federal Ministry of Health therefore wishes to advise Nigerians against non-essential travel to high burden countries.

“The risks that the movement of travelers create, can only be countered with improved surveillance programs. I wish to specially solicit that all travelers cooperate with border authorities to protect our people and also our health system from stress,” the minister said.

22 foreign travellers test positive

The minister also said that the government is obliged to reduce the risk of COVID-19 importation to a minimum.

According to him, as at 26th September, out of a total of 1,473 Persons of Interest (POI) tested across three laboratories in the FCT since the opening of the international travel air space, 22 tested positive.

He said, “Our testing and tracing capabilities have improved a lot, such that virtually every state has least one laboratory that has increased our daily testing capacity to about 3,500. We are, however testing well below that capacity, because laboratories are receiving fewer samples than they could handle, leaving some partners to doubt our reports.

“I therefore appeal to state governments to improve on sample collection and capacity utilization. All persons with COVID-19 evocative symptoms, or who may have come in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case should please submit themselves for testing,” he said.

Ehanire also said that the CMDs and MDs of Federal Health Institutions had their quarterly meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, providing an opportunity to address the body and charge them with higher responsibilities.

“Among these is the need for increased vigilance in their emergency centers, so that increases in attendance by persons suggestive of COVID-19 infection are promptly reported for follow up.

“Disease surveillance and Notification Officers at LGAs and Incident Managers at State level are also urged to be on alert, to immediately report cases of unexplained illness or deaths, even in remote locations,” he said.

He also cautioned that with regard to Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs), the sensitivity and specificity is about 85 percent and its use is limited to specific circumstances.

The minister said that the Federal Ministry of Health will organize a Primary Health Summit in the second week of November to unveil President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda on Basic Health Care and the areas of emphasis in the march to Universal Health Coverage.

He said that the Basic Health Care Provision Fund is in full operation and all eligible states have received their allocations.

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