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Project to distribute 2.5m PPEs to beat COVID-19 burden in south west

Nearly five in 10 of the infections on record are in the south west

The SafeUp Project has begun distributing 2.5 million items of personal protective equipment to health works and the public in efforts to curb spread of coronavirus in five most affected states in the south west of the country.

Over four months, the project will give out 1 million face masks ffor the public and another 1.5 million face shields, gowns, scrubs, head covers and shoe covers combined for healthworkers in Oyo, Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti.

It is also ramping up sensitisation to get more people to use personal protection as a means of preventing spread of coronavirus.

It comes as Nigeria continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, which forced it into a lockdown in March.

Social distancing, face masks, face shields and handwashing are recommendations put in place before by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 before the lift of lockdown to prevent further spread.

“In our work we have identified that many health institutions do not necessarily even have face masks for their own personal use,” said Sinmi Olayebi, director of social programmes at My World of Bags/FemiHandbag, a leading corporate accessory and luxury handbag design and manufacturing company.

“It has opened our eyes to the great scale of need, and we are extremely honoured to catering to that need.”

She spoke at a virtual media session heralding the distribution.

By Sunday, 66,383 infections of coronavirus have been confirmed, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

A total 62,076 patients have been discharged after treatment in hospitals and isolation centres.

Another 1,167 have died of COVID-19.

SafeUp’s selection of beneficiaries is through organisations, which have to indicate need to access the items, to enable it keep track.

“We feel that’s one of the best ways to measure impact,” said Olayebi.

“We want to ensure that the goods get to the end user directly and we think the best way to do that is through an organisation.”

The distribution comes amidst concern that anxiety that followed the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown in March has worn off.

Messages are handwashing, face masks and shield have dwindled and response has gotten lax.

The items are marked not-for-sale, and includes a number where resale can be reported.

Each item also include an information kit about the need for protection against coronavirus.

“We are not leaving behind any method of education at all. We are using a variety of channels from social media to radio to [public address] systems within town,” said Olayebi.

“Education is key but with misconceptions flying around, there is a need to constantly be on top of things to ensure we are countering those misconceptions. Hopefully [personal protective equipment] is a great first step.”

Nigeria’s testing rate for coronavirus is yet to cover a significant proportion of its population. More than 700,000 people have been tested as yet, and nearly five in 10 of the infections on record are in the south west of the country.

“We are saying south west is the epicentre,” said Mayowa Odeyemi, research lead for Project SafeUp.

“If we can curb the virus in the south west, it will be possible to curb the virus in the whole nation. So far the southwest is carrying the burden of COVID-19 in Nigeria.”