- Drug still in SGF’s office, testing may be delayed till June –Sources
- Lagos enlists 600 patients for chloroquine clinical trial, discharges 45
- We’ll assist big companies, SMEs to prevent job loss –Sanwo-Olu
- Gombe searches for 10 fleeing contacts, cases rise by 265, total now 7,526
ENIOLA AKINKUOTU and TUNDE AJAJA
Over a week after receiving the Madagascan native formulation for the treatment of COVID-19, the Presidency has yet to send the samples to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control for testing, Sunday PUNCH can confirm.
A top source told one of our correspondents that the drug, which was delivered to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), by his Guinea Bissau counterpart, Umarro Embalo, nine days ago had remained in the possession of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said with the manner in which things “are being done, the drug would not be available for testing till June given the Islamic holiday which extends from Sunday to Tuesday.”
He said, “We were told that the drug, which was delivered in five cartons, was delivered to the SGF who was supposed to deliver the sample to the Federal Ministry of Health and then NAFDAC for testing.
“However, as of today, May 23, 2020, the sample has not been sent to NAFDAC for testing. I even doubt if the ministry has received it. And work resumes on Wednesday.”
The source lamented the slow pace of work by the Federal Government regarding its response to COVID-19.
He noted that this was the same manner in which some drugs sent to Nigeria by the West African Health Organisation were delayed by over a month due to bureaucratic processes.
He added, “In March, WAHO (West African Health Organisation) distributed 30,500 diagnostic test kits; 10,000 Personal Protective Equipment and 740,000 Chloroquine and Azithromycin tablets to be shared by all ECOWAS states, including Nigeria.
“The drugs were to be certified by NAFDAC before use. However, NAFDAC only received the drugs a month after they had arrived. These delays were caused by government bureaucracy.”
The source lamented that it might be June before the Madagascan drug could be deployed for scientific analysis, adding that herbal drugs would need a longer testing period than orthodox medicine.
He said NAFDAC would check for animal toxicity, microbial content and others in the drug which might take about 10 days.
“It could take about 10 days for NAFDAC to test and certify the drugs. So, the Madagascan medicine ought to have been sent on time in anticipation of the testing time but that has not been done,” he said.
The SGF had, at the daily COVID-19 briefing last Tuesday, said he had received the consignment and it would be sent to the ministry of health.
Mustapha had said, “As God would have it, the President of Guinea Bissau decided to visit our President last Saturday and when he was coming, he came with our consignment of five cartons and those five cartons were delivered to me yesterday in the evening, sealed, without a bottle out of it.
“I am going to engage the minister of health who has the responsibility of validation, through his institutions that are chartered by law to do that. The President was upfront with that even when he took delivery of it from the President of Guinea Bissau.
“He said it quite clearly of what we are going to do with the consignment would be guided by science, under the processes of validation. We’ll now know where to go.”
However, a top source at the ministry of health told Sunday PUNCH that the cartons were still at the SGF’s office.
The source said there seemed to be a communication gap between the minister and the SGF.
“The SGF informed the minister to pick up the drugs but it seems the minister was also expecting the SGF to send the drugs to the ministry. It was a simple communication problem,” he said.
Following the arrival of the Madagascan herbal cure for COVID-19 in Nigeria, NAFDAC promised to fast-track the laboratory examination of the drug named Covid Organics.
The agency, which regulates and controls the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, packaged water, chemicals and detergents, noted that the product would be subjected to the normal procedure but that the process would be hastened.
In an interview with Sunday PUNCH two weeks ago, NAFDAC Director-General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, noted that the agency would prioritise the laboratory examination of the product once it received it from the authorities.
She had said, “When the drug arrives, it will go to the Minister of Health who will in turn hand it over to NAFDAC through the PTF. It is after that we would start our laboratory examination. It will be subjected to the normal procedure.
“We would expedite action on this because everyone is anxiously waiting for the result. We would speed it up but it will still have to go through the normal laboratory analysis and medical evaluation.
“Unlike the orthodox medicine, with the herbal medicine, it is given linctus status, it is not given full registration and that means it has a life span of two years, unlike normal drug that has a life span of five years. So, this is what will be applicable to the Madagascar drug. We would ensure that the claims being made are true.”
Asked how long it could take for the laboratory examination to be concluded, she said the normal procedure was three months, adding that given the situation at hand, the process would be prioritised without compromising the efficiency of the process.
She said, “The normal mandatory procedure is three months, but under this emergency, we would give it a top priority to come out with urgent results. In the process of the evaluation, if NAFDAC needs to get in touch with the manufacturers, we will. It all depends on the analysis in the lab.
“This kind of drug does not go through a clinical trial at this stage; it is only when it wants to go through registration that it will be subjected to clinical trial. We are only going to determine its safety and efficacy now.”
There were 265 new cases on Saturday, pushing the total number of cases to 7,526. 167 persons were discharged while no new death was recorded.
It’s unfortunate people think we’re using COVID-19 to make money –FG
The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, has described as unfortunate insinuations by some people that the coronavirus disease does not exist and government is only using it to make money.
He said such views could make a mockery of the efforts and sacrifices of people giving their best to treat infected persons and contain the raging virus.
Mamora spoke on Friday during a webinar by Emmanuel Chapel, titled, ‘State of health: Epidemic outbreaks, COVID-19 talk series’ hosted by the Founder and CEO, Health Markets Africa, Fola Laoye.
Other participants were the Director-General, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu; Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib; and the CEO, First Cardiology Consultants, Prof Kofo Ogunyankin.
The programme was monitored by one of our correspondents.
Mamora said, “COVID-19 has been described in terms of management as all of government and all of society, so everybody has to get involved and people must appreciate that as individuals, they have the primary responsibility for their health. That is the basic thing.
“People should know that what you do to yourself would help in a long way in protecting others around you. So, we have to continue to engage in advocacy and education. These are critical issues.
“As we speak now, there are people out there who are still living in denial, saying there is nothing like COVID-19 and it’s something to make money. But we still have to do what we have to do and it is quite unfortunate, because you have people putting their lives at stake, yet some people out there don’t believe and they decide to have a different thinking.”
He said it was also regrettable that people were not adhering to the advisories issued by the NCDC.
“It’s important for people to take responsibility for their own health and for the good of all of us. This is very important and we cannot be tired of putting these things out,” he added.
…why we insisted returning Nigerians must be quarantined
Asked by the host why the Federal Government insisted that returning Nigerians must be quarantined instead of testing them in the countries they left to ascertain their status, Mamora said the PTF considered the option but could not proceed for obvious reasons.
He said, “A lot of people were not even having it easy to get tested in those countries and besides, we heard on note that the cost of these tests in some of these countries is quite expensive and some Nigerians would find it inconvenient to pay.
“Besides, if that option was adopted, it is possible for someone to test negative today and test positive the following day, and it depends on the test done, which may not show confirmation on that first day. This means it could be when they return to the country that the virus would be detected. Those were some of the reasons.”
COVID-19, an opportunity to strengthen health sector –NPHCDA
Also, Shuaib said the pandemic presented Nigeria the opportunity to strengthen the health sector.
He added, “This too shall come to pass and I believe we will get over this; we just need to pull in the same direction and I’m sure we will be successful. But this is really a unique opportunity in our lifetime to strengthen the health system.”
Ihekweazu noted that there was no end in sight to the “new reality”. He said, “I hope some things, like our attitude to infections prevention and control and our attitude to handwashing, will change forever.”
Lagos to assist big companies, SMEs to prevent job loss, says Sanwo-Olu
In light of the disruptions and hardship caused by the coronavirus in the business environment, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, hinted that the state would help big companies operating in the state to prevent job loss.
He added that the state was also considering giving grants to some Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the state given the impact of COVID-19 on their activities.
Speaking as a panellist at a webinar hosted by FSDH Merchant Bank on Friday, the governor noted that the government was already compiling the data of the MSMEs to see how they could be assisted.
The webinar, titled, ‘A global pandemic: local realities and peculiarities – a view from the frontlines’, was anchored by the Chairman, FSDH Holding Company, Mr Hakeem Belo-Osagie, and the bank’s Managing Director, Mrs Hamda Ambah.
The governor said, “Lagos State has a lot of MSMEs and we realise that the sector has been extensively affected. Some of them employ three to five persons each and a lot of them need some sort of support. Part of the things we are planning to do under the Register-to-Open is to see how we can come in.
“We are compiling data and we are trying to see what kind of support we can give them. We have asked the ones currently with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (portal) not to pay the interest on their (credit) facilities with the state government. We have suspended the payment of interest.
“We want to see if we can do some grant for some of them over the next two to three months so that we can cushion the effect it has on their business. That is on one part.
“The other part is that we are asking the big companies the requirements they want from the state government, to ensure that they do not retrench their staff members. That, for us, is also important.
“They are mainly affected given that they have had to slow down their production lines. We want to ensure that they are not retrenching or shutting down their facilities. So, they have given us a list of the kind of things they want us to do for them and such things would affect our Internally Generated Revenue but we are willing to bend backwards for them and see how we can collaborate.”
Speaking on the gradual opening of the economy, Sanwo-Olu said construction industry and heavy manufacturing companies with huge staff strength would be the first areas that would need to open up.
He added that the hospitality industry, aviation industry and public transportation had been sending bills to seek government’s support and that they would follow in the second line of intervention.
…says Ebola prepared Lagos for future outbreaks
The governor also said the state was better able to handle COVID-19 given the experience it had with Ebola six years ago.
He added, “That was also epic in Lagos and it gave Lagos some understanding about how serious infectious disease could be managed. We have an Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba and even after the Ebola case, we had some international grants and over the last two to three years, we have built what we call a biosecurity lab level four, which can match any of its kind in the world.”
Gombe searches for 10 fleeing contacts
The Chairman of the Gombe State Task force on COVID-19, Prof Idris Mohammed, has said the state is searching for 10 fleeing suspected cases.
However, he said they had traced one to Ogun, one to Nasarawa, one to Borno, two to Kano, and five to Adamawa states.
Mohammed said this during the daily briefing on activities of COVID-19 in the state.
He said 10 per cent of the 1,440 results received were positive, adding that the state had 144 cases.
He said, “There are still 10 at large, whom we are trying hard to get. We are taking every possible measure to trace these people to bring them into isolation to prevent community spread of COVID-19 in Gombe.
“We have an outstanding of 262 results to come. Out of the total 1,440 received, 10 per cent emerged positive, which is 144 positive cases. There are 49 active cases in the state, with about 92 recoveries from the virus, and three deaths. The total number of positive cases in isolation is 20 – three at the State Specialist Hospital and 17 at Kwadon Infectious Diseases Hospital.
“In addition we have a total of 219 persons at Amada quarantine centre out of which 211 are Almajirai and eight are travellers stopped in transit and isolated.”
Mohammed added that 31 of the 211 Almajirai tested negative and had been handed over to their parents.
Edo tests 1,367 residents, extends search to 542 communities
Meanwhile, the Edo State Government said it tested 1,367 residents in the state for COVID-19 and revved up Active Case Search activities in over 542 rural and urban communities across the state, adding that it was contact-tracing over 933 persons.
Speaking with journalists, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Patrick Okundia, said the Governor Godwin Obaseki administration had ramped up measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
“The Edo State Government has continued to step up measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, as we are committed to protecting our people,” Okundia said.
Lagos enlists 600 for chloroquine clinical trial
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, on Saturday disclosed that the state had enlisted 600 patients for the planned chloroquine clinical trial.
The state discharged 45 more patients on Saturday.
Omotoso said an independent board, which would be inaugurated, would monitor the process and give necessary advice to the state government on the progress of the trial.
Omotoso said, “In summary we will be looking at about 600 patients. The trial will go on till we recruit the required number. There will be an independent Data and Safety Board. The board can advise that study be discontinued if the statistical evidence of the usefulness of a drug is overwhelming and in which case it becomes unethical to with old it from other groups.”
Additional report by Mudiaga Affe, Jesusegun Alagbe and Chima Azubuike