Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Kano — The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday said it was reviewing funding requests by local researchers to support the development of vaccines and drugs for COVID-19.
THISDAY had last week reported that paucity of funding had hampered efforts of the nation's major research institutions to develop vaccines and curative drugs for the disease.
But the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in a telephone chat with THISDAY yesterday said the bank was perusing applications for funding by world class Nigerian private and public research organisations interested in the development of vaccines and drugs to fight the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the federal government, through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is scaling up testing capacities through the activation of three new COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country, bringing the total number to 23.
It also reported last night that Nigeria had recorded 248 new cases, bringing the total to 4, 399 in the country.
The centre said Lagos recorded 81 new cases, Jigawa 35, Borno and Kano 26 each, Bauchi 20, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 13, Edo 12, Sokoto 10, Zamfara seven, Kwara and Kebbi four each, Gombe, Taraba, Ekiti and Ogun two each, while Osun and Bayelsa recorded one each.
The number of those tested rose to 23, 835.
The Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has also promised to increase its patronage of locally manufactured Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the battle against the spread of the virus.
However, the population of people being treated for the virus reduced at the weekend with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos, Borno and Kano States discharging 82 more patients.
Emefiele, in the interview, said the apex bank had received proposals from both public and private research organisations, and was considering them preparatory to approval and disbursement of funds to research to speed up the discovery of vaccines for the virus.
He added that out of the N100 billion healthcare intervention fund that the central bank unveiled in March, the first beneficiary, Fidson Healthcare Plc, one of the leading pharmaceutical manufacturing companies had received approval for N2.5 billion.
Emefiele said: "We are assessing the various proposals that have been sent to us by researchers for the development and trial of vaccines and in due course we would make some announcements about those that met our requirement and those we would support for vaccine.
"Also, from the N100 billion health sector facility, we have approved for Fidson Healthcare N2.5 billion to expand its plant into the production of ethical drugs and intravenous. So, we are also reviewing other requests for funding for the N100 billion facility and in due course we would make the announcement."
The CBN had in March released guidelines for accessing its N100 billion credit support facility for its healthcare sector. The fund was announced as part of a raft of measures to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.
NCDC Increases Testing Laboratories to 23 Nationwide
In the meantime, the NCDC has activated three new testing laboratories in the country, bringing the total number to 23 nationwide, to boost the nation's testing capacity.
NCDC, which announced this yesterday through its verified Twitter handle @NCDCgov, said the newly activated laboratories were located at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) in Edo State, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, both in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
It said: "This brings the number of laboratories in Nigeria with the capacity to test for COVID-19 to 23."
Private Sector Coalition Pledges Increased Support for Local Manufacturers
Also at the weekend, CACOVID promised to increase its patronage of locally manufactured Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the battle against the spread of COVID-19.
Responding to an enquiry from THISDAY during a telephone interview, one of the leaders of CACOVID and Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, stated that the coalition had been patronising manufacturers of locally made protective equipment since its formation.
He said: "We buy PPE locally. CACOVID will continue to support local manufacturers, whether it is for face masks or PPE, etc. The only things that we import are medical equipment that cannot be manufactured here, but are absolutely necessary for the treatment of COVID-19. Even the medication like Erythromycin, it is produced locally in Enugu.
"We have a technical committee and that committee is made up of people who are very strong in research and one of them is at Redeemers University."
CACOVID said it had also donated fully equipped isolation centres and medical equipment to Ondo and Kwara States.
The donation was in response to pleas by governors of the two states and to strengthen the partnership with governments at all levels to help contain the pandemic.
The group, made up of leading private sector operators, had earlier donated similar items to Rivers and Enugu States, apart from the distribution of palliatives to the people, which the coalition commenced in Lagos last week.
CACOVID, while handing over a 100-bed space isolation centre and medical items in Ilorin, Kwara State said its efforts were meant to complement the federal government's action against the spread of the virus and to end the pandemic in Nigeria.
Speaking at the handover to the Kwara State government, the spokesperson of CACOVID, Mrs. Grace Olagunju, said the gesture was to support the government to successfully fight the virus.
The representative of the state government, Chairman Medical Advisory Committee of COVID-19 Technical Committee in the state, Dr. Femi Oladiji, commended CACOVID for the gesture, stressing that it would help the state government in its efforts to successfully fight the pandemic.
In Akure, the Ondo State capital, the coalition donated medical equipment and beddings to Ondo State Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), where 10 patients are currently undergoing treatment and three suspected persons are being isolated.
The Head of Ondo State COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Busari Ismail, said though the three suspected cases had tested negative, they would still need to run another test before they could be discharged if they tested negative again.
Lagos, FCT, Borno, Kano Discharge 82 More Patients
Lagos, Borno and Kano States, as well as the Federal Capital Administration (FCTA), have discharged 82 more patients.
FCTA discharged 39 patients undergoing treatment at one of its isolation centres in Abuja.
It was the largest number of patients to be discharged at any particular occasion in the FCT since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The FCTA COVID-19 Situation Room said yesterday that the patients were discharged late on Saturday to bring the total number of those discharged to 85.
The Lagos State Government discharged 21 more patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 469 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state.
The Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said four of those discharged were females and 17 males, adding that they are all Nigerians.
He said: "Three were discharged from the Onikan Isolation Centre, one from the Eti Osa (Landmark) Isolation Centre, one from First Cardiology Hospital (an accredited private isolation facility), six from Lekki Isolation Centre and 10 from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba.
"They were discharged today having fully recovered and tested negative for COVID-19 in two consecutive test readings. With this, the total number of cases successfully managed and discharged from our isolation facilities has risen to 469."
The Borno State Government also yesterday said 12 patients were discharged in the state.
This brings to 14 numbers of patients discharged since the pandemic was first reported in the state as two parents were earlier discharged a few days ago.
The Chairman of the state Committee on COVID-19 and Deputy Governor, Alhaji Umar Kadafur, in a statement, said of the 12, six were discharged by the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) Isolation Centre, while the remaining six were from state isolation centre at Bulabulin Ngaranam.
The Kano State government on its part discharged 10 patients undergoing treatment in its isolation centres.
With the new patients discharged, the total number of patients successfully managed and discharged in the state stands at 32.
The state's Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said in a statement made available to THISDAY in Kano, that the patients had fully recovered and tested negative for COVID-19 in two consecutive readings.
PDP Blames Spike in Cases on Poor Leadership by APC
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has decried the increasing cases of the pandemic, blaming it on what it described as the poor leadership by the federal government, controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the increase in infection and mortality rates in Nigeria would have been curtailed if the federal government had articulated a quick national response to the pandemic.
The party noted that the situation had been worsened by alleged diversion of resources meant for the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
The PDP said it was distressing that since the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari had not been seen to be leading from the front.
According to the party, the president addressed the country only thrice, after which he has remained out of public visibility, leading to the lack of effective coordination of the fight against the pandemic.
It accused the president of failing to act on suggestions on the administration of palliatives and production of homegrown therapeutics.
"President Buhari has woefully failed to spur and lead a strong teamwork of federal, state governments and the organised private sector for a proactive response that would have checked the spread of the pandemic in our country," the party said.
Policeman Dies in Ogun
A policeman has died of COVID-19 complications at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Abeokuta in Ogun state.
TheCable quoted the FMC's Head of Public Relations, Mr. Segun Orisajo, as saying in a statement issued yesterday that the officer had presented himself at the general outpatients department at the FMC on Friday, and died on the same day.
"His body is being prepared for release to his family for burial in strict compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO)'s guidelines.
"All staff that came in contact with the deceased are currently on self-isolation," the statement said.
Rivers Demolishes Two Hotels for Flouting Order on Restrictions
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday monitored the demolition of two hotels accused of violating the State Government Executive Order 6, banning the operation of hotels across the 23 local government areas of the state.
The hotels are Prudent Hotel, Alode, Eleme, and Etemeteh Hotel, Onne.
Addressing journalists after the demolition, Wike said the law must be obeyed, hence the state government's decision to enforce it.
He said: "Government has no alternative but to apply the Executive Order, which I signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt. I called all the traditional rulers and council chairmen and told them to ensure that no hotel operates in the state.
"We are not saying it will be forever. This is for now, so that we know where we are: to reduce the cases and check the spread.
"Whether you are PDP or not, all we are saying is that nobody is above the law. If we can do this to a PDP person, then you know we are not discriminatory. Everyone must obey. Whether you are in PDP, SDP or no party, you must obey the law. If any other person does the same thing, the same rule will apply."
He reiterated his declaration that no hotel should operate anywhere in the state.
"We said no hotel should operate within this period. Unfortunately, the PDP Youth Leader in Eleme joined others to flout the Executive Order. Therefore, the executive order will be applied.
"We said if any hotel operates, the government will bring down that hotel. We are doing what we have told people that we are going to do. Nobody wants to obey any rules. We are saying just for now, keep off, let us see how we can keep our people safe," he said.
He explained that the focus on hotels is due to the fact that one of the cases in the state spread the virus from a hotel.
He said: "Look at the rate of infections, most of these people are found in hotels. Look at the man that died, he was at Mingi Hotel in Rumumasi. Due to that contact, we have had other seven cases."
He added that those involved in the crime would be prosecuted and that the managing director of the hotel at Onne had been arrested.
The state government had on Saturday declared the Youth Leader of the PDP in Eleme Local Government Area and owner of Prudent Hotels, Mr. Princewill Osaroejiji, wanted for "various criminal activities."
The state also offered N5 million reward to anyone who will give law enforcement agencies information that will lead to his arrest.
ANAP Seeks Curfew Relaxation, Extension of Business Hours
In a related development, the ANAP Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has called on the federal and state governments to lift or adjust the dusk to dawn curfew across the country and extend the hours for the opening of businesses in the country.
The foundation said the suggestion was necessary to avoid physical contact and overcrowding resulting from the curfew and tight business opening hours, which it said was caused by people rushing to meet their engagements before the expiration of the deadlines, thereby increasing chances of COVID-19 contact.
ANAP in a statement yesterday jointly signed by its Chairman, Mr. Atedo Peterside, and the Vice-Chairman, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed, recommended that the federal and state governments should intensify behaviour change communication campaigns on physical distancing, hand washing and wearing cloth face coverings in public in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It urged the government to lift the curfew or limit it to 11 p.m.- 5 a.m. (no more than six hours) to help ease overcrowding, and lengthen business hours and reserve one or two hours for the exclusive service of the elderly, especially in banks and supermarkets, in consideration of their extra vulnerability to COVID-19.
ANAP further recommended that the government should prevail on businesses to enforce the physical distancing of two metres between customers; compulsory wearing of cloth face coverings in public places and public transportation; continued ban of physical congregational religious activities and other social events and/or ceremonies.
It said it strongly believed that implementing some or all of the above measures would help in achieving the government's objective of easing hardship on the citizens whilst curbing the spread of COVID-19.
While commending the efforts of the federal and state governments and their agencies in dealing with multifaceted problems posed to the nation by the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation noted the increasing awareness and responsibility of state actors and the renewed emphasis on educating the public on all that was important regarding COVID-19.
ANAP added: "After reviewing situation reports from various towns and villages across the nation, our conclusion is that governments must continue to monitor and define the extent to which they will modify partial lockdowns to allow for some economic activities thereby ensuring that the right balance between public health and economic sustainability is maintained.
"Whilst the easing and modification of lockdown measures have met with varying degrees of success, we underscore the need to increase the intensity of a sound and effective communication strategy which ensures that the public is alive to the dangers of COVID-19 and its potential for exponential growth if we let our guard down.
"Unchecked behaviour and violations of public health advice regarding minimising physical and social contact, observing personal hygiene e.g. failure to wash hands frequently and/or use of sanitizers and/or wearing cloth face coverings in the public will lead to the rapid spread of COVID-19."
Obinna Chima, Goddy Egene, Martins Ifijeh, Peter Uzoho, Chuks Okocha, Olawale Ajimotokan, Ernest Chinwo, Michael Olugbode, and Ibrahim Shuaibu