Min­is­ters to Take Tests as COVID-19 Bites Harder, Spreads to Eight States

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Our Correspond­ents

• In­fects Prince Charles • Os­in­bajo tests neg­a­tive • With cases ris­ing to 51, more govs self­iso­late • FG di­rects phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search in­sti­tute to iden­tify herbal medicines ac­tive against pan­demic • Votes N16.5bn to curb spread • CBN di­rects non-crit­i­cal staff to work from home • Dan­gote, banks to pro­vide med­i­cal tents, urge govt to al­low pri­vate labs con­duct tests

Nige­rian Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol (NCDC) is to con­duct tests on min­is­ters to de­ter­mine their sta­tus fol­low­ing their con­tacts with some of the con­firmed cases of COVID-19, THIS­DAY learnt yes­ter­day.

No fewer than five gover­nors have also gone into self-iso­la­tion as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure to pre­vent the spread of the virus fol­low­ing their close prox­im­ity to some in­fected per­sons, es­pe­cially their col­league in Bauchi State, Se­na­tor Bala Mohammed, and Chief of Staff to the Pres­i­dent, Malam Abba Kyari, both of whom tested pos­i­tive to the virus.

It was also gath­ered that the min­is­ters, some of whom had

self-iso­lated, had been di­rected to take the test as many of them had contact with Kyari in the course of their of­fi­cial en­gage­ments.

THIS­DAY had ex­clu­sively re­ported yes­ter­day that some of the min­is­ters had gone into self-iso­la­tion when the test showed Kyari to be pos­i­tive.

The spread of COVID-19 to Aso Rock, the seat of power, has trig­gered anx­i­ety among top govern­ment of­fi­cials and prompted the pres­i­dency to scale up steps to curb the dis­ease, which has so far in­fected 51 peo­ple since its out­break in Fe­bru­ary.

Of the five more cases recorded yes­ter­day, there were two fresh in­ci­dences in the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (FCT), two in La­gos and one Rivers, bring­ing the num­ber of in­fected states to eight and FCT.

How­ever, amid the gloomy sit­u­a­tion, there was cheer­ing news yes­ter­day as the re­sult of the test con­ducted on Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, who had self-iso­lated in the last two days, was neg­a­tive.

Os­in­bajo’s me­dia aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, con­firmed the sta­tus of the vice pres­i­dent yes­ter­day.

There were also re­ports that Prince Charles tested pos­i­tive while the only case of COVID-19 in Edo State was iden­ti­fied as the Speaker of the House of Assem­bly, Hon. Frank Okiye.

THIS­DAY gath­ered that the fed­eral govern­ment di­rected all the min­is­ters to pro­ceed on self-iso­la­tion and to al­low the NCDC to as­cer­tain their COVID-19 sta­tus. It also di­rected the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Re­search and De­vel­op­ment (NIPRD) to de­velop mod­els for iden­ti­fy­ing herbal medicines ac­tive against the pan­demic.

THIS­DAY also gath­ered that the Pres­i­den­tial Task­force on the Con­tain­ment of the COVID-19, headed by the Secretary to the Govern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, has been thrown into con­fu­sion as al­most all its mem­bers who re­cently held meet­ings with Kyari have now gone on self-iso­la­tion for 14 days.

A pres­i­dency source told THIS­DAY yes­ter­day that the sit­u­a­tion is caus­ing con­cern as gov­er­nance is al­most be­ing crip­pled.

Ac­cord­ing to the source, most of the min­is­ters who at­tended last week's Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil meet­ing are be­ing sus­pected of be­ing in­fected by the virus.

The sit­u­a­tion is said to have jolted most of the min­is­ters some of whom were said to be an­gry at the health risk they were ex­posed to.

"Ev­ery­body is in dis­ar­ray. Al­most ev­ery min­is­ter is on self-iso­la­tion - the same with all mem­bers of the Pres­i­den­tial Task­force on COVID-19. They held meet­ing twice with the Chief of Staff on Satur­day and Sun­day and they all shook hands with him," he said.

The source ex­plained that the im­pli­ca­tion is that the min­is­ters would be tech­ni­cally on sus­pen­sion from du­ties till the next 14 days af­ter they have been tested and their re­sult is known be­fore they could re­sume work.

THIS­DAY gath­ered that even the Min­is­ter of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was not at the Nnamdi Azikiwe In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Abuja yes­ter­day to re­ceive the air­craft that brought in the med­i­cal equip­ment do­nated by a Chi­nese bil­lion­aire, Mr. Jack Ma.

The Per­ma­nent Secretary of the min­istry, Al­haji Ab­dul­lahi Marshi, was at the event.

Gover­nors that THIS­DAY con­firmed were on self­iso­la­tion were Mr. God­win Obaseki (Edo), Al­haji Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Dr. Kay­ode Fayemi (Ek­iti), Al­haji Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Al­haji Ab­dul­lahi Sule (Nasarawa).

How­ever, the gover­nors were said to be asymp­to­matic and only went into self­iso­la­tion in com­pli­ance with NCDC pro­to­cols.

THIS­DAY gath­ered that some other gover­nors are also on self-iso­la­tion but re­fused to is­sue of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion.

The Deputy Gov­er­nor of Edo State, Hon. Philip Shaibu, who an­nounced the self­iso­la­tion of Obaseki, iden­ti­fied Okiye as the index case of the COVID-19 re­ported on Mon­day in the state.

He said Okiye who had trav­elled to the United King­dom, came back and went into self-iso­la­tion at the Ir­rua Spe­cial­ist Hospi­tal, Ir­rua in the state.

"He sent his sam­ple for test­ing and the test came back pos­i­tive. He is in a sta­ble con­di­tion and his fam­ily mem­bers have been tested and the tests came back neg­a­tive," Edo deputy gov­er­nor said.

He noted that the two per­sons the speaker got in close contact with were his wife and daugh­ter whose sam­ples had been taken and the re­sult came out neg­a­tive.

Ac­cord­ing to him, Obaseki went into self-iso­la­tion fol­low­ing his close contact with Mohammed and Kyari.

He said: "On his own, the gov­er­nor avoided meet­ing with ev­ery­body when he ar­rived Benin from Abuja and has main­tained so­cial dis­tance be­fore go­ing into self-iso­la­tion.”

He also stated that 111 per­sons were be­ing tracked by the state govern­ment, ad­ding that 64 had been con­tacted out of which six has been iso­lated and five sam­ples were taken for test­ing.

The deputy gov­er­nor urged res­i­dents of the state not to panic as the govern­ment was tak­ing mea­sures to cur­tail the spread of the dis­ease.

Niger State Govern­ment also said the gov­er­nor went into self-iso­la­tion as a re­sult of his pres­ence at the Nige­ria Gover­nors’ Fo­rum (NGF) meet­ing on March 18, at­tended by his Bauchi State coun­ter­part.

A state­ment by Bello’s Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Mary Berje, said the gov­er­nor self-iso­lated con­sid­er­ing the fact that as a pub­lic fig­ure, he must have had contact with some con­firmed contact cases of COVID-19.

“The gov­er­nor has also di­rected that all his close aides and all cabi­net mem­bers should sub­ject them­selves to self-iso­la­tion.”

Like his Niger State coun­ter­part, Oyetola was said to have gone into self-iso­la­tion since he re­turned from Abuja on Tuesday where among other of­fi­cial func­tions, he at­tended the NGF meet­ing.

His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Is­mail Omip­i­dan, told THIS­DAY in a tele­phone in­ter­view yes­ter­day that it was af­ter he took a COVID-19 test, which turned out neg­a­tive, that he per­formed some of­fi­cial func­tions.

At a press brief­ing yes­ter­day to an­nounce the spread of COVID-19 to the state, Oyetola said his wife had also tested neg­a­tive for the virus.

He ap­pealed to cit­i­zens to take the nec­es­sary ac­tion to avoid any pre­car­i­ous trans­mis­sion.

"I want to pas­sion­ately en­cour­age all re­turnees from the UK, the US, Europe, the West African coun­tries and in­deed other high-risk coun­tries to self-iso­late and sub­mit them­selves to test, so as to as­sist the govern­ment in con­tain­ing the spread of the virus,” he stated.

He an­nounced the clo­sure of mar­kets with ef­fect from to­mor­row; and com­mence­ment of screen­ing at all its 10 land bor­ders in ad­di­tion to the ban on all pub­lic gath­er­ings.

Fayemi, who dou­bles as the NGF chair­man, an­nounced yes­ter­day on his Facebook page that he had gone on self-iso­la­tion fol­low­ing his contact with some per­sons who had tested pos­i­tive.

He urged the peo­ple not to panic over the de­vel­op­ment, say­ing he took the pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures to pre­vent the spread of the dis­ease.

Fayemi’s coun­ter­part in Nasarawa State said he self­iso­lated fol­low­ing his contact with Kyari on March 14 at the wedding cer­e­mony of the son of the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice, Mr. Mohammed Adamu.

How­ever, Kogi State Com­mis­sioner for In­for­ma­tion, Mr. Kings­ley Fanwo, re­futed claims that Gov­er­nor Ya­haya Bello tested pos­i­tive to the virus.

NGF Direc­tor Gen­eral, Mr. Asis­hana Okauru, and his wife, a former Chair­man of the Fed­eral In­land Rev­enue Service (FIRS), Ifueko, have also self-iso­lated af­ter hav­ing con­tacts with some per­sons that have tested pos­i­tive to the virus.

In a state­ment signed by him, Okauru said: "I wish to in­form the gen­eral pub­lic that my wife to­gether with my en­tire house­hold will be pro­ceed­ing on self-iso­la­tion.

"We are tak­ing this ac­tion fol­low­ing my ex­po­sure to His Ex­cel­lency, Gov­er­nor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who to­day an­nounced the pos­i­tive out­come of his test for COVID-19.

“My wife and I would be un­der­go­ing COVID-19 test­ing this week."

He said he at­tended dif­fer­ent meet­ings of the NGF and the Nige­rian Eco­nomic Coun­cil (NEC) last week, which were also at­tended by Mohammed.

Nige­ria’s Cases Climb to 51 in Eight States, FCT

An up­date by the NCDC showed that five more cases were recorded yes­ter­day, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber in the coun­try to 51 in eight states and the FCT.

The NCDC said two of the cases were recorded in FCT; two in La­gos; and one in Rivers.

"Three are re­turn­ing trav­ellers into Nige­ria and two are close con­tacts of a con­firmed case," NCDC said.

So far, La­gos has 32 cases, FCT 10, Ogun three, Ek­iti one, Oyo one, Edo one, Bauchi one, Osun one and Rivers one.

While 48 per­sons are presently in iso­la­tion re­ceiv­ing treat­ment, two of the cases have been suc­cess­fully treated and dis­charged and one per­son died on Mon­day.

20 Osun Judges on Self-iso­la­tion

Osun State Com­mis­sioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, also yes­ter­day con­firmed that 20 judges from the state who re­cently re­turned from Dubai, the United Arab Emi­rates were on self-iso­la­tion.

He said the judges went into iso­la­tion shortly af­ter they ar­rived in the state pend­ing when their med­i­cal sta­tus would be as­cer­tained.

Isamotu spoke on the side­lines of a press con­fer­ence in Osogbo, where the gov­er­nor told jour­nal­ists about the index case in the state.

CBN Di­rects Non­crit­i­cal Staff to Work from Home

Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN) has di­rected its staff in non-crit­i­cal roles to stay at home and work re­motely ef­fec­tive yes­ter­day.

It, how­ever, said it re­mained fully op­er­a­tional de­spite the threat of the COVID-19 pan­demic that has seen most pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions scale down their op­er­a­tions.

The bank­ing sec­tor reg­u­la­tor, in a state­ment by its Direc­tor, Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Mr. Isaac Oko­rafor, said: “Fol­low­ing the cur­rent im­pact of the

Coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) on the global econ­omy cou­pled with ef­forts by the Nige­rian govern­ment, in­clud­ing par­tial lock­down in some states and at the fed­eral level, to check the spread of the virus in Nige­ria, the CBN wishes to in­form stake­hold­ers and mem­bers of the Nige­rian pub­lic that the bank will re­main open for busi­ness dur­ing this pe­riod.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, as a re­spon­si­ble pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion and reg­u­la­tor, the CBN has trig­gered its busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity plans to en­sure that its op­er­a­tions re­main undis­rupted at this present time when so­cial dis­tanc­ing has be­come key to check­ing the fur­ther spread of the virus.

He said the CBN had di­rected de­posit money banks (DMBs) and other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions to do the same, ad­ding that the welfare and safety of staff and their families, and in­deed all Nige­ri­ans, re­main a top pri­or­ity to the cen­tral bank. World Bank to De­ploy $150bn for Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery

The World Bank Group has ex­pressed its readi­ness to de­ploy about $150 bil­lion over the next 15 months to stim­u­late eco­nomic re­cov­ery of coun­tries af­fected by the pan­demic.

The pan­demic has led to un­prece­dented dis­rup­tions to global sup­ply chains, sharp drop in global crude oil prices, tur­moil in global stock and fi­nan­cial mar­kets, and lock­down of large swaths move­ments of per­sons in many coun­tries, among oth­ers.

These out­comes have had se­vere con­se­quences on house­holds’ liveli­hoods and busi­ness activities, re­sult­ing from a drop in global demand, de­clined con­sumer con­fi­dence and a slow­down in pro­duc­tion.

The World Bank Group Pres­i­dent, Mr. David Mal­pass in his re­marks from the G20 Fi­nance Min­is­ters con­fer­ence call on the COVID-19 pan­demic said these were dif­fi­cult times for all, es­pe­cially for the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble.

For the World Bank Group, he said the first goal is to pro­vide prompt sup­port dur­ing the cri­sis, based on a coun­try’s needs.

He noted that it was vi­tal for gov­ern­ments of coun­tries af­fected by the pan­demic to shorten the time of re­cov­ery and cre­ate con­fi­dence that the re­cov­ery can be strong.

Mal­pass noted the bank is cur­rently re­struc­tur­ing ex­ist­ing projects in 23 coun­tries. Test­ing Pos­i­tive Not Death Sen­tence, Says Pres­i­dency

The pres­i­dency yes­ter­day in Abuja said test­ing pos­i­tive to the virus was not a death sen­tence, ad­ding that the State House, like the en­tire coun­try, is un­der a par­tial lock­down but not com­pletely shut.

Speak­ing on the turn of events in the Pres­i­den­tial Villa, the Spe­cial Ad­viser to the Pres­i­dent on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the seat of power was not shut down but its activities were on a low key.

“Well, things are a bit on a low key. It doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down. It’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the coun­try.

"The rest of the coun­try is also on a low key. There is a par­tial lock­down in most parts of the coun­try. So, what is hap­pen­ing at the State House can also be called a par­tial lock­down but not a com­plete lock­down,” Adesina said.

Asked to con­firm the re­port that Buhari tested neg­a­tive for COVID-19, Adesina pushed the ques­tion back to the re­porter and made his re­marks on the ba­sis of the re­porter's sub­mis­sion.

"What did you hear about the re­sult?” he asked the re­porter.

“They say it's neg­a­tive," the re­porter re­sponded.

Then, Adesina re­torted: “Good. So, that calls for re­joic­ing with him. Any­body that does the test and tests neg­a­tive, we will re­joice with that per­son, and any­body that does it and tests pos­i­tive, it’s not a death sen­tence.

"We also would pray along with the per­son. Give the per­son our good­will and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nige­ria re­cov­ered and has been dis­charged.”

Adesina also spoke on the sus­pen­sion of the weekly Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil meet­ing, say­ing the meet­ing was sus­pended be­cause over 50 peo­ple at­tend the fo­rum ev­ery week and the num­ber ex­ceeds the spec­i­fi­ca­tion for con­ver­gence this sea­son.

On the de­ci­sion prun­ing num­ber of State House correspond­ents, he said the num­ber of correspond­ents was large and con­tra­vened the cur­rent rule pro­hibit­ing more than 50 peo­ple from con­gre­gat­ing at a place. Prince Charles Tests Pos­i­tive for

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