Federal Executive Council FEC has approved the sum of N8.49 billion for the purchase of 12 assorted items for the COVID-19 pandemic by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Memo for the procurement of the items was presented by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on behalf of NCDC at the Council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the FEC meeting at the State House in Abuja.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who disclosed this to State House Correspondents after the meeting said the aim was to help the country to address community transmission of the pandemic, which has already spread to 586 Local Government Areas of the country.

He said, “The Ministry of Health presented a memo on behalf of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to procure materials for preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic, which is ravaging every part of the world including our country.

“This is part of the preparedness for community transmission which is going on now and has affected over 586 Local Government Areas and we need the materials so as to be able to expand our testing and diagnostic capabilities.

“This memo is as a result of the Presidential task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and the Special Intervention Funds managed by the PTF, which allocated these resources for the NCDC preparedness.”

Ehanire said the materials to be procured include sample and other kits for diagnostics, for use by laboratories.

“We are procuring these materials to be able to respond properly to community transmission phase,” he said.

Answering a question on why the PTF was reluctant in introducing rapid test kits which makes results available within minutes as against PCR (polymerise chain reaction) tests, the minister said, “It is not that nobody is thinking of rapid diagnostic test, it is being used all over the world even in Nigeria today but the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts, have said that this test is not very reliable and that it also delivered a significant number of false positive or false negative result.

 “So, if you go to a place where a percentage of test result can give you a wrong result, then you have to be careful. Whereas the PRC test, that is the polymerise chain reaction test is accurate and reliable. So if you want to know how accurate a person is positive, that is the test you ought to do, that is the recommendation of World Health Organization.

“Now, science is never certain, there are many ways and avenues by which the quality of the rapid test is still being improved. And as I speak to you now, the Medical Laboratory Science of Nigeria, which is responsible for validating this test, for telling us whether they are reliable or not, whether we should use it or not, they are verifying such test now and they will give us their result, whether it is reliable enough or not reliable enough.

“There is also the anti-body rapid test and the anti-gem rapid test. So I believe that within a matter of weeks and months, there will be one that will be accurate enough for us to rely on.

“So, those who do the rapid test now, if it is positive you have to go and confirm with the PRC because the accuracy is questionable. Some of them their accuracy is 60 percent, which means that 40 percent will be wrong, others are 20 percent wrong which is why Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT), is not yet officially used in Nigeria. But, I personally believe that as they continue to improve on it within some months we shall be able to use it. Meanwhile we use only the most reliable one, which is PCR.”

On the disregard for COVID-19 protocols at the campaigns in Edo State and the funeral rites of Senator Buruji Kashamu, the health minister said “there is something the laws says, the law says you must hold election at certain time and then watch what the needs of health has brought forward.

“Nobody was anticipating that COVID-19 will pop up and the dilemma where INEC and the ministry of health face, is now is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, there are many other countries that are facing that kind of problem.

“Just a few days ago, Belarus held presidential election because their constitution gives them a deadline within which it must be held. Other countries have held elections, some have defied elections depending on how each country assess their own risk. And in Nigeria where the case infection rate is relatively low compared to other countries which is about two percent, globally is nearly four percent and then the weight of distribution of the cases is not even.

“There are some states that do not have that heavy infection rate and others have high infection rate. So, you have to weigh the benefits, if you can manage the risk, because is the same risk of about opening the skies, the borders, going to churches, mosques, markets – there is a lot of risk communications we are dealing with.

“But there are things that need not be like for example football match were people can crowd in the stadium, you can say this one can wait, it is not compulsory. In churches where it is more organized, if it cannot be, then you pray at home. For market, we gave advisory, make sure you put on mask, and ensure it is arranged in a way that you can control the crowd.

“The same advisory is given to politics and in some area is difficult like in cases of funerals. We gave the number of people who can attend or even a marriage, so the same advisory is given to all political parties, organisers and we are looking to them for the necessary sense of responsibility to comply.

“But it is also difficult going by observation that, for people who are under emotions to actually follow the guidelines and scenes like what you described came up. But in places of worship and other kinds of gatherings, they follow the guidelines. So it is that situation where you are balancing what the constitution says and then start enforcing things that people will read another meaning into.”

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