The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said the Federal Ministry of Health has shortlisted for further investigations, three Nigerian drugs, which have the potential to cure COVID-19 or treat its symptoms.
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed this on Wednesday at the PTF press conference in Abuja, where the ministry of health warned that Nigeria’s health system could not cope with increasing COVID-19 cases.
But Mustapha said three shortlisted drugs would be subjected to further investigations by relevant health agencies.
The PUNCH had on Tuesday exclusively reported that the Federal Ministry of Health was screening 19 local firms for production of herbal drugs that could possibly treat or cure COVID-19.
The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, who confirmed the screening to The PUNCH, said the companies had been asked to submit samples of their drugs.
At the PTF press briefing on Wednesday, Mustapha disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health had held a virtual meeting with some researchers and scientists who had made claims about COVID-19 cure and shortlisted three for further research.
He stated, “As a measure of the importance attached to research and development of local capacity for finding a cure to the COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Health held a virtual meeting with a number of researchers and scientists with claims to cure for COVID 19 and out of the numerous claimants, three were found to deserve further investigation and have been forwarded to the relevant authorities for appropriate review.
“Similarly, efforts are being made by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to subject some locally manufactured COVID-19 equipment to verification and subsequent certification.”
The task force also backed the decision of the World Health Organisation to suspend clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of the novel coronavirus.
The PTF Chairman, Mustapha, therefore cautioned the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and other relevant agencies to ensure that all claims to treatment by scientists and researchers were subjected to scientific certification protocols.
The WHO had on Monday suspended the hydroxychloroquine trials because of the high mortalities among patients the drug was administered on.
On Tuesday, NAFDAC Director General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, said the agency would go ahead with the trial on the grounds that it had been effective in the treatment of COVID- 19 patients, especially those at the mild stage of the virus.
The PTF also said a protocol had been developed to give community members greater involvement and ownership in identifying and supporting the case management process.
Mustapha said the details would be unfolded in the coming days.
The SGF said allowances of security agents and frontline medical workers would be paid as soon as the National Assembly approved the 2020 Budget Appropriation (Amendment) Bill.
He said, “You are aware that the National Assembly is cutting short its recess to reconvene tomorrow to consider the adjustment to the 2020 budget. You don’t begin to apply certain amount of money…you wait for approvals.
“I believe by the time the leadership of the National Assembly considers the adjustment which has become of necessity because of the economic impact of COVID-19, I can assure everybody will be paid the stipends they are entitled to.”
21 states have fewer than 100 beds each
At the press briefing, the minister of state for health said that 21 states had fewer than 100 bed spaces each for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
He added that only five states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, had at least the prescribed 300 beds.
Nigeria has 112 treatment, isolation centres
The minister also stated the country had 112 treatment and isolation centres in the 36 states and the FCT with a total of 5,324 beds.
Increasing cases could exceed govt’s capacity to cope – Health minister
The minister said, “Though not surprising, we are concerned about the increasing number of confirmed cases. This is because very high cases could seriously exceed the capacity of our health system to cope. Routine cases may also suffer as a result. Therefore, non-pharmaceutical preventive approach is still our best strategy.
“At present, we have a total of 112 treatment and isolation centres in all the 36 states and the FCT with 5,324 beds. While only five states including the FCT have at least 300 beds as prescribed for isolation and treatment, 21 states have less than 100 bed spaces.
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“As the number of confirmed cases increases, there is an urgent need to expand our treatment centres across the country. I therefore call on the state governors and philanthropists to take active and deliberate steps to scale up the number of beds for isolation and treatment of confirmed cases in their states.”
The health minister said the Nigerian medical researchers working with foreign partners had been able to ascertain that the strain of COVID-19 in Nigeria was the same in Wuhan, China, where the virus first broke out.