The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, on Thursday, said that it is not aware of the whereabouts of the Chinese doctors and health professionals who were brought to Nigeria some weeks ago to help the country in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the daily briefing of the PTF in Abuja on Thursday, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, wondered why there was so much interest in knowing the whereabouts of the Chinese health professionals and he told journalists not to ask him the question again.
Controversies have trailed the choice of the Federal Government to allow the Chinese doctors to come in, as many groups and associations, including the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), kicked against it.
But the Minister of Health, on Thursday, said that the ministry was not their host and does not know their whereabouts, adding that the ministry cannot explain “because they are not really our guests.”
Dr Ehanire said: “The other one is about the Chinese doctors. I think not all of them are doctors, some of them are technicians, but they are staff of CCECC. The Ministry of Health is not their host, so we cannot always explain what happens to them or where they are.
“There seems to be a lot of interests in these doctors, but they are staff of a company and I think they are on the company visa. So, I will be very happy if you don’t ask me about where they are because they are not really our guests in that sense.”
However, the minister said, “We have been able to learn some things from them by interacting with them from their experience in their country. They did tell us, and we shared ideas about what they did in their country, how they are managing COVID-19.”
On the issue of isolation of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms at home, Ehanire said self-isolation at home “is an option we have been talking about. The NCDC has released very nice guidelines on that, but not everybody is eligible for that.”
The minister added that “the delivery of routine service in all our hospitals has been slated for special emphasis as attendance for medical services in all areas of health challenges have dropped drastically.”
According to Ehanire: “Latest statistics from the National Health Management Information System (NHMIS) indicates that out-patient visits dropped from 4 million to about 2 million, antenatal visits from 1.3 million to 655 thousand, skilled birth attendance from 158,374 to less than 99,000, while immunisation services dropped to about half. All these have as yet undetermined consequences, which the easing of the lockdown should hopefully address.
“However, the downside of easing the restrictions needs to be balanced off with a collective determination by all of us, not only to comply with protective and prophylactic advisories, but to encourage relatives, friends, neighbours and customers to do same.
“The use of facial covers like masks in places where social distancing may be difficult or impractical should be supported and emphasised through donation of masks to the population, as an act of goodwill. Face masks should become commonplace and I look forward to all cooks and Food vendors, for example, wearing masks, or risk losing customers.”
He said the government have been in discussion with multinationals and development partners such as WHO and Global Fund on their plan, needs and processes; adding that funds are also being repurposed for use in further increasing our diagnostic capacity and providing personal protective equipment for our health care workers.