THE Federal Government (FG) made a statement on Thursday that it would close private hospitals that engage in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19, warning that the country cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality.

Speaking during the daily media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, stated that private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat the highly infectious disease; warning that practitioners who engage in unauthorised treatment run the risk of being shut down.

The minister said: “I shall use this opportunity to again strongly advise health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities. We cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality.

“Private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat this highly infectious disease. Practitioners engaging in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19, run the risk of being shut down for decontamination.”

Due to the evidence of community transmission in the country now, Ehanire said the next phase of their strategy is to focus on the community.

“There will be more community testing and social mobilisation at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarves over the mouth and nose, to reduce risk of transmission,” the minister said.

However, he pointed out that the revised case definition for testing includes: All patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome; Contacts of people confirmed to have COVID-19, with fever and respiratory tract symptoms; and Persons with fever and respiratory tract symptoms of unknown cause.

Giving the update on the number of cases, discharged and death recorded, he stated that it was quite unfortunately that the latest fatality in Lagos is a medical professional.

The minister said: “I want to express my condolences to the family. This highlights the risk to health workers in this COVID-19 response. Patients with mild symptoms are still very highly infectious, and mild symptoms in one person could be deadly infection in another. That is why we recommend the suspension of close contact between grandchildren and grandparents, at this time.

“Our valuable health workers are urged to adhere to all government instructions and regulations; always utilise personal protective equipment (PPE); maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19; and protect yourselves, your loved ones and your colleagues.”

He added: “As of today, 16th April, 2020, a total of 407 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19, 99 patients have been discharged and 12 deaths have been recorded in Nigeria, all with co-morbidities. The 34 new cases confirmed are distributed as follows: 18 in Lagos, 12 in Kano, 2 in Katsina, and 1 each in Delta and Niger States.”

The minister commended Lagos State and the FCT for their handling of the COVID-19 response, and said, “despite being the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria, the response in Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is commendable as they strive to enhance case-finding by conducting house-to-house and cluster testing based on epidemiological assessments.

“Our ability to do this strategic scale-up of testing over the next two weeks will go a long way in promptly detecting, testing and treating people with COVID-19.”

He also said: “The national testing capacity has been increased to 3,000 per day in 13 molecular laboratories nationwide activated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The target this week is to significantly increase the national testing capacity further; two more laboratories are scheduled to come online in Borno and Sokoto States.”