As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Mask Week which began on August 7, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said appropriate use of face masks, physical distancing and other protocols remained the only protective measures against COVID-19.
The minister spoke on Monday in Abuja at the media briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic.
The week is to reinforce the importance of wearing masks to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19, in the absence of a vaccine.
Ehanire said: “Until there is vaccine, the only options we have to protect ourselves, are still the non-pharmaceutical measures that are proven to be cheap and effective, such as the appropriate use of face masks, physical distancing and avoiding crowds. If we do not adhere, there could be regrets.
“The urgency is accentuated by the need to prepare for societal changes that will arise as the economy reopens with increased transportation, trade and human interaction, including possible reopening of air travel.
“We must make an effort to balance the benefits of a reactivated economy with the need to keep citizens safe, with no loss in gains so far made.”
The minister said figures released by the NCDC showed that Nigeria was fast approaching the symbolic 1,000 number of fatalities, pointing out that the grim reality should be a wakeup call.
“Our focus is still to reduce fatality to less than one percent, not only with preventive measures, but also with a strategy that encourages citizens to report early for treatment and for hospitals to attend to all patients in distress; most importantly to be able to provide oxygen treatment.
“The main COVID-19 symptoms include breathlessness, which responds well to oxygen supplementation as first measure. We are turning our preferences therefore to gadgets that provide oxygen, like oxygen generators to be in many facilities, including General Hospitals and larger PHCs solar powered aggregates, where available, will be prioritized.
“Federal Health Institutions with oxygen plants should activate them as a matter of priority and ensure they can deliver to their A & E Dept.
“The other measure is the activation of Ambulance service to move patients to treatment centers. This strategy worked well in Kano and all States should prepare to set up the system. The Federal Ministry of Health will provide guidance,’’ Ehanire explained.
According to him, the National Council on Health has approved the establishment of the National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System (NEMSAS), an innovative system to pool the assets of public and private sector ambulances and hospitals to raise funds to augment government seed money.
“They will also work with states to provide emergency medical care and patient transportation to all citizens whenever and wherever it is required and irrespective of immediate or potential ability to pay.
“It will be possible to considerably reduce COVID-19 mortality, including maternal, child mortality, and post crash mortality with a functional Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System that can rely on the combined assets of private and public sectors,” the minister said.