The Federal Government is open to the possibility of using local herbs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who stated this when the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefed members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, insisted that the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development must first certify any such remedy.
Ehanire said the government was not ruling out the possibility of using local herbs for the treatment of COVID-19, adding that what the government was saying was that those who claim to have found cure should subject it to test by the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development.
He said local herbs can be categorised unto drugs that can cure the virus or those that can reduce the symptoms, adding that the body must be able to build the required antibodies to neutralise the virus.
The minister said “before now, it was said that Chloroquine can destroy the virus. But test is still going on in that regard. We have to test the efficacy of local drugs to see if it can kill the virus and also to find out that is in the process of killing the virus, it can affect the body. So, the Institute will carry out the required test on the local drugs find out how it”.
He warned that doing so may result in another round of national health emergency since leaving other ailments unattended to can be fatal. The Minister said many people who are infected with the virus may not display any symptom and may innocently be infecting others with it, explaining that this explains the need for self-isolation and staying at home. He said those without symptom are capable of transferring the virus to others with less immunity and this is dangerous.
The solution is to keep everybody in isolation. While describing the situation in Kano as a sad, he said the Nigerian government is currently participating in various research to find a solution to the pandemic.
He, however, dismissed claims that the mysterious death in Kano was caused by COVID-19, adding that the PTF was still waiting for the result of tests carried out in Kano and therefore was not in a position to attribute the cause of death in the state to the pandemic.
The minister said the statement attributed to the PTF team leader in Kano was completely false, adding that the PTF will be able to make a comprehensive statement on the Kano situation once the test results are out.
He also dismissed fears that relaxing the lockdown may lead to increasing cases of the pandemic as experienced in other countries, stressing that the only way to have reduced figure of COVID-19 is for people to strictly observed all measures put in place. He said the PTF was in talks with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and some state government on the possibility of producing protective gear locally, adding that as a result of global demand, protective equipment are currently scarce in the global market.
The Minister lamented that some Nigerians were running away from isolation centres while others have refused to report themselves for isolation. He disclosed that the government has already tried out the Ebola antiretroviral drug recommended by the United States Government for the fight against the pandemic, but was silent on the outcome of such trial in Lagos.
He said most of the infections in some states of the north was as a result of people travelling to such states from Kano, adding that this explained why the restriction on travelling is necessary for now.
Ehanire condemned reported cases of patients being turned back from hospitals as a result of fear of the pandemic, adding that the government was sensitising hospitals to the fact that it could be disastrous to ignore other ailments.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu said there were three goals to be achieved from carrying out regular tests which include proximity, scale and future.
He said testing for scale and future explains why the centre has increased the number of testing centres from 5 to 21 with the aim of having one centre in each state of the federation. He said while there are no confirmed cases in Kogi and Cross Rivers at the moment, the centre is encouraging states to increase the collection of sample for testing while the role of the agency is to give them the required support.
On whether the NCDC has failed, he said “history will judge us. This is not the time to trade blames. The NCDC has a staff strength of 300 and we have been working with other agencies of government and the states to do what we have been able to do so far.”
He said ”this pandemic will not end next week and I know that I will be criticised for this. But we need to work together to achieve results. Neither treatment or testing can get us out of this. We need your voices to get Nigerians to understand what is going on”
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