COVID-19: Last three weeks have shown slowdown in number of confirmed cases – Boss Mustapha

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For us in Nigeria, the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases. Indeed, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases (138) was reported on 30th August 2020. The PTF still urges caution and vigilance on the declining numbers because the virus is still potent and very dangerous. This position is informed by the fact in spite of our enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing have not been encouraging. –Mr Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation /Chairman, PTF-COVID-19
REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN OF THE PTF-COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL PRESS BRIEFING OF MONDAY, 31st AUGUST, 2020
I welcome you all to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Monday, 31st August, 2020.
2.​As we enter the last few days of the extended eased lockdown phase of the Nation’s National Response this week, the PTF – like the global community – is confronted with a series of emerging new developments around the characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic.
3.​As we are all aware, the global number of confirmed cases has exceeded the 25million mark. This is attributable to resurgence in countries hitherto considered to have effectively contained the virus while a good number of countries that have relaxed restriction measures are others actually re-introducing such, which in some cases are being made more stringent on the basis of lessons learned.
4.​The PTF has observed that South Africa is no longer in the top five with the global cumulative cases. It has similarly observed that Ethiopia is also rising strongly. The PTF will continue to monitor developments all over Africa even as we prepare to open up the international air space for flights.
5.​The PTF has also observed that from the point the global numbers entered the 20th million, growth in cases has been on the average of a million cases every 4-5 days. This is a trend that deserves a lot of attention and the PTF is doing that.
6.​For us in Nigeria, the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases. Indeed, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases (138) was reported on 30th August 2020. The PTF still urges caution and vigilance on the declining numbers because the virus is still potent and very dangerous. This position is informed by the fact in spite of our enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing have not been encouraging.
7.​While we intensify our targeted testing strategy, we still urge the States to expand the scope of their sample collection.
8.​On a very good note, the last seven days have showed a consistently greater number of discharges than confirmed cases. Particularly, we note with delight, the report that Prof. Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, like many other Nigerians, has recovered from the infection. The PTF congratulates all those that have recovered and urge them to tell their stories.
9. The PTF also urges that the best choice to make is to avoid contracting the virus by strictly observing the non-pharmaceutical measures and all other guidelines issued.
10.​Nigerians will recall that, at the outbreak of the pandemic, it was predicted that the African continent – (with its weak health infrastructure and propensity to high disease burden) – would be the worst hit. A recent publication by the Weekly Science Review has indicated that despite having 17% of the global population, Africa has accounted for just 5% of global confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3% of deaths. Furthermore, a recent study by a group of African countries, in East Africa indicates that Africa has weathered the storm of the pandemic with a death ratio of 1:10000 persons at a total of 23,000 so far. According to the study, far more Africans have been infected with the virus and are now resistant to it for reasons such as more exposure to variants of the coronavirus and regular exposure to malaria and other infectious diseases, which prime the African Immune system to fight new pathogens. The PTF is however studying the manifestation of the virus in Nigeria and in other countries and continents in order to understand the nature.
11.​This should ordinarily give us encouragement that we are winning the war against the COVID-19 pandemic but unfortunately, the science, data and experience from other parts of the world indicate that such data should be viewed with extreme caution, as it is prone to be very deceptive and could be misleading if we let down our guards and be influenced to deviate from our strategy of cautious optimism that have brought Nigeria this far.
12.​Equally important for us in Nigeria is the that we are seeing a gradual shift in areas of high infection burden with Plateau State reporting the highest number of confirmed cases. Of course, this could be related to increased testing by citizens of the state. However, we also need to look at the flip side that there are a number of highly undetected cases lying around which we need to discover and deal with early.
13.​The WHO has published a draft landscape of the COVID-19 candidate vaccines. As at 28 August, 2020 a total 173 candidate vaccines are under evaluation.
• 33 are under clinical evaluation (8 at phase 3 trials)
• 143 candidate vaccines are in pre-clinical evaluation​
14.​As the PTF has always maintained, early testing, detection, tracing and treatment remains the second-best option for dealing with this pandemic, with the first being staying safe. In this wise, we implore Nigerians to get tested and present cases requiring treatment early to reduce our avoidable fatalities. Testing positive for coronavirus is not a death sentence, not testing and concealing cases of symptoms and presenting late is what leads to death. GET TESTED!!!!!!
15.​As we plan to re-open more sectors, we must stay the course and stick with our winning strategy which is anchored on the ability of our health institutions to contain the virus while we as citizens wear our masks properly, stay away from crowded places, avoid mass gatherings, maintain simple hygienic practices and as much as possible protect the elderly and most vulnerable to this pandemic.
16.​It is in the above context that the PTF appreciates the on-going calls for re-opening of the education sector and indeed some sub-nationals are already making preparations for such. Whilst the PTF does not discourage making such preparations, we need to be guided by experiences from countries such as Germany, France, the United States and the UK where opening of schools in some cities led to an increase in confirmed cases and fatalities.
17.​As we end this phase, the would be submitting the Seventh Interim Report to Mr. President and would be guided by his directives on the next phase. The decisions and approval would be transmitted at the national briefing on Thursday 3rd September, 2020.
18.​I now call on the Honourable Minister of Health, DG, NCDC and the National Coordinator to provide us with the technical updates.
19.​I thank you so much for your attention and have a good evening.
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