The Lagos State Government may convert more hotels and public places to isolation centres in the face of increasing cases of coronavirus in the state, according to indications on Friday.
Although the state currently has isolation centres at Yaba, Onikan, Gbagada and Eti-Osa and a seized property handed over to it on Friday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the facilities are proving inadequate to cope with the rate of infection in the state and the projection that as many as 120,000 cases may be recorded in the state by July, just two months away.
The development is already putting the state government under more pressure to declare a fresh lockdown.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 which is coordinating the war against COVID-19 in the country is due to meet today in Abuja to consider whether to end the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The PTF is also looking at more treatment modes for positive patients, including alternative traditional medicine.
Another option is to leave each state to decide the best choice it likes on extension of lockdown or otherwise.
Investigation at the weekend showed that the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Lagos is causing the Federal and the state governments a lot of worries, particularly how to get sufficient care for infected people.
A top source said: “From the way Lagos is recording more cases daily, it may impose another one-week lockdown on its citizens to prepare adequate facilities for the rise in the number of cases.
“Experts have projected that Lagos may record as many as 120,000 cases at its peak. If the pandemic reaches this projected figure, all the facilities in the state will be overstretched.
“The state government is already acquiring hotels and private facilities as isolation centres to cope with the challenge. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has just handed over an asset to the state as a centre.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “Another lockdown may be painful but it is necessary to save the people of the state. The task before us is: how do you preserve life without destroying livelihood?”
PTF meets today, weighs options on lockdown
On its part, the PTF is weighing options on many issues including whether or not to put an end to the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT and diversifying modes of treatment.
Although PTF members met on Friday, they could not reach conclusions on available options to manage the community spread stage of COVID-19.
The PTF has done well on the first level of contact tracing.
A reliable source listed the options available to the PTF as follows:
° Retain the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun, FCT as it is for two more weeks
° End the lockdown; take the risk to expose people to more community transmission /spread
° Stop the lockdown, allow those infected to self-isolate at home for treatment
Leave each state to decide the best option suitable for it on lockdown but work with NGF on minimum template for COVID-19 management
Immediate revival of Alternative (Traditional) Medicine
PTF to ask research institutes to relax protocols for the validation of local drugs
Allow or approve the use of local herbs for treatment
The source said: “We have not been able to reach conclusions on all the options before us. This is why PTF members will meet on Sunday. We will consider whether or not to end the Federal Government’s lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT.
“The worries of the PTF are that very little is known about the virus leading to assumptions and use of different drugs; there is high rate of increase in community spread in Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kano Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Gombe, Sokoto and Edo states; and Nigerians are observing all the guidelines on COVID-19 in the breach.
“There is an emerging pattern indicating that 80% of those with Coronavirus infections do not know because they assume that it is just cold. So, the PTF members are claiming that with all these indices, should it still go ahead to lift the lockdown?
“The PTF members are also saying that will it be proper for Nigeria to isolate itself from international community in managing COVID-19 and take a huge risk to expose Nigerians to the grave consequences of Coronavirus. The cases of the United States, Ghana and some countries that unlocked with a higher cost came into consideration at the last meeting.
“We have been working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and others which have been guiding us with data and trends on how to manage and contain COVID-19, including the lockdown.
“Although some state governors are easing lockdown in their states without any justifiable medical or health reasons than politics, the PTF believes it is a dangerous path which can boomerang.
“It is convenient for governors to be laying claim to the principle of federalism in managing COVID-19 with different Executive Orders but when they are cash-strapped or they have security challenges or epidemics, they rush to the centre for assistance.
“So another option on the table is to leave each state to decide the best option suitable for it on lockdown but work with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on minimum template for COVID-19 management, including restrictions in high-risk areas.”
The source added that the PTF has been thinking of how to diversify the modes of treatment of COVID-19 and even preventive measures before ending the lockdown.
The source said the PTF was exploring ways of “taking a second look at many local remedies which are difficult to validate.
“Maybe, the PTF may instruct the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to relax the protocols for the validation of local drugs for COVID-19.
“As part of immediate and long terms’ plans, Nigeria may rejig its Alternative Traditional Medical Council.
“These are the available options before the PTF. The meetings on Sunday and Monday will determine the direction we are going.”
The EFCC, in handing over the seized property to the Lagos State Government on Friday, said it was a demonstration of the agency’s support in curbing the spread of the virus.
The building was one of the choice properties confiscated from former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke by the EFCC.
The property comprises six flats of three bedrooms and a boys’ quarter.
It was received from the EFCC by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, on Friday, extended the COVID-19 lockdown in the state for the third consecutive week.
The new lockdown will lapse on May 24.
The governor cited non-compliance by residents with safety regulations and the community spread of the virus as reasons for extending the sit-at-home order.
“In view of the evidence of community transmission and poor compliance with the lockdown measures, we are constrained to extend the lockdown by another week till Sunday 24th of May,” he told reporters.
“The current pattern of lockdown with relaxation windows from 7.00 am to 5.00 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday continues.
“We will continue to monitor the level of compliance with the lockdown measures and incidence of community transmission and hopefully, there will be positive developments that will enable us further ease the lockdown at the end of this new lockdown period.”
Another source said: “The PTF is also being advised to draw a Roadmap for phased lifting of the restrictions (lockdown) in some parts of the country. Some nations have adopted this model.
“A test run was done about two weeks ago when the President relaxed the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and FCT.
“If the end of restrictions will be in phases, it will involve drawing a timetable which all stakeholders will religiously adhere to.”