FG insists on Chinese doctors, says they will bring “scarce medical supplies

The 18-member team of Chinese experts will be arriving soon with “globally scarce supplies” in the fight against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). This is coming days after the  Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC)  rejected the invitation by the Federal Government of a Chinese medical team to help Nigeria in its coronavirus response. Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja, at the Presidential Taskforce (PTF), briefing on COVID-19 in the country.

“On Friday, April 3, I announced that a team of Chinese medical experts will arrive. They are expected to arrive Nigeria in a few days with a consignment of globally scarce medical supplies, to augment government efforts and build capacity to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The donation by Chinese Companies in Nigeria, includes Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, medical consumables, over one million surgical masks for health workers and even ICU ventilators, valued at over 100,000 dollars, all sourced in the face of global scarcity of these items. “In addition, Chinese medical experts, comprising doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and public health managers will share their knowledge, skills and real-life experience of fighting COVID-19 with Nigerian personnel to strengthening management of COVID-19 cases, especially with regard to critical care,” he said. Ehanire said that this initiative would greatly build the capacity of hard-working and resourceful Nigerian Healthcare workers at the forefront of fighting COVID-19.

“The much needed PPEs and masks will protect our frontline workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the line of duty. “We have a window of opportunity to strengthen our own response mechanism through lessons learned from any country that has had the experience and can provide hands-on demonstration of dealing with the outbreak and give the Nigerian clinical workforce the opportunity to share global best practices,” he explained. The minister disclosed that the government has also identified additional treatment centres.

He said that the government was also working with the African Union to implement a continental response. “We are working with the African Union to develop a continental response. “A Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 response has been developed and an African Task Force on Coronavirus (AFCOR) set up to coordinate preparedness and response efforts in the continent,” he noted.

He explained that since the last briefing, they have activated two additional laboratories for COVID-19 testing at the Defence Reference Laboratory, FCT and Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory Lagos.

The minister disclosed that in the coming month, they intend to expand further to more laboratory with capacity to test for COVID-19. Earlier, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for the control of COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, said that the lockdown was not punitive. “It is meant to prevent the escalation of the virus spread. We will review the lockdown by the end of the week and make recommendations to the President,” he said. Mustapha, who is also Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said that last week, the United Nation Secretary-General singled out Nigeria for commendation for it efforts in restricting the virus. He said that one major support that have attracted public commentaries was the offer by CCECC.

He noted that CCECC is a Chinese company that would be importing about 256 equipment and items in different quantities. According to him, these include 1, 300,000 medical masks, over 150, 000 pieces of assorted personal protective equipment as well as 50 medical ventilators.

The SGF said that the company had also proposed to sponsor public health experts to help strengthen the Nigerian public health capacity and advice on processes and procedures. He clarified that all countries of the world seek for and received help in the fight against COVID-19. “The support coming from China is a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative by CCECC, a company with total value of infrastructure contracts worth 10 billion dollars in Nigeria. “The professionals that have been invited from China are public health specialists and medical engineers that will support Nigeria’s capacity in managing the pandemic on advisory basis when necessary, while drawing from the experience of the Chinese.

 “In no way shall there be case management and interface with patients. “They will train our manpower, advice on procedures and methods, install and test the equipment donated before handling them over,” he said. Mustapha appealed to the Nigerian medical professionals to see the positive aspects of this gesture as an extension of development in the field of medicine. He, however said that the PTF recognized and respects the competence and capability of Nigerian doctors and other medical personnel. The SGF said that this was a state of war against COVID19 and time should not be devoted to unhelpful controversies.