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COVID-19: We don’t know whereabouts of Chinese doctors ― PTF • Don’t ask me where they are ― Health Minister

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, on Thursday, said that they were not aware of the whereabouts of the Chinese doctors and health professionals who were imported to Nigeria some weeks ago to help Nigeria in its fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

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Speaking at the daily briefing of the PTF in Abuja on Thursday, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, wondered while there are so much interest of the Chinese health professionals and told the journalists not to ask him about their whereabouts again.

So much controversy trailed the insistence of the Federal Government to allow the importation of the Chinese health professionals as many groups and associations, including the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), and the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) rejected and kicked against their importation.

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But the Minister of Health, Thursday, said that the ministry was not their host, and do not know their whereabouts, adding that the ministry cannot explain their whereabouts “because they are not really our guests.”

Dr Ehanire said: “The other one is about the Chinese doctors. I think not all of them are doctors, some of them are technicians but they are staff of CCECC. The Ministry of Health is not their host, so we cannot always explain what happens to them or where they are.

“There seems to be a lot of interests in these doctors but they are staff of a company and I think they are on the company visa. So, I will be very happy if you don’t ask me about where they are because they are not really our guests in that sense.”

However, the minister said they were able to learn a lot of things from the Chinese health professionals, adding, “we have been able to learn some things from them by interacting with them from their experience in their country. They did tell us, and we shared ideas about what they did in their country, how they are managing COVID-19.”

On the issue of self-isolation of mild COVID-19 patients at home; Ehanire said the idea of self-isolation at home “is an option we have been talking about, the NCDC has released very nice guidelines on that but not everybody is eligible for that.”

Also, on the danger posed to normal routine health services in the hospitals, the minister said “the delivery of routine service in all our hospitals has been slated for special emphasis.; as attendance for medical services in all areas of health challenges have dropped drastically.”

According to Ehanire: “Latest statistics from the National Health Management Information System (NHMIS) indicates that Out-Patient visit dropped from 4 million to about 2 million, Antenatal visits from 1.3 million to 655 thousand, Skilled Birth attendance from 158,374 to less than 99,000, while immunization services dropped to about half. All these have as yet undetermined consequences, which the easing of the lockdown should hopefully address.

“However, the downside of easing the restrictions needs to be balanced off with a collective determination by all of us, not only to comply with protective and prophylactic advisories, but to encourage relatives, friends, neighbours and customers to do same.

“The use of facial covers like masks in places where social distancing may be difficult or impractical should be supported and emphasised through donation of masks to the population, as an act of goodwill. Face masks should become commonplace and I look forward to all cooks and Food vendors, for example, wearing masks, or risk losing customers.”

He said the government have been in discussion with multinationals and the development partners such as WHO and Global Fund on their plan, needs and processes; adding that funds are also being repurposed for use in further increasing our diagnostic capacity and providing personal protective equipment for our health care work

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