Olalekan Adetayo, Friday Olokor, Samson Folarin, Tobi Aworinde and Wale Oyewale
The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs have begun work on guidelines, which will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in churches and mosques after the reopening of worship centres in the country.
The apex Islamic and Christian groups in the country, which stated this in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said the guidelines would be submitted to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for review and advice.
The NSCIA specifically stated that a committee it set up was working on the guidelines.
Also, there were indications on Tuesday that CAN would on Wednesday hold a virtual meeting on guidelines for Christian worship centres.
A top official of the association, who confided in our correspondent in Oyo State, said there would be consultations among blocs in CAN during the online meeting on Wednesday on the issue.
The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, had on Thursday at the press conference of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the Public Transport Owners’ Association of Nigeria had submitted to the NCDC, guidelines to reopen interstate transportation while preventing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
He stated that the agency would review the guidelines and advise the association, whose members were operators of vehicles, popularly known as luxury buses
Ihekweazu, therefore, asked professional groups and faith-based organisations, including churches and mosques, to submit guidelines for reopening to the NCDC to review and advise them.
CAN proposed guidelines target social distancing at church services
The Special Assistant on Media and Communications to CAN President, Adebayo Oladeji, in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday in Abuja, said the association was working on the guidelines.
He stated, “We are working on them (the guidelines) and whenever the NCDC and the PTF are ready, we will surely submit. The highlights are based on the guidelines on how to safeguard our members during the worship with a view to stopping the spread of coronavirus while the worship lasts. It is about the social distancing, soap, water and sanitisers.”
CAN holds virtual meeting on guidelines today
A top official of CAN told The PUNCH, on Tuesday evening, that consultations with various groups within the blocs in CAN were ongoing in anticipation of the Wednesday meeting.
He said, “The CAN President, Reverend Supo Ayokunle, is very busy at the moment as he has been having series of meetings with various groups for hours. We are not sure of how long the meeting would last because there are two more groups waiting to meet with him separately this evening.
“This is related to the guidelines on modalities to follow after the lockdown is lifted. There will be clearer picture by tomorrow (Wednesday). After the consultation with the leaders of the blocs in CAN, a virtual meeting would hold. Perhaps, the online meeting on Wednesday (today) would lead to the constitution of a committee that would make recommendation on the final steps to be taken.
“After the meeting, a clear picture will be given. I think the foundation upon which steps to follow would be based is being laid at the moment.”
NSCIA sets up committee
On his part, the NSCIA spokesman, Ibrahim Aselemi, stated, “A committee has been set up to work out the modalities as requested. I shall make the details known to you as soon as they are okayed by my superiors.”
COVID-19: NAFDAC disagrees with WHO, continues hydroxychloroquine trials
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has said it will continue hydroxychloroquine clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 in Nigeria, despite the suspension of the trials by the World Health Organisation.
The PUNCH reported that the WHO, on Monday, said it had “temporarily” suspended the clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
But the NAFDAC Director General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, who spoke on Television Continental on Tuesday, stated that there was evidence that hydroxychloroquine had been effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially those at the “mild stage” of the virus.
Adeyeye said, “There is data to prove that hydroxychloroquine worked for many COVID-19 patients. Therefore, we would continue our own clinical trials in Nigeria. Hydroxychloroquine has been proved to work at a mild stage. So the potency depends on the severity of the disease in the patient’s body.”
While noting that Lagos State had already begun hydroxychloroquine clinical trials, the NAFDAC boss said, depending on the speed of work, the clinical trials would be concluded in three to four months.
“If medical doctors, research scientists, pharmacists and herbal experts work together, we should conclude the clinical trial in three to four months. The narrative might change afterwards, but for now, we believe in hydroxychloroquine,” she stated.
According to the WHO, the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine followed a study, which showed that using the drug on COVID-19 patients could increase their chance of dying.
The WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said, “The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial, while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.”
He stressed that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria”, noting that the suspension was a temporary measure.
Health ministry gets Madagascar’s drug from SGF today
Barring any last minute change in plan, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, will on Wednesday (today) hand over Madagascan native formulation for the treatment of COVID-19 to the Ministry of Health.
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this on Sunday evening during a programme on Channels Television, Sunday Politics.
Sunday PUNCH had reported exclusively that over a week after receiving the Madagascan formulation for the treatment of COVID-19, the Presidency had yet to send the samples to NAFDAC for testing.
The report had quoted a source as saying that the drug, which was delivered to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), by his Guinea Bissau counterpart, Umarro Embalo, 10 days ago, had remained in the possession of the SGF.
Ehanire, in confirming the report, said his ministry would take delivery of the drug “on the next working day.”
Since the Federal Government has declared Monday and Tuesday as public holidays to mark this year’s Eid-el-Fitr, the next working day is Wednesday.
The minister said, “The Madagascar herb is supposed to be handed over to the Ministry of Health on the next working day.
“That’s when we will pick it up and then send to our research institutes, first of course to NAFDAC and then to the Nigeria Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development to look into it and tell us what it is.”
On issue of local alternative experts, the minister said he had received “quite a few” proposals from people who claimed to have medicines for the virus.
He said NAFDAC and other research institutes would also look into the samples sent to him.
The minister said the process might take a bit of time.
Ehanire said the country would continue to increase on its testing capacity, which he said depended on getting the reagents which had very high global demand.
The SGF had, at the daily COVID-19 briefing last Tuesday, said he had received the consignment of Madagascar’s drug and that it would be sent to the ministry of health.
Mustapha had said, “As God would have it, the President of Guinea Bissau decided to visit our President last Saturday and when he was coming, he came with our consignment of five cartons and those five cartons were delivered to me yesterday in the evening, sealed, without a bottle out of it.
“I am going to engage the minister of health who has the responsibility of validation, through his institutions that are chartered by law to do that. The President was upfront with that even when he took delivery of it from the President of Guinea Bissau.
“He said it quite clearly of what we are going to do with the consignment would be guided by science, under the processes of validation. We’ll now know where to go.”
We are prepared to comply with regulations, says RCCG
Meanwhile, the Redeemed Christian Church of God expressed readiness to adjust its services in order to meet government guidelines for worship.
The Head, Media and Public Relations, RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said the church was always ready to comply with any regulations.
He said, “From the outset of this pandemic and the attendant lockdown, our general overseer has continued to emphasise that all our churches must abide by whatever rules and regulations the government brings. We are sufficiently ready to comply with the rules.
“When we look at the issue of spacing, for instance, churches are in different categories. We are a church planting mission. We have some of our churches that are in the lower cadre in terms of the population of the congregation. Some are under 50, while some are under 100.
“So, when the rules are ready, we will adjust. Some of our mega churches, space should not be a problem; it is a matter of reducing the number of people worshipping at a time.
“In all the sermons that our general overseer has been preaching on Sundays, he has been emphasising the issue of social distancing. Once we know the details of what the government wants, we will work towards achieving it.”
Meanwhile, global COVID-19 cases rose to 5,550,339 at 10pm on Tuesday, while 348,447 had died of the disease as of the time sending this report.
In the United States, COVID-19 cases increased to 1,676,401 on Tuesday. The virus had killed 98,787 as of 11:15pm on Tuesday.
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