MINISTER of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire said on Tuesday that the government has not ruled out the possibility of using local herbs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he insisted that the Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development must first certify their efficacy.

The Minister, who spoke when members of the Presidential Task Force on Covid 19 briefed members of the House of Representatives, reiterated that it was wrong for hospitals to turn back patients as a result of fear of COVID-19.

He said the government was not ruling out the possibility of using local herbs for the treatment of covid 19, adding that what the government was saying is that those who claim to have found cure should subject it to test by the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development.

He said local herbs can be categorised into drugs that can cure the virus or those that can reduce the symptoms, adding that the body must be able to build the required antibodies to neutralise the virus.

Ehanire said: “Before now, it was said that Chloroquine can destroy the virus. But test are still going on in that regard. We have to test the efficacy of local drugs to see of it can kill the virus and also to find out that is in the profess of killing the virus, it can affect the body. So, the Institute will carry out the required test on the local drugs find out how it can work”.

Describing the situation in Kano as sad, he said the Nigerian government is participating in various research to find a solution to the pandemic.

He however dismissed claims that the mysterious deaths in Kano was caused by COVID-19  adding that the PTF was still waiting for the result of tests carried out in Kano was not in a position to attribute the cause of death in the state to the pandemic.

He said the statement attributed to the PTF team leader in Kano was completely false, adding that the PTF will be able to make a comprehensive statement on the Kano situation once the test results are out.

He also dismissed fears that relaxing the lockdown may lead to increased cases of the pandemic as experienced in other country, stressing that the only way to have reduced figure of COVID-19  is for people to strictly observe all measures put in place.

He said the PTF was in talks with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and some state government on the possibility of producing protective gear locally, adding that as a result of global demand, protective equipment are scarce in the global market.

The Minister lamented that some Nigerians were running away from isolation centres while others have refused to report themselves for isolation.

Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuba said African Union (AU) ministers of education were looking for alternative ways of educating children in schools so that they don’t miss much as a result of the pandemic.

He said a decision had also been taken to postpone the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination and the National Examination Council examination.

He also said INEC, the Ministry had introduced online learning for school children, but lamented that only 20 per cent of pupils are able to access such e leaning facilities as a result of lack of required facilities.

He said the federal government had asked states to adopt the e-learning programme for their students, adding that 31 states have so far adapted it.

On when schools are expected to reopen, he said that will depend on reports from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said about 4000 (Nigerians) indicated interest in returning home from different parts of the world, but said the government lack capacity to isolate them for the required period of 14 days.

The Minister said the first batch of returnees from the United Arab Emirate (UAE) were expected in the country today.

He said the returnees had been asked to pay to for their ticket back home and also take care of their upkeep while in isolation.

He added that while the government was looking for a plane to bring back Nigerians in China, it was concentrating attention on areas with large population of Nigeria.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu said there were three goals to be achieved from carrying out regular tests which include proximity, scale and future.

He said testing for scale and future explain why the centre has increased the number of testing centres from 5 to 21 with the aim of having one centre in each state of the federation.

He said while there are no confirmed  cases in Kogi and Cross Rivers states at the moment, the centre is encouraging states to increase the collection of sample for testing while the role of the agency is to give them the required support.

On whether the NCDC has failed, he said “history will judge us. This is not the time to trade blames. The NCDC has a staff strength of 300 and we have been working with other agencies of government and the states to do what we have been able to do so far.

He said: “ this pandemic will not end next week and I know that I will be criticised for this. But we need to work together to achieve results. Neither treatment or testing can get us out of this. We need your voices to get Nigerians to understand what is going on”

<<The Nation>>