The Federal Government on Thursday admitted that its policy on self-isolation (isolation from home), especially for those coming into the country by air, land or sea, has failed because at that time, there were a multiplication of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases from such persons.
In order to curb the incidence of such cases coming in and forming clusters of new infections across the country, the provision of self-isolation has now been replaced with quarantining of returnees on arrival.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, made this known on Thursday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
According to him, “The policy we have now is that anybody arriving Nigeria from anywhere whether by air, land or by sea will go into quarantine for 14 days. During that 14 days they will be observed for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 disease. They will be tested at the beginning and at the end.
“We Don’t have a provision for isolation at home. At the very beginning, we had that provision that if you came in and did not have a symptom, you isolate at home. Since then, all the cases we are dealing with now came in and multiplied. In order to reduce the incidence of cases coming in and then forming clusters of new infections, the provision has now changed to what we call isolation-one or quarantine.
“Quarantine is for those who have not been confirmed or who are under isolation. If during the period, signs and symptoms show up, they will be tested. If they are positive they will go to treatment centres. If after 14 days they show no symptoms or signs and they are tested and are negative, they are free to go. That is the protocol we have now.”
He therefore, urged states government to ensure that they treat COVID-19 patients with dignity as there are some reports across the country of inhumane treated of some patients in isolation and treatment centres.
He added: “I join the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in welcoming the first batch of Nigerian nationals, who were successfully repatriated yesterday evening to Lagos from Dubai. They have entered into mandatory supervised 14-day quarantine, in 2 designated hotels, in line with laid down protocols.
“They will be tested for COVID-19 and any person testing positive shall be invited to a treatment facility. I appeal to our returning citizens to bear with us and cooperate with authorities, especially if they perceive imperfections in our arrangements, as this is a test run, the first of these exercises.
“I shall here also request all states to embark on preparing at least 300 bed spaces for COVID-19 isolation and treatment. As testing is scaled up and more persons with COVID-19 infection are identified, it is necessary that they are safely and securely isolated and treated with dignity until they test negative, to break our chain of transmission.”
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, added: “People have not committed a crime, so they are not being held in prison. So we really want to work together with everyone to ensure that we all achieve our goals
“The security in treatment and isolation centres is the same thing like any other established organisation as security is the responsibility of the police working with the states government in that particular place.
“In certain circumstances, the states have had to increase the security in those facilities. In honesty, we don’t want to ‘securitize’ this response. We want people and organisations to take responsibilities.”