COVID-19 Weekly: Pharmacies Sell Hydroxychloroquine for N50,000, Worship Centres to Reopen, others

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Over the last 7 days (July 28 to August 4), 31,473 Nigerians have been tested for the COVID-19 infection. Out of this number, 2,629 were confirmed to be infected with the virus. This shows a decline in rate of infection compared to the 3,460 people that tested positive the previous week.

The number of people that were declared free of the virus after undergoing treatment also increased for the week in review. Out of the 13,087 people whose tests came back negative, 10,000 of them had been receiving treatment from home, according to the NCDC.

The decline in the rate of infections has led to some government easing up the lockdown policies in some sectors and permitting some measure of activities to resume.

Lagos state reopens places of worship

Churches, mosques, and other centres of worship have been given the go-ahead to reopen in Lagos state by the state government. The directive will be in effect from the 7th of August.

Churches are free to start services as long as they comply with the COVID-19 protocols for the worship centres. These involve having a maximum of 50% capacity in any single worship gathering, observing social distancing within the centres and wearing of face masks by all and sundry.

The centres are to provide washing water and sanitisers for worshippers and ensure that members follow the laid down guidelines.

Responding to the directive, the Lagos Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman, Apostle Alex Bamgbola said that all Christian worship centres in the State must be fully prepared and in full compliance before Sunday, August 9, 2020.

“There must be proper monitoring and supervision by each denomination, to ensure and ascertain full compliance of the agreed protocols. This is to avoid any embarrassment of sanctions by Lagos State Government authorities.” He said

Ogun state boarding students to take free COVID-19 test

Boarding students in exit classes in Ogun state have been directed to take COVID-19 tests. The directive, when it was first given, mandated the students to pay N25,000 to the school for the tests.

Following protests by parents in the state, the government turned around and issued a new statement stating that the test was no longer a compulsory requirement for returning students.

Furthermore, the government declared that the test is now to be done free of charge for every returning student, adding that those who had paid earlier would be refunded.

The decision to remove the test as a mandatory requirement came after the government realized that its daily testing capacity of 500 people a day would mean that not all students could be tested and get their results before August 17 when the West African Examinations will commence.

“However, in view of the total number of boarding students to be tested (5,340 private and 500 public), and bearing in mind the limitation of our installed testing capacity of 500 tests per day, it may not be feasible for all boarding students to get tested and get their results prior to resumption or even exams which commence on 17th August 2020.

Excerpt from the statement by Ogun State government

The testing exercise is going on at three public health care facilities in the state which include the 250 MTR in Abeokuta, the Ogun State General Hospital and the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital.

Pharmaceutical stores hike price of hydroxychloroquine

The Director-general of the Nigerian Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, announced that the agency is working with global agencies to ensure that Nigerians have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.

While this is in progress, pharmaceutical stores in the country have jacked up the price of hydroxychloroquine. A picture circulated on Whatsapp by a whistleblower showed a pack of the drug that contained 60 tablets with the price tag of N50,000. The drug was of the Zentiva brand and was sold by Ebus Pharmacy Ltd in Rivers state.

The pharmacy is not the only one to have hiked its price. According to Premium Times, 3 other stores in Port Harcourt were confirmed to be selling hydroxychloroquine at about the same price as Ebus Pharmacy.

One of the unnamed stores revealed that it sold a similar pack for N54,000 but had run out of stock. Smaller packs with less than 60 tablets sell at lesser prices in the city. For instance, another brand which had 20 tablets in the pack was sold between N15,000 and N18,000.

A quick search on the price of hydroxychloroquine reveals the drug goes for between N16,000 to N17,500 for a supply of 100 tablets. Selling 60 tablets for N50,000 to N54,000 is an absolute ripoff.

A federal agency in the country, the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), has caught wind of the hike in prices and has reportedly begun investigating it.

According to the head of FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, the agency has been notified of a store in Victoria Island in Lagos that sells the drug for N75,000 a pack. He said the agency is conducting surveillance operations on the suspected stores.

The boost in demand for hydroxychloroquine in particular became heightened following the video released by US-based Nigerian doctor, Stella Immanuel, who claimed that she had treated over 300 COVID-19 patients with the drug and had recorded no death.

Nigeria receives medical supplies from UN COVID-19 Basket Fund

The United Nations COVID-19 Basket Fund has dispatched the second batch of essential medical supplies to the Nigerian federal government. The supplies include 500,000 face shields, 200,000 goggles, 100 oro-pharyngeal airways, 10,000 bio-hazard bags and 14,000 safety boxes.

The supplies were handed over to the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and other stakeholders at the Cargo Section of Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.

The European Union contributed €50 million (N26 billion) for the procurement of the items through the One United Nations COVID-19 Basket Fund, according to the Charge d’Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria, Mr Alexander Borges–Gomes.

Borges-Gomes who coordinated the handover stated that the supplies were meant to replenish the stock of medical supplies that were being given to frontline health workers.

Responding to this, Ehanire said that the supplies will be judiciously used and will reassure the frontline health workers who have been threatening to embark on a strike, that the nation is not running out of protective supplies for them. He added that plans are in place through institutions and international friends like the EU and the UN to continue restocking the medical supplies.

In summary..

Slow and steady steps are being taken to return activities in the country back to a new normal. Places of worship are being reopened, lockdown policies are being reviewed, and schools are already reopening for students in exit classes to take lectures and be assessed.

The coming weeks will see policies being put together with the purpose of restoring activities without endangering lives. One of those to look out for is the decision regarding public tertiary institutions and their resumption.


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