The Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) has called on the Federal Ministry of Health to provide all the necessary protective materials to its members (journalists) covering coronavirus (COVID-19)
The association made the call in a statement signed by its President, Mr Hassan Zaggi and General Secretary, Ms Gloria Essien on Thursday in Abuja.
According to them, the journalists are at risk of being exposed to the virus if not well protected with necessary equipment.
The association expressed concern over the daily increase of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed seven new cases of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
Five of these cases were announced by 11:25 p.m. while two were announced about 7 a.m. on Thursday.
“The governments at both the Federal and State levels should develop ingenious ways of supporting people to alleviate their sufferings in the event that there is total shut down of activities in the country.
“We also call on the Federal Government to provide the necessary funding to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 to enable it perform optimally.
“The Task force, should, on the other hand, partner with all agencies of government and the private sector for better result.
“ANHEJ is therefore, determined to work closely with all relevant government agencies, the private sector and the Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the way we did during Ebola crisis to provide our people with the needed information.’’
The association also called for urgent action as Nigeria gradually gets to community spread of Covid-19.
“Most worrisome, however, is that, a considerable number of the newly confirmed cases are not imported. What this implies is that our situation is gradually getting to community spread of the diseases.
“This is evident in the case of aides of some top government functionaries who are said to have come down with the illness without travelling outside the country. They contracted it from their bosses.
“Even though it is not time to apportion blames, as journalists covering the health sector, we have, at various media briefings organised by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, observed the need for forced isolation.
“We have observed the need for forced isolation instead of the current method of self-isolation being adopted by the federal government.
“We have severally argued that some Nigerians may not observe the voluntarily 14-days self-isolation, hence, the need to force them in order to prevent them from spreading the disease in the country.’’
The officials said the fears seemed to be coming true, emphasising on force isolation for anyone coming into the country is the way to go.
“ANHEJ, therefore, calls on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), to, as matter of urgency, track all the people that might have had close contact with the top government functionaries who are currently down with the Covid-19.
“Nobody should be left out, no matter how high placed. They should be closely monitored for 14 days.
“Considering that most of the states in the country are closing businesses, the rural areas will definitely witness influx of those coming from the city, hence, the tendency to have the disease spread to the rural areas.
The governments must, therefore, should intensify efforts to ensure that Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) have the needed workforce with the required skill to identify suspected cases and then report to the appropriate authorities for necessary action,’’ they said.
ANHEJ is a group of professional journalists assigned by different media organisations to cover activities in the health sector in Nigeria. (NAN)