Covid-19: FG warns Nigerians against recycling face masks

The Federal Government has warned Nigerians against the continued resort to recycling and sharing of face masks in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying such actions would only fuel more infections.

The government equally tasked state governments on the need to align their policies with those at the federal level, reminding them that the virus does not respect boundaries or status.

It also added that the recent rapid diagnostic test kits procured by the Kogi State Government have a high margin of error and are therefore unreliable.

These were disclosed on Tuesday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19.

Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said except for fabric masks, every disposable mask that has been used once, becomes a hazardous medical waste.

He said; “The PTF has become aware of the on-going practice of sharing masks and picking of masks for recycling from dumpsites. This places a lot of responsibility on all of us to be self-educated and to educate others. The following points are emphasized:

​Except for fabric masks, every disposable used mask is a​hazardous medical waste and should be disposed of properly, preferably by burning;

“It is very risky to share masks as the virus is capable of remaining on surfaces for several hours and you could get infected;

“The unhealthy practice of picking up disposed masks for whatever purpose is harmful to both the individual picking it and whoever procures it later.

Particularly, it will be helpful for high-risk people such as the elderly and those with comorbidities, to wear masks or face covering and avoid crowded places. As we reminded you earlier, please keep grandchildren away from their grandparents to avoid any transmission. Most importantly, emphatically say no to stigmatization.

“The PTF continues to urge State governments to align their actions and enforcement with the guidelines provided. The virus does not respect boundaries neither does it respect status. All-State Governments are therefore urged to strengthen their monitoring and enforcement machinery in collaboration with the security agencies. Let me emphasize that we have seen visuals on social media depicting total disregard for physical distancing in some locations. This is a dangerous journey towards uninhibited spread if not checked. The PTF is consulting with the authorities of the identified areas to review their strategies.

“You will recall that the guidelines on the reopening of offices directed the management of such offices to take certain steps and put in place policies that would ensure the safety of their staff. Let me remind the leadership of various offices to make such provisions including infra-red temperature guns at entrances, sanitizers, handwashing facilities, social distancing arrangements, and ensuring that masks are worn always. This is particularly critical for government offices in high concentration areas such as the Federal Secretariat complex. We similarly admonish individual staff to cultivate the habit of personal safety first, before depending on the general provision”, he added.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said the ministry has been working on accrediting more hospitals in the states for the treatment of Covid-19.

He added that pathologists from states that have recorded some mysterious deaths recently have been sent to Kano to develop a protocol to be able to effectively investigate such deaths in their states.

Answering questions regarding the validity of the test kits procured by the Kogi State Government, Dr. Ehanire said those kits could only be used for guidance as they are not reliable.

“Anybody is free to procure test kits. If you find test kits and want to procure and use it for yourself, you can try it. But the point is that the Ministry of Health has said that the validity of rapid diagnostic kits is not guaranteed. It is not very reliable according to all the reports we have. There is a high margin of error. So, the acceptability of those results is questionable. Those who want to use it, use it probably as guidance. It tells probably those who have recovered or those who are exposed”, he stated.

Ehanire said with the nature of this outbreak, and as have been observed in other countries, “the sustainability of any strategy may be challenged as time goes on, by evolving realities at home and across the globe”.

“We, therefore, encourage the organs of State maintaining vigilance at our borders, including our Port Health Services, to keep up the good work and not to tire or relent.

“The FMoH has been closely monitoring and reviewing the unfolding situation in some States, where covid19 appears to have gained ground. We had responded to the situation in Kano by dispatching a team of medical experts to provide technical support to the State Ministry of Health. I am happy to inform you that the team has done well in their assignment and has reported a lot of success in helping to stabilize the State’s Health system and assuage the disquiet among health workers, who are to restart routine service delivery. No new infections of health workers have been reported in recent times, as those who have recovered are awaiting certification to resume work. An FMoH delegation of experts is presently in Bauchi State on a fact-finding mission to work with the Bauchi State government and look into reports of unexplained deaths in Azare, Bauchi State. The similar missions to Katsina and Jigawa identified needs in those States, which include the need for a molecular laboratory in Katsina to reduce the backlog of pending tests and the turn-around time for results. This will be looked into. Other high burden areas or States grappling epidemic control issues will be offered similar support”, he stated.

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