Minister blames high death rate on COVID-19 fears

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By Abdul Usman, Abuja

The Federal Government is worried that there might have been a rise in the number of deaths not associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) since the outbreak of the disease in the country.

Many of the deaths, it said, could be attributable to the phobia some Nigerians have developed for hospitals where they are supposed to receive qualitative care for fear that they might be diagnosed with COVID-19.

It is also believed that many health workers are now reluctant to attend to patients for fear that they might have contracted the virus.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who made this known during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja yesterday, said antenatal, immunization, out-patient visits and skilled birth attendants have all dropped by more than half.

He said: “There has been some reduction in routine health cases because of fear of COVID-19.

“As a result of that, we do worry that some deaths may have occurred not directly in connection with the coronavirus.

“If a person couldn’t go to get help in a hospital because of the fear of coronavirus or doctors refusing to attend to such persons.

“Latest statistics from the National Health Management Information System (NHMIS) indicates that out-patient visits dropped from 4 million to about 2 million; antenatal visits from 1.3 million to 655,000; skilled birth attendance from 158,374 to less than 99,000, while immunization services dropped to about half.

“All these have as yet undetermined consequences which the easing of the lockdown should hopefully address.

“However, the downside of easing the restrictions needs to be balanced of with a collective determination by all of us, not only to comply with protective and prophylactic advisories, but to encourage relatives, friends, neighbours and customers to do same.

“The use of facial covers like masks in places where social distancing may be difficult or impractical should be supported and emphasised through donation of masks to the population as an act of goodwill.

“Face masks should become commonplace and I look forward to all cooks and food vendors, for example, wearing masks or risk losing customers.”



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