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The federal government will consider using schools and hotels as isolation centres for COVID-19 patients if the need arises, an official said.

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, made this known at the daily Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday.

Mr Ehanire said Nigeria currently has over 112 treatment and isolation centres in the 35 states and FCT with over 5,000 beds.

He, however, said not all states have up to the 300 beds prescribed for isolation and treatment.

”Nigeria presently has over 112 treatment and isolation centres in the 35 states and FCT with over 5,000 beds, but not all states have made it up to at least 300 beds prescribed for isolation and treatment.

“In event of overflow, we can require hotels and school dormitories to be prepared for level 1 (Quarantine) and level 2 Isolation (of COVID-19 positive with zero or mild symptoms).

”To free hospital beds to be dedicated to level 3, (moderate to severe cases) and level 4, (high dependency and Intensive care unit),” he said.

Nigeria is currently using selected hotels in Lagos and Abuja as isolation centres for Nigerians evacuated from other countries because of the COVID-19. However, even that policy is being jettisoned as the task force has said such evacuations have been suspended and when they resume, the returnees would be expected to self-isolate.

Schools across Nigeria have been closed for about two months due to the coronavirus. The PTF said Wednesday that it would soon release guidelines for the reopening of schools.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, had earlier said the country lacks adequate bed spaces to accommodate COVID-19 patients in isolation centres across states.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Many people on the run in Lagos after testing positive – Commissioner

He said the country was considering home-care treatment for COVID-19 patients.

To further free up isolation centres, the Nigerian government said it may consider discharging COVID-19 patients earlier than their required treatment and isolation period, even though they are still positive.

As of May 27, a total of 8,733 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria. Although 2,501 persons have been successfully treated and discharged,254 deaths have been recorded.

Increased capacity

Mr Ehanire said there is an urgent need to increase bed capacity to match the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

”I had the privilege of commissioning one such centre yesterday, a re-purposed hospital in Benin City, Edo State, with 300 beds, including ICU and an Edo State-owned PCR testing laboratory.

“We need to continue increasing bed capacity to match the probable number of patients so that we do not experience horrific scenes of bed space shortages seen in some European hospitals,” he said.

He urged activists and philanthropists to work with “state governments in concerted steps to scale up non-pharmaceutical measures and beef up infrastructural assets for isolation and treatment in their states.”

Coronavirus factsheet

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