The Federal Government on Tuesday said not less than 812 health workers have been infected with the COVID-19 virus in the line of duty.

It however, reiterated that the protection of health workers, especially those in the frontline of the pandemic are its priority, and will ensure the constant provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs), to shield them from exposure.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, in Abuja.

He said: “As we go further in the easing of the restrictions, I just want to remind all of us that the easing of the restrictions doesn’t mean the easing of the response. In fact, the public response is being strengthen.

“Crossing the 10,000 mark was quite a significant event, and every night when we work so hard to bring out those numbers, sometimes numbers begin to feel like what they are, that we forget that they are people behind each number.

“We have had 812 healthcare workers infected. They are not just numbers. Twenty-nine (29) of these work for the NCDC. They are people I know who have families, wives and children. About eight (8) of them right now are in the Idu treatment center. They are not just numbers but they are people and they matter and we must remember.

“We have distributed over 40,000 pieces of complete PPEs and will continue to do this. By this weekend new consignment will be going out to every state, every Federal Medical Centres in the country.

“We now have the third highest number of confirmed cases on the continent just after South Africa and Egypt. It means that there is an added responsibility for us to work harder everyday.”

He added: “We have increased our testing capacity. We have now tested over 65,000 samples and increase our lab network to 30; having been just activated the laboratories in Bauchi State and Abuja.

“60 percent of our cases are in 20 local governments. We have published this local government with the new regulations with the new easing of restrictions. This means that we will focus a lot of our efforts on those 20 local government out of the 774, to prevent spread to others.

“We have deployed 37 Rapid Response Team with over 450 people that have left their homes for weeks on end, supporting the response across the country. We have sent over 100 million text messages through the support of MTN, Glo, 9Mobile and all the big Telcos.”

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, added: “We have conducted an analysis of Health Care Worker Infections and identified critical areas for targeted intervention, to include continuous updates and retraining.

“More than 13,000 health workers have been trained, which will result in reduced rate of infection, especially in the line of duty. We are collaborating with States to cascade the training to lower cadre workers.

“We are trying to give the best attention to frontline health workers because they are the most valuable and precious. The protocol is in fact developed by the NCDC for those who may have exposed themselves in any way to risk.

“By the time they finish their shift, there is a place where they go and rest and also keep away to see if they have symptoms. Some of them may be tested. This is to ensure that they are safe before they go to their families.

“We are also putting it on priority for getting personal protective equipment. Most speeches we make here, we pay tribute to them, to their services and to how important they are to us and to the entire system.

“The incentives that are built-in are part of the general incentives. The Ministries of Health, Labour and Finance are finalising the guidelines for the incentives which includes insurance and hazard allowance.”

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