President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N6.45 billion for the setting up of oxygen gas plants in 38 locations across Nigeria in a bid to enhance the treatment of COVID-19 patients who need oxygen.
This was disclosed at the first National Economic Council (NEC) meeting of the year presided by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with state governors, Federal Capital Territory minister, Central Bank governor and other senior government officials in attendance.
While briefing the NEC on the release of the funds, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the president approved the release of the funds for the production of oxygen, necessitated by the increased number of patients who need oxygen due to the surge in Covid-19 infections in the country.
Over 1,400 Nigerians have died from COVID-19 virus with some of them dying due to inadequate oxygen at isolation centres. One of such deaths was that of Femi Odekunle, a professor of criminology and presidential adviser on anti-corruption, who died in Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Odekunle died due to shortages in oxygen supply at the isolation centre at the Abuja University Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada.
The hospital’s Chief Medical Director (CMD), Bissallah Ekele, admitted there was a shortage of oxygen in the facility, a situation he blamed on the recent surge in coronavirus infections.
A delay in oxygen deliveries meant many patients were left for hours on reduced oxygen, a situation believed to have contributed to the spike in coronavirus deaths.
Since early December, there has been a spike in coronavirus cases across Africa’s most populous country. The fatalities due to complications arising from the virus have also increased.
Last week, which is the third week of the new year, the country recorded 70 deaths, the weekly highest in the new year. The country also recorded 50 and 48 deaths in the first and second week of 2021 respectively.
In the past four weeks, there have been over 200 fatalities as a result of COVID-19 complications in Nigeria.
The rise in mortality shows that the second wave of the pandemic is deadlier than the first as more patients are symptomatic and require breathing support.
“Treatment centres are filling up, and we are struggling to keep up. We are struggling to find oxygen to manage cases”, the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Chikwe Ihekweazu told reporters during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
“Every night, we are faced with phone calls of patients desperate for care. So, unfortunately, January will be a tough month for all of us. It will be tough, but we still have an opportunity to do what we need to do.”
Last week, the commissioner for health in Lagos State, Akin Abayomi, said the use of oxygen by COVID-19 patients in isolation centres across the state is on the increase this January.
“Oxygen usage is on the increase. By 1st week of January 2021 daily rationed usage of oxygen was 200 cylinders. Realistic projection without rationing is about 750 cylinders per day.
“There is an increasing number of patients who require oxygen therapy at IDH, Yaba.
“The initial projections for oxygen usage in IDH was 70 cylinders per day. Over 71per cent increases in oxygen usage in IDH. Given the increase in cases, oxygen usage is expected to be high,” he said.
To ease the situation, chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, at a briefing recently said efforts are ongoing to ensure oxygen availability as this is critical to the success of case management in the country.
“Those who require hospitalisation will be well managed; those requiring medical attention for other ailments gain access to Treatment at medical facilities; and critical care is available and deployed especially where oxygen is needed,” Mr Mustapha said.
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