The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday said the bodies of persons, who died of coronavirus, were not infectious.
The National Coordinator of the task force, Dr Sani Aliyu, stated this at a media briefing of the PTF in Abuja.
At the briefing, Aliyu and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, apologised for some PTF members’ violation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s protocols at the burial of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, on Saturday.
Members of the task force, who attended the crowded burial, have been heavily criticised for disregarding the NCDC protocols for burial of corpses of people that die of COVID-19.
Dignitaries at the burial included Mustapha, Aliyu; Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Kyari, who had been undergoing treatment at the First Cardiology Consultants Hospital, Lagos died of COVID-19 on Friday and was buried at Gudu cemetery, Abuja on Saturday.
On Monday, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Aliyu, assured the public that the task force would continue to follow its guidelines.
He added that the NCDC guidelines for COVID-19 were reflective of the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.
Aliyu said, “I would like to further clarify the issue of COVID-19 and burial processes. Contrary to what is on social media, the late chief of staff’s body was properly prepared for burial, according to the NCDC guidelines and the Islamic faith.
“The bodies of persons with COVID-19, as stated by the WHO guidelines and I quote, ‘Except in cases of viral haemorrhagic fever and cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious.’
“To date, there is no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to the bodies of persons who have died of COVID-19.’”
Stop inter-state movements, FG tells govs
Aliyu decried the continued large movements across state borders and called on state governments to put a stop to them as such activities contributed to the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Kyari’s burial: We are sorry, says PTF
The Chairman of the task force, Mustapha, said the PTF members’ violation of the NCDC’s protocols was regrettable.
The NCDC, in its interim guidelines for the safe management of a dead body, states, “In the event, a ceremony is held, the number of attendees should be limited.
“The ceremony should be held in a well-ventilated structure, attendees should be advised on social distancing throughout the event, ensuring practice of hand and respiratory hygiene.”
Although most attendees at Kyari’s burial wore face masks, they stood less than two metres apart as prescribed by the NCDC protocols.
Following the attendees disregard for social distancing rules, the Presidency on Sunday ordered them to stay away from the Presidential Villa for 14 days.
It also stated that journalists, who covered the event, should not come to the Villa in the next 14 days.
Mustapha said the violation was “regrettable.” He stated, “The PTF recognises regrettably the unintentional violation of the principles and protocols that form the core of our messaging to Nigerians at the funeral of the late chief of staff.
“These principles, for emphasis, include the guidelines provided on mass gatherings, social distancing, personal hygiene and restriction of movement.
“Lessons have been learnt and appropriate measures have been taken to close all gaps. We assure all Nigerians of their safety and the determination of the PTF to combat the pandemic.”
Aliyu also apologised, saying, “As stated by the chair of the PTF, we would like to acknowledge and apologise for the mistakes that were made regarding the burial of the late chief of staff.
“We realise that crowd control failed. We have learnt from this and we will ensure future events are adequately regulated and follow the task force protocols.”
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on his part, said that a new national policy would be released to address the increase in the number of confirmed cases for COVID-19.
The minister said that the body acknowledged the sharp increase in the number of infected persons in Nigeria in the last few days. He attributed the increase to a new testing strategy of reaching out to people in the communities.
He said, “Thirteen molecular laboratories nationwide have been activated so far by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the target this week is to double the current national testing capacity of 1,500 tests per day.”