COVID-19 Presidential Task Force debunks report over N500,000 sitting allowance, defends Benue index case





The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic has debunked reports that its members receive N500,000 daily allowance.
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this while responding to questions at the daily briefing, said the reports were fake news.


The minister said those behind the reports were only out to distract the government from containing spread of the virus.
“On sitting allowance of half a million paid to each member of the committee, you remember each time I come here…since I tested negative to coronavirus my other major problem has been fake news.
“As soon as I got that information, I consulted with my colleagues here and I asked them whether I am not a member of the Taskforce and I asked them if they had received their own and they said no.
“But you see what bothers me is that since about 2 o’clock this afternoon, I have been receiving text messages to send money to people that they were broke, that they had no money and I begin to wonder why today, apparently they are acting on this fake news that we receive half a million naira every day. 


“The truth of the matter is that no member of the committee has received one penny either for sitting or sleeping allowance, not even when we went to Lagos yesterday (Tuesday). 
“this fake news is aimed at one thing, to distract the government from the more serious problem and task containing and combating this virus. 
“I want to say loud and clear that no member of the committee receives a penny as sitting allowance. Everybody is sacrificing his time, energy and even sometimes his resources,” he said.


Also speaking, Director-General of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the centre stands by the result of the Coronavirus index case in Makurdi.l, Benue state.
“The only thing I can confirm is yes, the test was done in one of our labs and there is no where you can do the test at the moment and we stand by the result of that test within the limits  of microbiology test, none of them is 100 percent,” he said.


Reacting to those describing coronavirus as a hoax, Ihekweazu said there were facts to counter that argument. 
“I think anyone that is really asking that question at this point…so many families have lost dear ones, people very close to them, there has not been an outbreak experience in my life time in real time as much as this one has. 


“We have been in touch with many of these patients, myself and honorable minister have called many of them, this is not a hoax,” he said.
He said the the Presidential Task Force has resolved not to comment on individual cases or experiences. 


“If they (patients) want to talk about their experience is really up to them. It is not for us to speak about the experience of any patient’s illness. I noticed on social media that one or two of those have been speaking about their experience, if you want to hear from them, I encourage you to reach out and let them decide whether they want to tell their stories to the press.
“But it will be inappropriate for me or any member of this committee to ask the patients to share their experience with press or anyone else,” he said.
On the issue of testing, Ihekweazu said: “There will be many lessons learnt on this outbreak. One of those which is long term is to build up our laboratory architecture but the honest truth is that we cannot do it over night.  We are working as hard as we can.
“The strategy by South Africa and I worked there for three years, is that they have a national laboratory service, is fairly well developed. They have a private lab architecture that is very well developed, 70 percent of the tests in South Africa as I understand have been done in the private sector. 
“They have been able to mobilize their existing laboratory services to come and support the public sector. Unfortunately, we don’t have that type of sophistication right now existing that we can simply mobilize to do this. This is the reality that we have to change collectively.”
On the remedies, he said: “We should remember that 90 percent of these patients recover without any intervention. So if you take something and you recovered and you think that something is the reason why you recovered, it doesn’t quite add up. Hopefully there will be some treatment emerging in the next few years.”

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