By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) has reminded Nigerians that the pandemic is still raging on and advised all tiers of government and citizens to remain cautious.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this during a recent media briefing in Abuja. He appealed to Nigerians to ensure that everything necessary is done to avoid a second lockdown.
“Let me remind you” he said, “that the pandemic is raging and all tiers of government and citizens must keep their hands on deck. We are in a difficult situation in which a balance must continue to be struck between lives and livelihood. We are considering all options while hoping that broad cooperation will be received. We must do everything possible to avoid a second lockdown in Nigeria.”
The SGF noted that many states had gone ahead to authorize school resumption. As a result, the PTF recommended enforcement of strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions by governors, to avoid the escalation of cases.
He said: “You will also recall that the PTF had informed you that the resumption of schools nationwide would be reviewed due to rising daily numbers of infections and the challenges of case management especially the shortage of oxygen so that we do not allow our facilities to be overwhelmed. While we note that several states have proceeded with the resumption of schools, the PTF recommends strongly that very strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions should be enforced by the states to avoid the escalation of cases.”
The PTF chairman said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had been mandated to carry out 450 COVID-19 tests per local government area in all states of the federation. He explained that not all states would start at the same time. The exercise would start with states that were at the forefront of resourcing and infrastructure. According to him, the PTF had authorized the NCDC to immediately implement the nationwide 450 tests per LGA plan. “We are aware that states are not on the same pedestal in the area of testing and we should begin with states that are at the forefront of resourcing and infrastructure.”
Speaking on the global position of Nigeria in the context of the spread of the virus, the PTF chairman said: “On the African continent, South Africa and Nigeria have continued to report the highest daily counts. South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya account for 76 per cent of all cases in the region. Nigeria has moved up to the third position in highest cumulative caseload but remains 2nd for new cases and 5th highest in cumulative deaths on the WHO African region. From the foregoing, testing has proved to become more significant in our national response.”
The PTF still urged the state governments to enable their EOCs to step up on sample collection and to maximize the capacities of the PCR laboratories already established in their states.
Mustapha assured Nigerians that vaccines to be approved would be safe and good for Nigerians. Positive views about the vaccines remain high in the ranking of discussions nationwide. Nigerians were assured that the PTF will ensure that the vaccines to be approved will be safe and effective. But all Nigerians must work together as foot soldiers in the vaccine advocacy so that together they can eliminate the pandemic.
The SGF said: “The PTF wishes to emphasize that the success of our national response shall not depend on vaccines alone. Rather, compliance with the non-pharmaceutical protocols must remain top on our individual priorities.” The SGF also disclosed that the PTF was proceeding with the next phase of the approved Presidential sanction against all in-bound international travellers who failed to undergo the seven-day post-arrival test. The PTF would publish the next list of 100 defaulters very soon. “Let me clarify, however, that there is a strong multi-sectoral approach to the activities, decisions and engagement of the PTF with institutions of government and the public sector. Consequently, all steps being taken are outcomes of in-depth consultations and review before they were made public,’ the PTF chairman stated.