President Muhammadu Buhari

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, data have revealed that 575 new coronavirus infections were recorded on Monday, bringing total cases to 29,286.

The Centre said 11,828 patients have been discharged after treatment in 35 states and Abuja, the FCT. It recorded 654 deaths across the country.

According NCDC, Lagos was highest with 123 cases; FCT, 100; Delta, 58; Edo, 52; Ogun, 42; Katsina, 24; Bayelsa, 23; and Rivers, 22.

Other are Borno – 19, Plateau – 18, Ondo – 18, Oyo – 17, Kwara – 15, Osun – 13, Enugu – 9, Nasarawa – 7, Abia – 6, Cross River – 5, Kaduna – 3, Ekiti – 1.

FG mulls another lockdown

Recall that following its decision to ease the five-week lockdown it imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos State and Ogun State, the Federal Government had said it might be forced to proclaim another round of lockdown across the country, saying most Nigerians who went out for their businesses on Monday violated its containment protocols against the spread of the COVID-19.

According to the federal government, more Covid-19 infections are expected to be recorded across the country due to such violations.

While it lamented the low level of public compliance with its containment protocols, the federal government also said it would be engaging the northern governors to find a way of halting their current resort to evacuating Almajiris from one state to the other, saying such action is counterproductive to its decision banning interstate movement.

The government noted that about 4, 000 Nigerians have indicated their interest to return to the country, saying the process of evacuating them would begin by Wednesday.

Also, residents of the nation’s capital, Abuja have slammed security agencies in the territory for causing unnecessary gridlocks on intra-city roads by shutting parts of the roads for no reason.

Their complaints came as most banks in the FCT were crowded and social distancing rules violated as only a few bank branches were opened for business.

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On its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it could take the next 12 to 18 months for a Covid-19 vaccine to be ready, adding that after that, such a vaccine would still take another time to be mass-produced for the public.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire who spoke on the likelihood of Covid-19 infections increasing, however urged Nigerians to demonstrate a high level of responsibility to mitigate the spread of the virus.

He said although Covid-19 patients have a high survival rate, many people could get sick at the same time to the extent that the entire health sector could be crippled.

Increased infections

Ehanire said; “As we begin a new week and the prospects of gradual easing of the lockdown, I wish to start by reminding citizens that this phase comes with the added responsibility to be extra vigilant and compliant with the accompanying measures and guidelines that are meant to ensure that we do not lose the health gains we have made so far, while cautiously opening options for citizens to rebuild their livelihoods.

“Since our COVID-19 statistics are of considerable concern, attention has also been drawn to the observation that countries who eased or lifted restrictions, suffered an increase in new cases.

“Although our projection already features increasing number of cases, even with the lockdown, I believe that redoubling our efforts to adhere to government directives, can keep figures within control range of the COVID-19”.

Further lockdown

Also speaking, Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu berated banks for opening fewer branches, an action he said would definitely fuel the spike in infection rate.

He said with the manner in which many Nigerians violated government’s safety measures, authorities could be forced to impose another lockdown.

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“Today, some of the measures are being eased. The initial reports are not too pleasing across the country. This is to appeal to everyone across the country to take responsibility.

“When we say take responsibility, yes, we are addressing the individuals but we really need to address Corporate Nigeria. One of the biggest groups that were allowed to start business today were banks but many banks have limited the number of branches they opened.

“Yes, there is a benefit of doubt, but when you limit the number of branches that open, everybody goes to the one branch that is opened and that becomes counter-productive.

“There is only so much we can do. We can produce all the guidelines and do all the preaching but if organizations are not going to come up and support the implementation of these measures and help us manage the risks and focus on a risk-based approach, then all our efforts would amount to nothing.

“We will have infections because of what happened today. No doubt about that, but how can we learn from mistakes of today into tomorrow, next tomorrow so that by Friday, hopefully, we would have normalised some of these things?

“Yes, we knew today would be a problem. Everybody here knew today would be a problem because for the first time people were left out of their homes.

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“But now that they are out and now that we have seen the sunlight again, the challenge for us, as a society is how do we now organise ourselves to mitigate this risk, to limit transmission from one another so that, yes we might have a few extra infections today and tomorrow, but what we do not want is an explosion of new infections.

“If we do have that explosion, there would be almost no choice left for the leadership of the country than to ask all of us to go back into our homes.

“So, for the benefit of having a few hours a day of coming out to reopen parts of the economy, there is a price to pay and that price is that we organise ourselves to do this safely”.

Focus on Kano

“We are focusing a lot of energy on Kano not because Lagos is no longer important. In fact Lagos still has the highest number of cases and they need all the necessary support and we will continue to give them all the support.

“We have an emerging issue in Kano and therefore some of our thinking resources now have to be focused on Kano. Yesterday, I visited Kano again.

“We haven’t just activated the laboratories and left, because of what happened the other time. We left our colleagues to stay there and mentor the colleagues there to make sure that they are able to do the tests.

“Therefore the speed of testing is a bit slower than you would expect but that is the price we have to pay in order to get this up and running”.

Iheakwazu added that while there are currently no fewer than 41 staff of the NCDC deployed in Kano, 17 officials of the World Health Organization WHO have also been deployed in the state.

He added that the NCDC has begun the process of establishing at least one sample collection centre in each of the 44 local government areas of Kano State.

Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha had earlier lamented the compliance level with the PTF’s guidelines.

He said; “The PTF has been monitoring the level of compliance with some of the measures and early observations showed lack of compliance with social distancing and wearing of masks.

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“We note particularly the chaotic scenes around the banks and other financial institutions. We must reiterate that the danger of infection is not over and that individual actions will contribute to the success or failure of our measures.

​”We urge citizens to minimize the risk of getting infected while trying to transact in the banks. We similarly urge the banks to ensure that their ATMs and online banking systems are in good order and stocked regularly to avoid convergence of customers in their premises.

“The PTF fully understands the desire of Nigerians to come out to continue their lives after five weeks of lockdown. States Governments and Security agencies have however, been advised to enforce the measures rigidly and violators will be prosecuted.

“Let me remind you, once more, that this easing up is in phases and those who are permitted to open have clearly been defined. Our admonition to Nigerians is that it is still desirable to stay at home if there is no compelling reason to go out and to comply with the measures always, whether at home or not.

Halting evacuation of Almajiris

“The PTF has also received reports on the level of compliance with the nationwide ban on inter-state movement. The objective of the ban is to slow down the spread of virus across state boundaries.

“The determination of government to enforce this policy is not in doubt and as we progress, we believe that proper alignment with the directives of Mr. President would be pursued.

“There has been very noticeable relocation of Almajiris from one state to another, up until yesterday. With the ban on interstate movement, the continuation of this exercise will not be in alignment with the guidelines issued.

“The PTF shall engage with the respective State Governments on how to achieve their objectives.

“As we journey into this new phase of measures, it is imperative that I re-iterate the importance of adherence to the guidelines more so that preliminary reports indicate that there is observable high level of breaches by the citizenry”.

The SGF also warned hospitals against turning away patients with other type of illnesses due to the fear of the health workers contracting Covid-19.

“The PTF has also received reports about medical facilities and doctors turning back sick patients for fear of their illnesses being COVID-19 related.

“The PTF appeals to these facilities especially public hospitals not to neglect treatment of other ailments because such actions have resulted in avioidable deaths. The Honourable Minister of Health will engage the management of our tertiary health institutions to address this”, the SGF said.

4,000 Nigerians wish to return

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama who said there are about 4, 000 Nigerians abroad wishing to return to the country, said while it is not possible to evacuate all of them, the federal government would begin air-lifting some of them this Wednesday.

He said; “With regards to evacuating our nationals in various countries across the world back to Nigeria, we gave a target for us to start today.

“We were able to put the minimum requirements in place and proposed to an airline. Emirates had a flight that was cancelled a couple of weeks ago because we were not ready to receive that flight and that was the lowest hanging fruit that we could start with.

“They have indicated that they will be able to operate their flight from Dubai on Wednesday. So, by God’s grace, on Wednesday, we will start the process of repatriating our nationals from outside the country.

“If we had our way, there are almost 4, 000 Nigerians wishing to come back home, we would bring them back immediately and all at once. But, there are various constraints, the biggest of which is where to quarantine them.

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“We have done everything we can to get beds here in Abuja and Lagos. In Lagos, we have almost 300 beds available. So, the first flight on Wednesday will be to Lagos.

“We are hoping that soon after that, a British Airways Flight that is actually coming to Nigeria on Friday to evacuate some British nationals here in Nigeria, since it will be coming empty, we have negotiated with the British Government for us to fill the plane in London with Nigerians coming back.

“Ideally, we would have loved that flight to come to Abuja because we have been able to secure hotel rooms more than we have in Lagos. We have almost a thousand hotel rooms in Abuja but they let us know that unfortunately, that plane cannot come to Abuja but only Lagos”, Onyeama explained.

No vaccine till late 2021

Country Representative of the World Health Organization WHO, Dr Fiona Braka said a vaccine against the Covid-19 could be possible in the next 12 to 18 months.

She said; “Research is going on globally to study the genetics of the virus and by studying the genetics of the virus, it helps us to develop a vaccine.

“So, thanks to rapid sharing of genetic sequencing data from countries and we are able to advance the production of vaccines. We do acknowledge the contributions of countries, including Nigeria, in sharing their genetic sequencing data.

“The first vaccine trial started as early as 69 days just after the genetic sequencing information of the virus was shared by China and as I mentioned in the last briefing, we have about 89 products that are currently under vaccine development.

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“The numbers keep getting updated because there is an accelerated process going on globally to try and find a vaccine. It takes years to develop a vaccine, but with the acceleration of these efforts, we hopeful that with an expedited process, we are probably looking at 12 to 18 months before the first product would probably be available.

“And once that product is available, then there is a process to produce in large quantities for global supply. We are optimistic, but we want to say in the meantime when we do not have a vaccine, we work on the strategies of breaking the cycle of transmission and how do we do that?

“It is through testing, isolation, contact tracing, quarantine to break that cycle of transmission. In addition to that, the non-pharmaceutical interventions, which is what we have been advising the public on hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette and others which are needed to break the cycle as we wait for a vaccine”, she added.

Abuja residents complain

Meanwhile, residents of the nation’s capital, Abuja were Monday subjected to gruelling hours on the roads as the Police and other security agencies mounted roadblocks, with only a little section of the road left for users.

This came even as some religious houses resumed congregational prayers and worship. However, most residents who went out were seen wearing different grades of face masks in compliance with one of the safety measures put in place by the government.

Ibrahim Idris, a motorist who spoke with Vanguard said policemen had mounted a roadblock on the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Road “without actually doing anything”.

“They just blocked the road to punish us. They left a little section of the road for motorists. On getting to where they mounted the roadblock, the operatives were not really doing anything”, he said.

Another resident, Grace Abiodun complained about the refusal of banks to open for business, saying most of them opened only one or two of their branches in the FCT.

In Kubwa and Dutse-Alhaji where the FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello had placed a ban on the operations of commercial motorcyclists, there was little compliance as the riders operated in between police checkpoints.

Vanguard News Nigeria.

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