…Condemns protocol violations by politicians
…Says Nigerians romancing with Covid-19
…Worried over resurgence in Europe, Brazil; 80% of Nigerian parents against schools re-opening
By Chioma Obinna, Omeiza Ajayi & Gabriel Olawale
THE Federal Government yesterday condemned the serial violations of COVID-19 safety protocols by politicians preparing for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, saying this was the time to declare a lockdown.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, stated this Thursday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Task Force.
He said if he had his way, he would declare another round of lockdown on the country, urging politicians to devise ingenuous ways of reaching the electorate without breaching physical distancing measures and the rule on wearing facemask.
Meanwhile, as the increasing number of COVID-19 cases continues to take its toll on the nation’s health care system, particularly as it relates to the number of bed spaces, the government said it has established Community Support Centres in high burden local government areas.
It also frowned on the use of face shields as a replacement for face masks, advising that shields should only be used in addition to wearing masks and not as a replacement.
While also expressing worry over what appears a renewed wave of infections in Europe, China and particularly Brazil, which the government said shared a lot of demographic similarities with Nigeria, the government equally added that the result of a perception survey it recently carried out across the country showed that 80 percent of Nigerian parents were unwilling to allow their wards resume school until there was full guarantee that they would not be exposed to danger.
It said by next week, it would announce when the airspace would be reopened for domestic flights.
On its part, the World Health Organization WHO announced that there are currently 220 vaccine candidates undergoing development at different stages.
An obviously displeased Mustapha said even as a politician, he has decided not to attend any political rally, saying Nigerians had become too casual with the pandemic and that the time has come to take drastic measures against it.
Mustapha said in every confirmed case, Nigeria would have missed out on at least five to seven other positive cases.
He said: “Gatherings are still not okay. Any form of gatherings are still not okay. Yes, I know it is an electioneering period for some states in Nigeria and people will begin to congregate but we must begin to devise other means.
‘’Otherwise, the people who are aspiring to lead these offices will end up spending the entire budget of their states in dealing with the problem they would have created, if they become governors.
So, it is a very serious thing. I am a politician and I have been in this business for almost 40 years but I can assure you that there is nothing that will take me to any political rally. Nothing. I will use other mechanisms of reaching the electorate.
‘’But to congregate in a political rally? For what? So, we have to be very careful. The choice is ours. No one can make that choice for you. The truth about it is that efforts, scepticism and disregard will not take us anywhere.
“If it were within my powers, this is the time to lockdown. Lockdown might not be a popular thing, but this is the time to lockdown because we are already romancing with COVID-19 and it is not good. So, the message is that we should continue to take personal responsibility.’’
Resurgence in cases
The SGF expressed concerns at the epidemiological situation of some countries where there is a second wave of transmission.
He said: “You would have noticed that the number of confirmed cases and fatalities released in the last few days have been on the high side. While we attribute this to increased testing, it also goes to confirm the extent of the spread within our communities, especially the 21 high burden LGAs identified as accounting for over 60% of infections nationwide.
“Closely related to the high number of confirmed cases and fatalities at home are lessons drawn from other jurisdictions. From Europe to China to the United States of America, the rising numbers and reported resurgence in some cases should also be of concern to us.
‘’Of particular concern, however, is the case of Brazil which has exceeded the one million mark of confirmed cases. We had informed you that Brazil shares several cultural, demographic and climatic affinities with us. If any lesson is to be learned, Brazil should be a subject of interest that will make us change our behaviour.’’
According to Mustapha, the PTF has noted and acknowledged progress being made globally and domestically to search for a cure for COVID-19, especially the recent announcement that 4, 000 people have volunteered for a vaccine trial in the United Kingdom , adding that this gives some room for greater hope.
“We similarly look forward to the outcomes of validation processes for submissions made by some Nigerian scientists.
“I wish to inform you that by the end of this week, the PTF would be submitting a report containing our assessment and recommendations to Mr. President. We, therefore, urge Nigerians to await next steps,” said the SGF.
In his remarks at the briefing, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said community transmission has now overwhelmed the facilities for case management.
Represented by the Minister of State, Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, the minister said: “The community transmission has resulted in the high number of confirmed cases with the challenge that in some states, the facilities for case management may become overwhelmed.
‘’Bearing in mind the importance of managing cases in facilities, the Federal Ministry of Health through the National Primary Health-care Development Agency, NPHCDA, has developed a guideline for the establishment of Community Support Centres.’’
Masks better than shields
Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, advised against the use of face shields, saying if they must be used, they should be in addition to wearing of facemasks.
“There has been an increasing use of face shields apparently to prevent one from the transmission of COVID-19. I will like to advise that face shields are great, but they should be used in addition to face masks and not in place of them.
‘’I know we haven’t been clear on this but we are doing so now. So, we will forgive anyone that is wearing it today on both sides of the aisle.’’
He said having a COVID-19 vaccine by 2021 would be the shortest time in the history of vaccine development, adding that ordinarily, it takes five to ten years to come up with a vaccine for any disease.
Reopening of schools
Minister of state, Education, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba again reiterated the position of the federal government not to reopen schools, saying even 80 percent of parents are against any such move for now.
“The ministry had prior to now conducted a perception survey across the country and we know that 80 percent of the responses we got from around the country were assurances from parents that they were not willing to experiment with their own children. If there are people who are interested in using their children to experiment, to check whether it can work or not, we can invite them to test. But I can assure you that all the measures that we have taken are guided by science and data as provided by the PTF.
“I am sure that some of the work we ware going to present, having taken some advice from them would be deported maybe next week because now we have sufficient information to make some decisions and those decisions will be first of all x-rayed by the PTF upwards and when we are clear with them I can come back maybe here by Monday and say what exactly we are planning but until then, kindly abide by what you have even told by this committee,” Nwajiuba added.
Reopening of airspace
Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu gave the assurance that the airspace would be reopened soon for domestic flights, promising to give a date as from next week.
He said: “We would like to report that we have had significant progress in the readiness of the industry to restart. The gaps have been closed but however we still have a few gaps within the aviation ecosystem and these would be closed hopefully in the next couple of days. We must get it right the first time both on the issue with technical safety and health safety of all stakeholders”.
He said there would be a dry run in Lagos and Abuja to show its preparedness to open the airspace and observe gaps that need to be closed after which it would next week announce a date for the reopening of the airspace for domestic flights.
Country Representative of the World Health Organization WHO, Dr Fiona Braka said the organization has taken steps to accelerate the development of a vaccine for Covid-19 but added that “it usually takes several years to develop a vaccine and even with an accelerated process, developing a Covid-19 vaccine would take time”.
“There are currently 220 vaccine candidates under development at different stages. We have two vaccines that are in the latest phase of testing and we expect to see results by the end of this year. Although we cannot predict at this stage whether these two vaccines would meet.