Coronavirus Updates

June 23, 2020

COVID-19: No Nigerian state is free yet, FG declares

COVID-19: No Nigerian state is free yet, FG declares

Says, many Nigerians wear facemasks only to evade arrest
Laments lack of adequate testing
Assuages fears over hike in airfares

By Omeiza Ajayi

The Federal Government has dismissed reports that some states in Nigeria are now free of COVID-19 having discharged all patients in their isolation and treatment centres.

Some states had recently discharged all their COVID-19 patients, giving the impression that they are now free of the disease.

Government also frowned at the general lack of compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols, lamenting how Nigerians now wear facemasks only to evade arrest rather than as a safety measure to halt the spread of the virus.

These were disclosed on Monday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19.

Director-General, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu said no state in the country can yet be declared Covid-19 free even if they have discharged all their Covid-19 patients.

“Some states were discharging patients and declaring themselves COVID-19 free. No state in Nigeria is COVID-19 free. Not one. No country in the world is COVID-19 free. Even New Zealand that is an Island state is still having new cases after a period of not having any. We cannot separate ourselves from the rest of the country. We live in a context.

“Viruses spread. It is the nature of them. So, right now, no state is COVID-19 free. That is why we have to keep doing this work that we are doing, testing people, finding out if they have it. Even if you are asymptomatic, you can spread it. That is why prevention is very important. If you cannot prevent, you detect and it is that detection we call laboratory testing which we have to scale up”, he stated.

60% of South Easterners don’t believe in COVID-19

National Coordinator of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19, Dr Sani Aliyu lamented the low level of compliance with safety regulations.

He said; “Nigerians have continued to show persistent and remarkable lack of compliance with COVID-19 prevention protocols which is quite worrying.

“There is partial to total lack of compliance with facemasks and physical distancing protocols by the public. Many Nigerians only use their facemasks either to avoid security agents, that is where enforcement exists, or where they are told to do so.

“There is also significant disbelief in the dangers and impact of COVID-19. In parts of the Southeast where we did a recent survey, 60 per cent did not believe that Covid-19 was an issue. We clearly are not taking the Pandemic seriously enough,” he added.

Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, lamented that the disease burden of the country cannot exactly be known as Nigeria is currently under-testing.

He said; “Yesterday, 21st June 2020, Nigeria crossed the threshold of 20,000, with our total number rising to 20, 244 confirmed cases. This signified to the PTF that more testing has been carried out in recent weeks. However, we are not deluded that we are getting enough samples to test. I wish to remind all our citizens that the best strategy remains to test, detect, isolate and treat. That has accounted for the massive expansion in the laboratory network and testing centres.

“Our failure to take responsibility threatens the gains we have recorded which is not good for our large population. Let me give you a vivid picture of how this virus has spread across our nation by timelines: April 16 2020: 442 cases; May 16, 2020: 5,621 cases; June 16, 2020: 17, 148 cases. We really have a choice to make and there is an urgency of yesterday

Hails response from states

“As part of our collaboration with the States, the PTF team made up of the DG NCDC and the WHO Representative visited Plateau, Edo, Lagos and Akwa Ibom States to assess the state of preparedness and control. The visit further gives us confidence that sub-national levels of governments are also taking the necessary actions to ensure that this fight is speedily won. They will update the nation on their findings as part of this briefing.”

Mustapha said as the nation pursues the Community Engagement and Risk Communication Strategy, the PTF has identified lack of information about case definition protocols, location of testing centres, inability to reach call centres and other factors as obstacles to getting needed help.

“The PTF has therefore directed that more awareness be created on the location of test centres and how to get tested especially when you fit the case definition. The call centres are also being re-energized for responsiveness. Our messaging on risk communication and compliance by the public will also receive very strong attention. We must develop a national wave of awareness creation to drive home our objectives”, he stated.

Hike in airfares

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika assured Nigerians that the re-opening of the airspace for domestic flights would not necessarily lead to a hike in fares, saying the ministry is meeting with stakeholders to come up with measures to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the industry.

“We are doing everything to ensure that ticket prices do not skyrocket. They may be different, but they are not going to be something that air passengers cannot afford”, said Sirika.

He said the seats within the aircraft would be reconfigured to ensure that the virus is not spread among passengers at will should there be any carrier on board.

Sirika also assured that aircraft would be thoroughly disinfected before passengers are allowed to board, saying the new airline passenger safety measures would be demonstrated to the public in Lagos very soon.

On her part, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouk dismissed reports that N-Power volunteers have not been paid, stating that majority of them have been paid while there is an administrative glitch regarding the payment of others.

“We have 500, 000 N-Power volunteers but for those who are claiming that they have not been paid, we are looking into these issues together with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. I mentioned that we have issues around migrating from the platform that we used to operate with to the GIFMIS platform. There are about 12, 000 of those who are claiming that they have not been paid, based on our records,” she explained.

On the attack on a building within the premises of the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama restated his earlier position that Nigeria has registered its displeasure.

He said the ministry has engaged with the highest level of authority in Ghana and that the incident was perpetrated by a non-state actor.

“It appears that there are some people who are claiming that they have legitimate title over that piece of land. The message from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana is that everything will be sorted out. That the president has directed that very severe action be taken against those who were responsible for that including immediate arrest and that they will be coming out with a definite statement.

“So, we have to wait. The ball is in their court now. They have apologised, that what happened should not have happened and so we are waiting for their definitive statement. It is an evolving story and I will keep the country informed as we go forward and unravel this most unfortunate incident”, said Onyeama.

Minister of State, Education, Hon Emeka Nwajiuba said the federal government did not give any guidance to Oyo State as to how and when to reopen her schools.

He said; “The Ministry of Education did not give any guidance to Oyo State to begin to reopen schools. We also think that that is a bit contradictory because if you look, next to them is Ogun State that actually had a lockdown, there is no reason why there should be more numbers in Oyo State than there are in Ogun State where we thought we had a problem. So, something is not okay in that respect.

“However, Oyo State like all other subnational have a governor and under our Constitution, governors are responsible for their states.”

According to him, the federal government is extremely cautious about re-opening schools because the sector holds the largest number of infrastructure in the country.

“We own 138, 000 primary schools around the country. There are nearly 600 certificate awarding institutions across Nigeria and at every given time in Nigeria, there are nearly 30 million people attending one form of formal education or the other. That is about the largest in sub-Saharan Africa. For you to even begin to decide to unleash these on the public in the face of a pandemic is to be insensitive”, said Nwajiuba.