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COVID-19: Nigeria struggling to cope, January will be tough, FG says

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Confiscates 100 passports, as FCT threatens to shut Markets, Malls

By Omeiza Ajayi

 The Federal Government has explained its helplessness in the face of gross violations of COVID-19 safety protocols, saying the nation’s health system is currently struggling to cope with the increasing number of infections daily.

While it projected that January 2021 would be tough in terms of managing the pandemic due to continued safety violations during the Yuletide, it announced its decision to confiscate 100 international passports of travellers who evaded the Day 7 post-arrival PCR test.

This came as the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA threatened to shut down markets and other business ventures in the territory for violating the safety protocols.

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Speaking at Tuesday’s briefing of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu said Nigeria would next month pay the price of violating the protocols during the festivities.

“We just faced the worst week since we started responding to this outbreak. We had more cases in Nigeria last week than in any other previous week since the beginning of the outbreak.

“Pictures and videos from across the country paint a very disheartening situation because it appears that our messaging, our appeals to Nigerians over the last few months have not been heeded and we have gone ahead with business as usual. Events centres are full, social activities are full and so it is no surprising that cases are rising.

“January will be a tough month, no doubt about it. So, we have to brace ourselves for the consequences of the activities that we have decided to carry out in December. Our colleagues, the Chief Medical Directors CMDs are here today because of the pressures that we face across the country. Our treatment centres are filling up, we are struggling to keep up, we are struggling to find the facilities and oxygen to manage. Every night we are faced with phone calls of patients desperate for care. So, unfortunately, January will be a tough month for all of us. It will be tough but we still have an opportunity to do what we need to do, liaising with state governors to be more purposeful in implementing the measures that we have collectively agreed on. We have seen some of them doing that but many of the states in the country haven’t and pretend as if there will be no consequences. This is the reality we face and so we have got to brace ourselves for January”, he stated.

Iheakwazu added that in terms of the new variant of the virus, there is no change in presentation of symptoms except that it is more transmissible which would mean more cases including critical ones, and the possible increase in case fatalities.

Minister of State, Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora lamented the growing wave of misinformation in the country warning Nigerians not to self-medicate.

He said; “We have seen occasions where some patients might even want to force the hands of the attending Clinicians regarding a particular drug that they have read online or heard that it works. But so far, what we know is that aside from Dexamethasone which has been established to help to some extent in hospitalised patients and of course the administration of oxygen where and when required, no other treatment has been found to be effective in COVID-19”. 

Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha said Nigeria’s National Response is passing through a challenging phase due to the seriousness of the second wave of infections. 

“Our TPR analysis shows that 16 out of every 100 tests carried out are positive. We are also seeing increasing transmission among younger people and this is not considered good and safe. We must therefore exercise utmost restraint by taking responsibility”, he stated.

The PTF also slammed states for not effectively utilizing resources made available to them in the right against the pandemic.

Mustapha said; “Data shows that despite the resources already made available to sub-national entities, testing is very low across States in varying degrees. This is not helping our National Response. Indeed, some states have not reported any infections in several weeks.

“Reports received also point to the fact that laboratories recently established in the States are not working optimally. You will recall that we moved from two laboratories to about ninety (Public & Private) located in all states of the Federation. Their inability to function optimally has resulted in unacceptable levels of delay in receiving results and pressure on the National Reference Labs. We wish to urge all States to reopen all laboratories and ensure that testing is expanded and turnaround time for results is substantially reduced. In the same vein, States should please keep their Isolation/Treatment Centres open because of the rising cases of infection nationwide”.

Seized passports

“The PTF has worked out additional quarantine protocols to be observed by travelers arriving from the UK and South Africa. This is in keeping with our determination to minimize any possibility of importation of the virus.

“With effect from 1st January 2021 the passports of the first 100 passengers who failed to take their day seven post-arrival PCR test will be published in the national dailies. The passports, as a deterrence, will also be suspended till June 2021”, he added.

The SGF however hailed the National Response saying some countries are only just copying the safety measures that Nigeria had put in place several months ago.

FCT to shut markets, malls

Meanwhile, the FCT Administration has told shop owners to choose between complying with COVID-19 guidelines or having their business premises shut as part of measures to contain the pandemic.

Head, Media, and Public Enlightenment of the FCT Ministerial Enforcement Task team on COVID-19 Regulations, Ikharo Attah issued the warning while monitoring the level of compliance in some shopping malls and business premises across the city.

He said the administration will “not hesitate to shut down shopping malls, Maitama farmers’ market and business premises in the city that fail to comply with the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. 

“From what we observed, there is high compliance by costumers and visitors to these malls and business premises, sadly, same cannot be said of the workers and operators of shops and other businesses in the malls”.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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