By Gabriel Enogholase, Adesina Wahab, Omeiza Ajayi, David Odama
The Federal Government, yesterday, took stock of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic vis-a-vis the attitude of Nigerians to embracing safety precautions, and concluded that the country was now at a tipping point.
This came as government announced its decision to establish oxygen plants in all states of the federation as part of measures to resolve the “oxygen crisis” that had engulfed some of the isolation and treatment centres in the country.
Meanwhile, Edo State has recorded 28 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 270, as the state government cautions residents to abide by the precautionary health and safety guidelines.
Vanguard, meanwhile, gathered that former vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe and the former Dean, Students Affairs of the institution, Prof Duro Ajeyalemi, who died earlier in the week from COVID-19 complications, might have contracted the deadly virus at a society wedding they attended some weeks ago in Ikoyi, Lagos. Ibidapo-Obe was the chairman of the event and Ajeyalemi was also there. They played prominent roles at the event.
This came as anxiety welled up among media practitioners in Nasarawa State, following the contraction of the COVID-19 virus by a journalist and publisher of a community news journal, Matthew Kuju and three of his family members in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.
‘We must be aggressive in communication’
Chairman, Presidential Task Force PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, who spoke at a briefing of the Task Force, yesterday, however, lamented that many Nigerians seeking to travel out of the country are presenting fake test results.
He said: “We must be very aggressive with our communication because we are at a tipping point; the more people are infected, the more the rate of hospitalizations will go up and we will run out of bed spaces and correspondingly, people who have other ailments will not be able to access healthcare.
“So, people will be dying of COVID-19 and people will be dying of other ailments. There will be a strain on medical personnel and right now, our medical front-liners are under intense pressure to meet the needs of patients who are infected with COVID-19. So, we are at a tipping point and my plea to Nigerians is that we must arrest this transmission and that is why we are looking at developing health regulations which would be of universal applications across all states and we have convinced the states today at our meeting that it must be backed up with enforcement through their local regulations and laws.”
Mustapha added that efforts are being made to increase the supply of oxygen to health facilities across the country.
He said: “Mr President has approved the establishment of at least one new oxygen plant in each state of the federation, while the existing ones will be made fully functional. We continue to thank the Private Sector initiative as well as the Nigerian Air Force for their continued support.
“The PTF is working to develop new Health Protection Regulations to support existing COVID-19 protocols and to strengthen compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions across the country,” the SGF added.
‘Travellers presenting fake test results’
Mustapha said it has become embarrassing to note that some Nigerians continue to present fake results when travelling outside the country.
“This remains a major source of concern to the Federal Government. The PTF has directed private laboratories to immediately put in place measures to validate results and ensure that all passengers are registered on the travel portal before samples are processed to stop this activity. The National Co-ordinator will elaborate on this.
“The PTF is aware that the world is at a critical phase of infections. We are constantly reviewing our strategy to emerging situations, especially in risk communication, vaccine hesitancy, fake news/disinformation,” he said.
We need to remain alive before vaccines come — Mamora
Minister of state, Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora on his parts said the Federal Government was determined to ensure morbidity due to COVID-19 was reduced to the barest minimum while improving on the fatality rate, adding that appropriate measures were being taken to achieve this objective.
He said a second phase assessment of the isolation and treatment centres country-wide to verify challenges was to be carried out immediately.
“This is to enable us provide appropriate intervention measures required to strengthen these centres.
“We are not unmindful of our obligations to our health workers particularly those in the front-line. We appreciate them and urge Nigerians to encourage them in this challenging pandemic situation so that they can continue to give their best.
“We are working very hard to get vaccines for our people. It may not come soon enough, therefore, we need to be alive to get the vaccines when they come,” he added.
Edo Records 28 new cases
In Edo, the state COVID-19 Incident Manager, Dr Andrew Obi, disclosed that the state state recorded 28 new cases in Benin, yesterday, during a briefing at the Emergency Operation Centre, EOC, chaired by Governor Godwin Obaseki.
He said: “We have collected a total of 3452 coronavirus samples from our screening and testing centres across the state since we started tracking the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on December 1, 2020.
“Out of this, 270 returned positive. We have recorded five deaths so far. There are 28 new cases returned from our laboratories as at today.”
He added that the state government is intensifying efforts to contain the spread of the virus by ramping up public enlightenment and reactivating screening and testing centres across the state to ensure early detection of the disease among the population.
He urged religious leaders, parks, markets, eateries to ensure that they provide amenities to encourage people to abide by the safety and health protocols, adding, “provision should be made for hand-washing stations which will encourage regular hand-washing while directives on social distancing and use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers should be obeyed.”
Ibidapo-Obe, Ajeyalemi might have got COVID-19 at wedding party
A post on a WhatsApp platform by a group, Ijesa Society, where the two dead professors were members, read: “It is with heavy heart that the President and the Executive of the Ijesa Society regret to announce, once again, the untimely passing on to glory of our distinguished member, Professor Ajeyalemi, after a brief illness this morning at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Ajeyalemi was a well known Professor of Education and first Registrar/CEO of JUPEB who built the organisation from inception to its enviable heights in over 50 universities in Nigeria.
“He was a committed member of the society and long-term Chairman of the Education and Welfare Committees. We pray the Almighty to grant him eternal rest in the bosom of the Lord. May the Lord comfort the wife, children, the immediate and extended family & friends and grant them the fortitude to bear the loss. May the Lord fill their hearts with heavenly joy. Amen. Condolences from all of us. May God keep all of us safe in these trying periods.”
However, a member of the Ijesa Society, in another post, confirmed that the two late professors were at the party and advised people to be wary of the gatherings they attend.
It was also gathered that two other professors, who were at the same event, are now being treated at the Intensive Care Unit of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos, but it is not clear where they lecture.
However, at the main campus of UNILAG, the senior staff that resumed official duties in line with government’s directive, were going about their duties, yesterday, just as the Senate of the university is billed to hold an emergency meeting next week to decide on the date of resumption of academic activities by the students.
Publisher, 3 others tested positive in Nasarawa
Kuju, the Publisher of a Community Newspaper, Eggonnews in Nasarawa State broke the news to journalists in a statement, yesterday in Lafiao
He said: “On January 4, 2021, I took my family, the six of us for COVID-19 test in Lafia although none of us had symptoms of the diseases. Two days later, the results came out, disclosing that four of us are positive.
“Although still asymptomatic, the four of us have been isolated and are taking treatment,” he added.
Kuju enjoined members of the public to pray for their quick recovery and advised residents to present themselves for routine tests, whether with or without the symptoms to ascertain their status.
He urged Nigerians to always abide by COVID-19 safety protocols, put in place by the authorities to curb its spread.
“Coronavirus is real and not a respecter of age or position, therefore, we all have a responsibility to prevent its spread in our state and Nigeria as a whole,” he said.
NUC okays re-opening of universities on January 18
Meanwhile, the National Universities Commission, NUC, has given Nigerian universities the go-ahead to re-open for academic activities on January 18, 2021.
This comes a few weeks after the commission ordered all tertiary institutions to remain shut indefinitely, in response to the second wave of COVID-19.
The commission said universities should adhere strictly to safety measures put in place to curtail the spread of the virus.
It said on resumption of academic activities, universities must not under any circumstance, violate the full circle of semester system, consistent with the benchmark minimum academic standards (BMAS) approved by the National Universities Commission as well as other extant quality standards and guidelines.
NAPST begs FG not to close schools beyond Jan.18
This came as National Association of Private School Teachers, NAPST, has appealed to the Federal Government not to close down schools beyond January 18, 2021, as a result of the second wave of the COVID-19.
National President of the association, Mr Olumhense Akhigbe, made the call at a news conference on the plight of private school teachers in the country, yesterday, in Abuja.
Akhigbe said that if ultimately schools will remain closed as a result of the second wave of coronavirus, there is need for government to come to the aid of the teachers.
“If schools must be closed, then all private school teachers must as a matter of urgency be paid a monthly stipend for the time being.
“This support will go a long way to save our lives, our jobs and the future of millions of Nigerian children in private schools,” he said.
According to him, already most schools were supposed to resume on January 4, but by government directive through the PTF, resumption was delayed till January 18.
“Recall that, that was the same way it was done and we stayed six months without any pay in 2020. They kept on adding two weeks.
“So as an association, we are calling on government to `do the needful, allow schools to operate but just monitor and ensure adherence to the Covid-19 safety guidelines,” he said.