Protesting Catholic women ground Owerri over Bishop Chikwe's kidnap 
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State.

…No accord with states to re-open schools Jan 18 — FG

…Partial compliance with safety rules as schools reopen

…No COVID-19 test required for resuming students — FG

…NMA decries re-opening amid second wave infections

…Low turnout of students

…Nigeria records 77 deaths, conducts 100,000 tests in one week

…To sanction second batch of 100 test defaulters

By Sola Ogundipe, Health Editor, Dayo Johnson, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Chioma Obinna, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Adesina Wahab,  Omeiza Ajayi, Joseph Erunke, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Shina Abubakar, James Ogunnaike, James Ogunnaike, Gabriel Olawale & Mary Obaebor

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu yesterday said that the Federal Government had reservations about the resumption of schools yesterday, January 18, even as it was observed that there was partial compliance with COVID-19 protocols in many schools that reopened in many states.

According to Adamu, while the states wanted to go ahead with schools’ resumption, the Federal Government was against it but had to reach a compromise since it does not control all the schools

“We sat down, looked at the figures and we took the decision that schools should not open. Unfortunately, we have to state this because it is supposed to be a collective decision, but you must understand that the schools we are talking about, the Federal Government has only about 100 out of thousands of schools. The schools are under the jurisdiction of states and just as the PTF was unanimous in saying that schools should not open, states were unanimous that schools should open. So, we have to compromise and as PTF we shall monitor what is happening on a daily basis. There could be some review again,” Adamu stated.

Partial compliance with rules as schools re-open

Our correspondents who went round schools in the states, noticed gaps in the preparedness of some of the educational institutions, where a number of parents and their wards as well as teachers, flouted the COVID-19 guidelines as most of them did not use their face masks as recommended.

In Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodinma  raised the alarm that the number of people testing positive and dying as a result of COVID-19 infection is on the increase in the state. Uzodinma said sanctions had been introduced for people refusing to wear face masks.

No COVID-19 test required — FG

To allay fears of some parents that their wards could be required to go for the COVID-19 test, the  Federal Government declared that no COVID-19 test was required for returning students to be admitted into their schools.

In the statement released by the Director,Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, Bem Goong, government warned school authorities to refrain from asking students or parents to undergo COVID-19 test before they are accepted in their schools.

Students, parents, teachers ignore safety protocols in Ondo

Our correspondent who visited some schools in Ondo State observed that compliance with the COVID- 19 protocols was partially ignored. Students flouted the COVID-19 guidelines as most of them did not use face masks while those who did hung it below their chins.

Parents as well as teachers also ignored the proper way of face mask usage in most of the schools visited in Akure, the state capital,

At  Oyemekun Grammar School, Akure, buckets of water, soap and sanitisers were provided at the school gate for those coming into the school, particularly new entrants and their parents.

It was partial compliance with the protocols in St Louis Grammar School, Akure and Fiwasaye Girls’ Grammar School.

Principal of the school, Mr. Ogunleye Okeowo, said that students who flouted the guidelines would be sent back home.

A parent, Mrs Toyosi Olaniran, who said that arrangements made by schools were inadequate, and suggested that the new students ought to have been given priority.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Akin Asaniyan, blamed parents for the non compliance.

“This disease is real and it’s killing. But from what we’ve seen, the parents especially are not taking it serious. Most of them allow their children to resume without face masks and some basic things. Where we don’t meet the required standard, we won’t allow such schools to operate, until the situation is rectified.”

A visit to Eji-Oba High, Oba-Ile in Akure, showed  zero compliance with the protocols. Buckets of water, soap and sanitizers were not provided at the school gate while both the teachers and students went about the school premises without face masks.

Mixed bag in Lagos

In Lagos, it was a mixed bag as the Commissioner for Education, Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, went round some schools in Agege, Ikeja and Oregun areas of the state to monitor the resumption exercise.  Among the schools visited were Government College Senior and Junior Schools in Agege, Dairy Farm Senior School, Agege, Omole Junior School,Omole.

Osun students break protocols

At Government Technical College, Osogbo, there was partial compliance as some students adorned the face masks only to remove them once inside the school premises.

At Heritage of Kings Private Secondary School, and Fakunle Comprehensive College, students threw caution to the winds as they had no face masks on.

No resumption in Kaduna, Edo; low turn-out in Ekiti

Students did not resume in Kaduna State on the orders of the state government which said  the step was taken to give room for observation of the trend of the disease in the next few weeks.

However, in Edo State, though the state government said schools will resume on 1st of February, a strike by members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, is a factor in the delayed resumption.

In Ekiti State,  many of the schools experienced low turn-out of students and pupils, mainly because parents and guardians were wary of  the situation.

Govt doesn’t listen to experts – NMA

President of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA,  faulted the reopening of schools and said government does not listen to experts. In a reaction, he expressed doubts that Nigeria was adequately prepared for the challenge of reopening the schools.

Ujah, who called for better monitoring and supervision of the process, said lessons are yet to be learned from the pandemic almost one year after.

“What we have been saying is that this coronavirus pandemic is totally unprepared for. What lessons have we learned, one year after? The truth is that we have no statistics, as far as I know, of the number of schools that are ready — whether public or private — and what they should put in place. I think we are very sentimental as a nation, let us follow the advice of experts.

“If we know that children should go back to school, what facilities have we put in place? We know that they should maintain the NCDC protocols, but what have we done in the schools? Our problem is that we do a lot of talking and do very little, it is also  true that we do not listen to experts,” he remarked.

In his argument, Ujah explained that if the schools are to be reopened, adequate preparations should be in place and the process should be monitored.

“But who are those monitoring the process; who are those supervising the process, because we talk and don’t supervise. We have been saying that everybody should comply with the NCDC protocol, and they have not been complying, but suddenly we are saying that every body should go back to school, what evidence do we have?

“If the Ministry of Education has said so, who are the supervisors and where have they gone to monitor to confirm that what they have the evidence of compliance? It is not just sitting at the round table and saying that we want the schools to reopen and that there should be no problem.

“We have suffered this because people do not listen to experts who have cautioned from the beginning how we should stop persons from entering the country. We talked about social distancing and everything that we need to do scientifically. We cannot enforce anything, our own is to advocate and bring out the scientific component not the political or sentimental component of this pandemic.”

Politics of pressure – Dr Casmir Ifeanyi

In his own response, a  Medical Lab Scientist and Public Health Analyst, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi, said government succumbed to what he described as “politics of pressure”.

“Government caused the problem. Towards the end of 2020, when the PTF issued an advisory that schools will not be resuming anything earlier than the 18th of January, I had expected the Presidential Task Force, PTF, to review the advisory on the basis of public health data available to them.

“Unfortunately, that process has been disrupted with politics, the politics of pressure from uninformed parents, school proprietors who want to make profit whether life is lost or not and of course, the politics of people interested in the gain of COVID-19 escalation spending.”

“It must be said that aside the schools, the markets are carrying on with reckless abandon of COVID-19 protocol. The shopping malls are doing the same, church and mosque activities are ongoing without observing COVID-19 protocol.

“We are having all manner of social gatherings without control, if you look at activities across the country in the name of NIN registration, then you can not justify keeping children at home further.”

NADUHS calls on FG to ensure public safety

On their own part, the National Association of Doctors in University Health Services, NADUHS, has called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency contact all relevant stakeholders for input, consultation and adoption of effective strategies that will ensure public safety before Universities across the country resume.

READ ALSO: South Africa police arrest thousands for not wearing masks

Making the call in a jointly signed statement by concerned members of the Association, NADUHS, an affiliate of the Nigerian Medical Association, complained that the federal government is yet to train health workers in University Health Services, UHS, preparatory to the resumption of Universities and other tertiary institutions.

“For the records, Nigerians should be informed that already positive cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in some university health facilities with morbidities recorded. The prevention of recording more cases should be a collective responsibility of the Health Care personnel, our respective University managements, and the federal government of Nigeria”.

No of people testing positive, dying rising in Imo — Gov Uzodinma 

In a related development, the Imo State Governor,  Hope Uzodinma , yesterday raised the alarm about the increasing number of people testing positive and dying from COVID-19 in the state.

Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Uzodinma said that already, community leaders in the state had started engaging town criers in sensitizing the people on the need to obey all the protocols.

He said: “The number of people testing positive and dying is on the increase, state government alone cannot as a matter of honesty summon the capacity and resources to address this menace. So we also pleaded and Mr. President has promised that he will intervene.”

On needs from the President, Uzodinma said: “We need medical support, we need equipment, we need oxygen, we need well equipped isolation centers, we need to test more and also when people test positive, we need to have the resources, the medication to ensure that the thing is remedied.”

Uzodinma said the state  has in place a Task Force on COVID-19 and that measures were being taken to reduce the spread of the disease and ensure the safety of all citizens.

He said: “Few days ago I issued an Executive Order to make not wearing mask a crime in Imo State. So, any moment from now, we will begin to arrest people refusing to wear masks. I have given a 14 -day ultimatum for all coming into Imo State to wear their face mask and comply with NCDC protocol or be arrested and tried.

“I have created six mobile courts to handle that. We don’t joke. It is better we offend people than to allow this disease to continue to spread in Imo State.

“I have in place a Task Force on COVID-19 chaired by Prof. Maurice Iwu, former Chairman of INEC and they have done well. We have in place four isolation centres, fully equipped and the government partnering with the private sector has also equipped an additional isolation centre at the University Teaching Hospital, Orlu.

“But the number is growing daily and those testing positive are also on the increase so I think we need to prepare more grounds; build more isolation centres, get more medications, get oxygen and also try to have respiratory support equipment for those who have difficulty in breathing after they have been infected.”

FG warns, says 77 died of COVID-19 in one week

Meanwhile, at the daily briefing of Presidential Task Force in Abuja yesterday, the Federal Government warned against complacency with regards to adhering to safety protocols following hopes of accessing the COVID-19 vaccines soon, lamenting that the pandemic claimed 77 lives in the last one week.

This was as the country conducted 100, 000 tests last week, the highest so far since the pandemic reared its ugly head in the country.

It also added that it never actually agreed with states that schools should resume on January 18.

According to the government, having the vaccines will still not be enough as Nigerians must continue to abide by all non-pharmaceutical interventions in order to eliminate the virus.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, who gave the charge during the briefing, said: “I wish to note particularly, however, that in week two of 2021 the statistics revealed the following:

“Cases: 10,300; deaths, 77 and active cases,19,635.  All these numbers represented increases compared with the numbers from week one, 2021”.

On the African Continent, the SGF said South Africa and Nigeria continue to report highest daily counts, adding that South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya account for 76% of all cases in the region.

“Nigeria has moved up to third position in highest cumulative case load but remains second for new cases and fifth highest in cumulative deaths on the WHO African region.

“The PTF has also authorized the NCDC to immediately implement the 450 tests per LGA plan, nationwide, immediately. We are aware that states are not on the same pedestal in the area of testing and we shall begin with states that are in the forefront of resourcing and infrastructure,” he added.

The PTF aligned with the statements issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria CAN guiding the sick and the elderly on the need to avoid large gathering by staying at home, expressing optimism that other institutions would follow suit.

It added that the positive news about vaccines remains high in the ranking of discussions nationwide, and that the PTF will ensure that the vaccines to be approved will be safe and effective.

“We must however work together as foot soldiers in the vaccine advocacy so that we can eliminate the pandemic. The PTF wishes to emphasise that the success of our national response shall not depend on vaccines alone. Rather, compliance with the non-pharmaceutical protocols must remain top on our individual priorities.

“Let me remind you that the pandemic is raging and all tiers of government and citizens must keep their hands-on-deck. We are in a difficult situation in which a balance must continue to be struck between lives and livelihood. We are considering all options while hoping that broad cooperation will be received. We must do everything possible to avoid a second lockdown in Nigeria.

“Finally, the PTF is proceeding with the next phase of the approved Presidential sanction against all in-bound international travelers that failed to undergo the Day-7 post arrival test. The PTF will publish the next list of 100 defaulters very soon,” he stated.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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