By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE Presidential Task Force, PTF on COVID-19, Tuesday, hinted that testing laboratory for the virus will soon be established at the State House Clinic.
Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, stated this at the commissioning of State House Clinic Special Care Centre (COVID-19 Isolation Centre), Abuja.
Mustapha said the Buhari-led administration was using the challenges posed by the pandemic as an opportunity to change Nigeria’s health infrastructure.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving resources for new health infrastructure, noting that through the PTF the 2021 budget made provision for the establishment of at least one oxygen production plant in all the States of the Federation, as well as a 10-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility.
A statement signed by Attah Esa, Deputy Director, Information, State House quoted the SGF as saying, ‘‘From just two molecular laboratories for the testing of COVID-19 in Nigeria, we now have over 100 molecular laboratories, public and private, across the 36 States of the Federation
‘‘I want to commend the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, the Permanent Secretary, Mr Tijjani Umar and the State House management under whose leadership this beautiful edifice is being commissioned.
‘‘I am confident that when the Minister of Health visits, whatever he decides, I can give you my word that we will put a laboratory for testing or a PCR facility in State House Clinic. This is supposed to be our priority.
‘‘I will also speak to the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, who has the primary responsibility of resourcing, setting up and accrediting laboratories because we need it here.”
On the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines to be procured for Nigeria, Mustapha said the Federal Government will continue to encourage Nigerians to get vaccinated when the time comes, because ‘‘the vaccines are safe, effective and for our benefit.’’
According to him, ‘‘We will appeal and explain to our people that if you do not take the vaccine, the danger of falling terribly sick and eventually dying is there.
‘‘We will be blunt to them that if you don’t take the COVID-19 vaccine, you may not be able to go anywhere in the world, very soon. Even when you want to go and perform your spiritual obligation, that will be subjected to your COVID-19 status.’’
The PTF Chairman also dismissed conspiracy theories concerning the vaccines, saying ‘‘I don’t believe anyone will spend billions of dollars in manufacturing vaccines in order to kill us in Africa.’’
In his remarks, Prof. Gambari, who described the Permanent Secretary, State House as ‘‘indefatigable,’’ noted that the idea for the special centre was conceived and completed within 10 weeks.
‘‘This is the State House Clinic and in many ways, it should be the Centre of Excellence and people should be able to get the best from this facility,’’ he said.
Prof. Gambari appealed to Nigerians to comply with COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions, including the wearing of face masks, washing of hands, social distancing, avoidance of large congregations and non-essential travels.
‘‘It may interest you to know that since my appointment into this position in May 2020, I have not been to Ilorin, Kwara State, my hometown.
‘‘Unfortunately, the non-pharmaceutical intervention is not being taken seriously there. The people in Ilorin and upwards think COVID-19 is a rich-man and powerful-people disease.
‘‘But as Mr President often says, COVID-19 is a respecter of nobody. Rich and poor, powerful or weak, all of us must respond to this very effectively.
‘‘For me who sees the President many times in a day, I have to take responsibility and if that involves giving up going to the town of my birth, so be it.’’
The Chief of Staff also urged Nigerians to embrace the COVID-19 vaccine, adding that Nigerians must do whatever it takes to protect themselves.
‘‘The Latin says mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body. To keep your body healthy, you have to have a healthy mind and a healthy mind is what is necessary to keep you and your family safe,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary thanked the SGF and the Chief of Staff for the support towards upgrading the standard of the clinic.
‘‘The first responsibility of the State House Clinic is to give medical service to our number one principal, the President and Commander-in-Chief and his family, the Vice President and his family and this we have been striving to do,’’ he said.
He added that since the outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic, the State House has ensured regular testing of all staff including, media, protocol, security and other civil servants.
Making a case for testing centre in the State House Clinic, Umar said: ‘‘I understand how our staff has been running from pillar to post, going to Gwagwalada and Asokoro trying to get tested. If we do it here, it will be more convenient, confidential and a lot easier for all of us.’’