By Joseph Erunke
THE federal government has expressed worry over increasing number of abscondment of quarantine passengers at the nation’s points of entry, vowing that henceforth those that ignored Nigeria’s COVID-19 safety measures will face severe sanctions among which it said,included prosecution.
The government which noted that the actions of the defaulters were detrimental to Nigeria’s pandemic response and public health safety,advised persons to comply with directives of port health staff.
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire,addressing a press conference, Monday evening, said,”Nigeria is at increased risk if we continue to neglect public health protocols placed at points of entry, which are our first line of defence and a critical point of concern.”
According to the minister,”It is worrisome that despite evidence of the emergence of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens continue to refuse adherence to public health advisories.”
” The severity of this disease should not be disregarded as it is still a primary cause of concern, even in countries with stronger health systems,”he warned.
He added:” I entreat all persons to comply with our Port Health staff or risk facing sanctions, including prosecution. Non-compliance with their directives constitutes a risk to national health security and will be handled with commensurate severity.”
He said:”The Federal Ministry of Health Point of Entry (PoE) pillar of the COVID-91 response has been continuously monitoring passenger arrivals especially from high-risk countries like India, Turkey, and Brazil.”
Expressing more concern that people were ignoring the safety measures put in place by the country at a time “Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has been identified in Nigeria”, the minister noted that:”In the past 24 hours, the world has witnessed an increase in reported cases of COVID-19 across a significant number of countries, due to the high transmissibility of the Delta Variant.”
“This threat includes importation from countries that are popular travel destinations for Nigerians, including the United Kingdom, United States, UAE, France and Turkey, which have high incidence of this virulent strain,” he said.
Osagie explained that:”As of 25th July 2021, we have confirmed a total of 170,895 COVID-19 cases, and 2,132 fatalities”,adding that,”There are 4,180 active cases across the country, including 216 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours from 7 states; 108 cases from Lagos State, 96 cases from Akwa Ibom state, 4 from Oyo, 3 from Rivers, 2 from Edo and 1 each from Ekiti and Kano states.
The minister,while regretting that “COVID-19 treatment bed occupancy is also recording an increase given the established emergence of a third wave. In preparation”, said his ministry “has taken steps to urgently scale-up and enhance local oxygen capacity even before oxygen consumption increases.”
” Nigeria has invested directly and strategically to ensuring oxygen availability to avert unforeseen incidence of oxygen insufficiency for COVID-19 patients in the country,”he said.
He spoke on vaccines the country was expecting to tackle the disease:”On our push for COVID-19 vaccine sufficiency, we are expecting over 29 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines purchased by the Government of Nigeria through the African Union AVATT facility; and over 4 million Moderna and almost 700 thousand AstraZeneca vaccines through the COVAX facility from bilateral donations from the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom; as well as Pfizer and Sinopharm from both bilateral agreements and through the COVAX facility.
“Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one dose vaccine, will be advantageous for our context with weak Civil Registration Vital Statistics (CRVS) and a nomadic population. We expect to take delivery of these vaccines within this 3rd quarter with the Johnson & Johnson expected this August.
“As we continue to closely monitor the global COVID-19 pandemic, I wish to re-emphasise that we must fervently avoid complacency and continue to abide by the given Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions.
” Remember that Nigeria is a well-traversed country and is susceptible to further importation of the virus, especially when there is clear evidence that the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has begun across the continent.”
He encouraged the public to support government’s efforts and “embrace optimism for health in our country as we join hands to build back a better and resilient health system for the future.”