•PTF, Lagos warn of second wave
•States have received N50b to battle virus
Bolaji Ogundele and Moses Emorinken, Abuja
GOVERNMENT on Tuesday cautioned Nigerians against travelling to Europe and the Americas to prevent importation of COVID-19 virus to the country.
It expressed fears that the country is at risk with the second wave of the virus ravaging Europe and other parts of the world.
Because of the return of the virus, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, have re-introduced restrictions and shut-downs.
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 issued an advisory to Nigerians against making trips that are unnecessary to Europe, at this time.
The Lagos State government has also cautioned against unnecessary movement and social gathering, unless it is absolutely necessary. It said travelling outside the country should be discouraged except when absolutely necessary.
Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire also said the PTF is worried by a likely rise in cases as a result of recent reopening of air travel, imminent reopening of schools, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps, and the recent social agitation and unrest.
The PTF added that asides the disregard for COVID-19 safety, prevention and control measures, preliminary reports show that contact tracing and case finding have declined in states, with a consequent reduction in the number of persons tested.
Ehanire said: “We are concerned about the decline in the testing rate in several states of the Federation. Records show that only Lagos and the FCT have met the testing target of at least one per cent of the population. Plateau, Rivers and Gombe have reached over 50 per cent of target, while 25 states are yet to reach 25 per cent of their population. We do not have the confidence to draw firm conclusions on our status, till this situation improves.
“Our concern is heightened by several emerging factors that challenge whatever gains we may have made in recent months: the inevitable need to reopen air travel, to stimulate economic activities, the imminent reopening of schools and Youth Service, again necessary for restoration of social order, but which global experience links with spikes in covid infection rates in most countries.
“Others are the effect of recent social agitation and unrest, with attendant disruption of services and widespread breach of all infection prevention protocols, and the growing lackadaisical attitude to covid19 and disregard for safety and simple infection prevention and control measures, which I must admit, is not peculiar to our country.
“Preliminary reports show that contact tracing and case finding have declined in states with a consequent reduction in the number of persons tested. I therefore renew my call on states and stakeholders to step up testing capacity, to help identify positive cases for isolation or treatment and protect the rest of the population, which is the duty of government.
Read Also: Centre hails minister on power generation
“I wish to particularly emphasize the need to protect the elderly and vulnerable, who are the most affected in fatalities. In this connection, the Ministry of Health will next week launch an advocacy campaign in which a representative of the Hon. Minister of Health will visit hotspot States that require encouragement, to discuss their specific needs and challenges and find ways of stepping up sample collection for testing.”
Ehanire added, “The evolving global situation of COVID-19 gives us much reason for concern. Over 2.8 million cases were reported last one week, with half of the cases in Europe. The UK, France, Germany, Spain and others in Europe have resorted to lockdown and other measures, to control the pandemic.
“With the high volume of air traffic between Nigeria and Europe, we are examining the associated risk factors for Nigeria. The PTF has set up stringent criteria and measures so far, to limit COVID-19 importation: nevertheless, 18 travelers out of over 78,000 arrivals, were found to be COVID-19 positive at the second testing in Nigeria.
“This is a relatively small number, but it could increase with rising volume of flights. Moreover, NCDC estimated traveler compliance with second testing after arrival to be about 60 per cent, which is a challenge we are responding to in innovative ways, as we work constantly to improve the arrival processes for better protection of citizens.
“To improve function at international air and sea Points of Entry, the Division of Port Health Services has been directed to work with NCDC, Ministry of Health Planning Department and relevant Agencies of the Ministries of Aviation and Interior and Transportation, to bring up a new design of structures and protocols that will enhance its ability to function more efficiently and effectively and ensure reduction in the risk of importing Infectious disease, especially covid19, by promptly identifying, isolating and processing suspected cases before they enter the country.
“While we still evaluate the impact of recent unguarded mass gatherings in various parts of the country as a risk factor for spreading COVID-19, my concern is that we may find a spike in confirmed cases, with the widespread disregard for preventive measures at the large gatherings and movements.
“We must take collective responsibility for each other’s actions, if we are not to experience the upsurges in new cases experienced in many other countries, and a throwback to conditions worse than the present. An appraisal of Nigeria’s position in the global COVID-19 space has been prepared by the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and will be discussed at PTF, before release to the public.
“In this regard, citizens are again also strongly advised to postpone all travel to high burden countries of the world, including Europe and the Americas, except absolutely necessary. The better we are able to control importation of fresh covid-19 cases to our country, the easier we can control in-country spread and return to our normal life.”
Chairman of PTF Mr. Boss Mustapha, added that more reasons for the concern of a likely resurgence of the virus include the fact that as at Monday, 2/11/2020, global statistics showed the following:
* Global cumulative cases: – 47,387,837;
* Global number of deaths: – 1,212,479;
“In the midst of all these, the nation has experienced several large gathering events during which the non-pharmaceutical Interventions were not really observed. The situation in Europe and the reports from the USA showing the consequences of non-adherence, are quite vivid.
“The PTF is highlighting these issues repeatedly because we remain at risk of importation, having opened our airspace and massive spread as a result of the protests. The next week or two remain critical”, he said.
On observed continued violation of COVID-19 flight protocols, the SGF said the federal government would henceforth start imposing sanctions on violators of the protocols, which would include the seizing of the international passports of defaulters.
“The PTF has noted with sadness the failure of Nigerians who arrived from abroad to present themselves for the in-country PCR test which they signed up to and paid before arrival. Statistics emerging from our records show that only one out of three passengers have shown up for the in-country test.
“Ass you may recall, the PTF announced the guidelines on the reopening of the airspace and the obligations of arriving passengers. The PTF similarly announced sanctions as a consequence of any infraction.
“Having observed serious non-compliance to the level of 65%, the need has arisen to activate the sanctions which includes the suspension of the passports of such defaulting individuals for a period of six months minimum”, he said.
He, however, informed of his meeting with leadership of the National Council of Traditional Rulers (NCTR) on Tuesday, being part of the PTF’s strategy to deepen community engagement and risk communication, commending the traditional rulers for their role so far in national response efforts.
The PTF has cut down on its weekly activities, including meetings and national media briefing.
According to the SGF, the meetings and briefings will hold only once in a week from next Thursday, adding however that there could be off-schedule activities. He explained that this is as a result of the need for members of the task force to devote attention to other pressing issues, especially now that more public activities had been reactivated.