The Federal Government has announced its decision to review the COVID-19 safety protocols as well as the January 18 resumption date for schools in the light of Nigeria’s grim epidemiological situation with regards to the pandemic.
This was as it again lamented that the nation’s health care infrastructure was greatly strained as the country is now at a critical level in its hospital capacity.
The government also explained its inability to produce COVID-19 vaccines in the country, attributing it to several years of inadequate investments in the health sector.
While it declared that no state is immune to the virus, the government also announced its decision to roll out Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits RDTKs in five tertiary health institutions in Abuja by next Monday.
The Federal Government had last year faulted the Kogi state Government’s insistence on using the test kits rather than deploying the more expensive PCR test.
Speaking at Monday’s briefing of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu said the earlier resumption date of January 18 was not cast in stone.
“When we decided on that date, it was just a target towards which we were working. And of course, we are giving it a review given what is happening in the country.
“Today at the PTF meeting, we looked at the rising figures and decided that probably we should take another look at the date.
“The January 18 resumption date is not sacrosanct as it is subject to constant review in view of prevailing epidemiological circumstances. We are reviewing it. In view of the rising cases, today we have considered it at the meeting of the PTF, and tomorrow, the ministry is going to take it up. So, most likely it is going to be reviewed”, Adamu stated.
National Coordinator of the Taskforce, Dr. Sani Aliyu, noted that the PTF would soon review the safety protocols to target nightcrawlers who violate the current safety precautions.
“Our beds are fast filling up in our treatment centres and you don’t want to be in a situation where the decision is being taken as to whether you should be put on oxygen or a ventilator.
“The PTF is currently in the process of reviewing our protocols. We have had discussions with state governors including a review of curfew hours particularly to address the issue of nightlife and entertainment which is also driving the current numbers and once this review is completed, an announcement will follow with regards to the curfew”, he stated.
Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Iheakwazu, on his part lamented that hospital capacity in several towns has reached a critical level.
He said; “We are reaching a critical level with our hospital capacity in many towns in Nigeria and we must begin to protect our most vulnerable as we get deeper into this phase of the outbreak. Remember this virus is not tired and it is taking advantage of our tiredness and fatigue”.
Minister of State, Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora warned against overcrowding at the enrollment centres of the National Identity Management Commission NIMC, saying the situation could be avoided if prospective enrollees would adhere to the timelines released by the Commission.
He said the result of the test of participants of the National Youth Service Corps NYSC scheme indicates that no part of the country is free of the virus, saying the PTF reached the conclusion knowing that corps members were mobilized from all over the country.
“The result from the tests conducted on prospective NYSC members has incontrovertibly confirmed that no part of the country is free of COVID-19 disease. We safely and comfortably draw this conclusion because corps members are mobilized from all the states of the country for each of the orientation camps.
“With the increased number of confirmed cases, the number of active cases has increased. As of today, we have 18,699 active cases on treatment both in the facility and in the community using the treatment protocols. Many of the active cases may require care in one of the treatment or isolation centres thus imposing enormous burden on our facilities.
“Thee report that many of those who died, reported late for treatment at the approved centres because they were referred late from private facilities is alarming. We therefore once again seize this opportunity to urge health care practitioners to promptly send all suspected cases for testing and when positive, refer them to isolation centres for treatment. Attempting to treat suspected or confirmed cases not only exposes the health workers in such a facility to risk of infection but also denies the patient early access to effective treatment in an approved treatment centre.
“Permit me at this juncture to specifically emphasise on the need to avoid crowding as we see in people under the guise of National Identity Number Enrollment. There is absolutely no cause for this if only people would voluntarily comply with advisories and guidelines as issued by the Ministry of Communications and its relevant Agency. The statement credited to me on social media as to the suspension of the exercise is out of context, hence misleading. For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. President’s order on the matter remains as being carried out by the relevant Ministry”, he stated.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF and Chairman of the PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha noted that the current wave of infections is swift and virulent “and we do not know how long it will last”.
“Besides, the facilities available for the treatment of critical cases remain very limited and we do not wish to be overwhelmed. Your best bet, therefore, is to avoid infections completely”, he added.
Mustapha said to scale up testing, “the pilot exercise on the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test-Kits RDTs will be rolled out in five tertiary health institutions in Abuja from Monday next week.
“Last week, Nigeria recorded over 9,000 cases. Realistically, if we estimate the numbers missed, we would be in a much higher region. There is no state in Nigeria that is immune to this pandemic even if reports are not coming out of such States”.
He said the isolation of different strains of the virus is being vigorously pursued as the PTF is working with the Africa Centre for Disease Control CDC and the NCDC on the sequencing of the COVID strains circulating in Nigeria.
Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, explained why Nigeria has not been able to produce its own COVID-19 Vaccines.
He said; “There are questions around why we are not producing the COVID-19 vaccines in Nigeria. I want to just put on record that the process of producing a vaccine is very complex and complicated. You don’t just go to a shelf and pick up a vaccine. So, it requires massive investments that have not been done for many decades. In the past, in the 1960s, we used to make Yellow Fever vaccines in this country. In the ’90s, we took a decision to change our analog ways of making the yellow fever vaccines into more recent technology. However, that transfer of technology never happened and that is why we did not continue to make Yellow Fever vaccines. Perhaps, if we had continued making yellow fever vaccines in the Yaba Laboratory in Lagos, it may have been easier for us to continue and make other vaccines before now. So, there are genuine efforts by this administration to restart the process of vaccine production which is why the Federal Government went into a hint venture agreement with Bio-Vaccines through May and Baker. It takes usually 10 to 15 years for you to be able to start producing the vaccines. It takes a very long and complicated process”.
He said Nigeria hopes to cover 70 percent of its population when it gets the vaccines, saying while 20 percent of the vaccines is a donation from the COVAXX facility, Nigeria would have to source for funds to pay for the remaining 50 percent.
Shuaib expressed optimism that Nigeria will never get to the point where it has to force people to take the vaccines, saying his agency is working with religious leaders and the media to sensitise the public on the nature of the vaccines.