All Nigerians should get tested for COVID-19 ― PTF

• Wants government meetings virtual till further notice • Gives guidelines for school reopening

THE Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has r e c o m m e n d e d testing of all Nigerians as a way to track the prevalence of COVID-19 infection and understand how to tackle it. This is at it says that it has increased testing capacity by establishing more sample collection centres around the country to enable more citizens to get tested.

The chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who stated these at its briefing in Abuja on Monday said: “As we progress in this phase and acknowledge that testing capacity has to be increased, we encourage as many Nigerians as possible to get tested as we have expanded the network of sample collection centres.

“In Abuja, a sample collection centre has been set up at Thisday Dome and all government hospitals in the Federal  Capital  Territory (FCT) have been designated as sample collection centres.” While noting that the minister of health will  provide details on this in due course, Mustapha further stated: “Getting tested is the only sure way of making sure we know the prevalence of the virus and understand how  to tackle it effectively.”

He said the visit of some media houses, over the weekend, to the Asokoro Observation Centre, Abuja and their interactions with some patients should give Nigerians the comfort to get tested and treated if necessary. He reiterated  that contracting COVID-19 is not a death sentence “but not presenting yourself for testing or treatment when symptoms become observable could likely lead to avoidable death.”

The SGF maintained that government meetings should be conducted virtually until further notice while all unnecessary travels for meetings by government officials are also suspended till further notice. Monday’s briefing followed the PTF’s review of its last three months (midterm) since setting up of the national response strategy.

Mustapha said the objectives of the exercise were to review the PTF’s achievements, challenges, and opportunities for improvement of the COVID-19 response efforts from its inception to June 30, 2020; and engage key stakeholders in developing the way forward on in the response efforts.

He said at the end of the two-day review meeting, it resolved to take key resolutions including case management deficit,  involving a focus on having enough oxygen nationwide as the number of hospitalised person increases; testing deficit, involving establishing one sample collection centre per local government area.

The review also dwelt on strategy for high burden local government areas with a particular focus and precision interventions including increased risk communication. Others are risk communication, involving the review of increased community engagement including religious leaders; state ownership and collaboration, involving increase state ownership by increasing state engagement and collaboration as well as strengthening ownership at the state and local government levels.

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The review also explored ways to increase compliance to non-pharmaceutical measures (use of face masks, hand sanitizers, and physical distancing) and in the private sector, to increase engagement with the private sector.

While also looking at industrial development as a gain from the pandemic and support for local production of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other critical supplies, the mid-term review looked at movement post-easing of lockdown.

It advocated communicating that anyone above 60 years or persons with morbidities (such as hypertension, diabetes,  autoimmune disorders, cancers etc.), should stay at home and avoid social events as they are at highest risk of infection and mortality.

Mustapha said the PTF has followed with keen interest the conversation around the resumption of schools, recognising  that “our children are precious and we would not do anything to compromise their safety.” He said the PTF has assessed the circumstances and has put in place necessary guidelines to be followed while the managers of the sector have the responsibility of drawing up the protocols and determining the dates.

He urged Nigerians to follow closely the critical steps being taken by the Federal Ministry of Education in conjunction with other stakeholders. He added: “Further to this, the Federal Ministry of Education has released guidelines for schools and learning facilities’ reopening after COVID-19 pandemic closure.

The guidelines clearly spell out major things to consider before schools and learning facilities shall reopen, the reopening process, sequencing  and scheduling of safe reopening and decisions about schools reopening.”

The PTF  chairman noted the efforts of local innovators, researchers and research institutions in working to get a solution to  COVID-19, especially its cure but warned against misleading the public into “believing that a cure has been found or certified when indeed the validation processes is still ongoing.”

According to him, “This call is necessitated by the recent publication that a cure for COVID-19 had been listed by  NAFDAC. The agency has debunked the claim and we advise Nigerians to be vigilant.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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