COVID-19: Buhari extends PTF’s mandate till March 2021

President Muhammadu Buhari has extended the lifespan of the Presidential Task Force on the COVID-19 Pandemic till March 2021.

This followed the second wave of coronavirus currently ravaging parts of the world.

The task force under the leadership of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, submitted its end of the year 2020 report to the president at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday during which he disclosed the new tenure.

Buhari said the extension was needed “bearing in mind the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines.”

The mandate of the PTF, the envoy was set up in March 2020, was due to have ended in December 2020.

According to President Buhari, “recent reports reaching me indicate that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed Covid-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.

“New epicentres have been identified and the nation cannot afford to lose the gains of the last nine months. I have critically evaluated the situation and remain convinced that urgent measures have to be taken to halt the spread and the attendant fatalities.

“Closely associated with the foregoing is the need to speedily and strategically access and administer the Covid vaccine in a safe, effective and timely manner. This is an important obligation that we owe Nigerians as we go into the year 2021 and it must be carried out through efficient machinery.”

The President added that “the nation is clearly in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of this second wave and we must act decisively to protect our people.

“I therefore urge all sub-national entities, traditional rulers, religious and leaders of thought to collaborate with the PTF by taking up the responsibility for risk communication and community engagement at all levels. Now is the time for collective efforts to be intensified.

“As the festive season approaches, I urge all Nigerians to remain vigilant and stay safe. Non-essential trips and large social gatherings should be avoided or shelved completely.”

President Buhari noted that for Nigeria to enjoy a lasting legacy from the huge investment in the health sector, a comprehensive health sector reform must be instituted.

He said its objectives will include to: build the human and institutional capacity to provide a world-class 21st-century health care system, capable of responding effectively to future pandemics; develop a viable strategy for our primary and tertiary healthcare system; and re-align institutional mandates and functions within the health sector for effectiveness and efficiency.

Others he said are to distinguish policy and coordination from implementation responsibilities and strengthen the statutory and regulatory capacities within the health sector.

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He added: “It must be emphasised that this administration recognizes that an effective and efficient health sector represents a significant component of our security and economic growth strategy.

“It is in this regard that I am pleased to note the legacy improvements made in the health sector in the areas of laboratory infrastructure, treatment centres, training of health care personnel, improvement in surveillance and Port Health capacities, etc.”

In his remark earlier, the PTF Chairman spoke of the challenges encountered and lessons learnt by the task force so far.

According to him, they include immense benefits derivable from multi-sectoral collaboration to address issues, effective communication with Nigerians; under emergency conditions, well-rounded considerations should be given to all sectors and that the health sector will require major reforms and must be proactive.

Other lessons he said are that economic sustainable, recovery and preservation of lives and livelihoods remain critical at all times, structured data collection, analysis and retrieval remain critical for effective governance and the phenomenon of the evacuation of citizens from all over the world should become a significant policy issue for the government.

He said it was also learnt that across the board, several public sector roles, practices, systems and some statutes require review/revision to effectively respond to extreme emergency situations; there’s need to urgently establish a dedicated fund to address all pandemics and outbreaks, and the significance of building on synergy established with the private sector, the National Assembly and the subnational entities.

Also speaking, PTF Dr Sani Aliyu, said Nigeria’s health system is too fragile to withstand the effect of another major outbreak of COVID-19 or other infections.

He said it is therefore imperative to have a well-grounded and action-oriented health reform that will improve health security and place the country in a better position to manage future health threats.

He said as 2020 comes to an end, the needs to redefine its role in the COVID-19 response and identify how to be a streamlined but effective response body to focus on tackling the virus by sustaining the gains made while maintaining a reasonable level of readiness in response to this second surge of the pandemic but also other outbreaks in the future.

Also speaking about the lessons learnt, Dr Aliyu said: “COVID-19 will be with us for a while. Although this is the new normal, it continues to be just as deadly.

“Nevertheless, we have shown it is possible to keep it in check through the work we have done – we must persevere and continue the communication and enforcement aspects required to keep us safe until the epidemic is over.

“Next year will be all about the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a huge challenge for the country and will require your leadership and continued commitment, Mr President.

“All hands must be on deck to deliver and overcome the challenges of securing the supply of safe and effective vaccines, logistics and acceptance.

“Our health system has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s health system is fragile and may not withstand the effect of a major outbreak of COVID-19 or other infections.

“There is an urgent need for a carefully thought through and action-oriented reform of the health sector that will improve our health security and place the country in a better position to manage future health threats.”

He added: “While a lot has been achieved, gratitude goes to the partners and donors, PTF members, secretariat staff without whom we will not have made any achievements. On behalf of the PTF, I would also like to thank you for the immense support you have provided us, your timely approval of our requests and guidance through what has been an incredibly challenging period for all.

“However, it is not over yet. A lot more work needs to be done to enable our transition back to normal. I am confident that working together and with your continued support, we will overcome this challenge once again.”






COVID-19: Buhari extends PTF’s mandate till March 2021

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