COVID-19: PTF blames scepticism, ignorance for non-compliance to guidelines

• Says pandemic not a pretext to loot

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the COVID-19 Pandemic has blamed the widespread non-compliance with guidelines and regulations for the containment of the virus on scepticism and ignorance about the disease.

Speaking at Thursday’s briefing of the task force, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the PTF, Mr Boss Mustapha, however, attributed the high numbers of positive results being recorded in the country to increased testing capacity.

He noted that it also showed how widely the virus had spread in the communities.

Mustapha regretted that tracing and testing of cases had been made more difficult because of the fear of stigmatisation, which he said had been preventing people from coming out to seek help.

The SGF added: “The PTF also continued to assess the developments nationwide and found that non-compliance has been largely fueled by scepticism and ignorance about the disease.

“We also noted that stigmatisation has further impacted on the willingness of people to come out to seek help and even tell their stories. The nature of this pandemic demands that we must detect and treat it in order to address it.

“Let me emphasise, therefore, that COVID-19 is not a condition to be ashamed of as it has no respect for status, nationality, race, creed, tribe, etc. Every person infected must be treated to prevent spread and avoidable fatalities.

“You would have noticed that the number of confirmed cases and fatalities released in the last few days have been on the high side. While we attribute this to increased testing, it also goes to confirm the extent of the spread within our communities, especially the twenty-one (21) high burden LGAs identified as accounting for over 60 per cent of infections nationwide.”

Speaking further, he said that PTF had continued to receive reports about hospitals rejecting patients, a situation which he said had been resulting in death of patients suffering from other ailments.

Mustapha reiterated his plea with medical institutions to stop rejecting people who approach them for treatment of other ailments other than COVID-19.

While advising them to follow protocols issued for containment of the disease, the task force boss also stated: “We continue to plead with these hospitals not to reject patients but to follow the protocols for managing COVID-19 while receiving them and most importantly, to seek necessary accreditation from the Ministry of Health and NCDC to manage COVID-19 cases.”

Furthermore, he said the PTF would be approaching President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend to submit its assessment of the success or otherwise of the national response efforts, as well as giving him their recommendations and urged Nigerians to await the next step in the fight against the disease.

Mustapha noted: “I wish to inform you that by the end of this week, the PTF would be submitting a report containing our assessment and recommendations to Mr President. We, therefore, urge Nigerians to await next steps.

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“In furtherance of the collaboration with sub-national entities, the PTF joined the Nigerian Governors Forum in a virtual meeting yesterday, to evaluate the progress made. The outcomes of the discussions will be factored into the decision under the next steps.”

In his remark, PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, denied that the pandemic was being used a pretext to swindle national resources as he said no sane nation would consciously destroy its economy.

He said: “We are aware that many Nigerians do not believe that COVID-19 is real. Many think it’s a scam or a ploy to access funds meant for public welfare. Some don’t believe it’s real simply because they’ve not seen or known someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“But tell me, how many of you have seen a case of Ebola or even a case of Lassa, or some of the most common infections? You don’t need to come across a patient with a life-threatening transmittable infection before you believe in it.

“There are people who don’t believe it’s real because they’ve not seen the sort of high number of deaths or the health crisis that is currently occurring many parts of the world, but our numbers are already increasing.

“We don’t want to reach that stage and if don’t want to reach that stage, we have to take those measures that are necessary to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

“A reasonable number of people still believe it’s a disease that affects other countries, but not Nigeria. I’m afraid we are all humans. In Nigeria, there’s nothing special about us that provides us with resistance against COVID-19, none.

“As the Chairman said, our climate is very similar to that of Brazil, their health system is much more sophisticated than that of Nigeria, but you can see the sort of problem they are currently facing.

“We must start believing in COVID-19 if we are to protect ourselves from this infection. The truth everyone must know is that COVID-19 is real, people are dying from it, we have had personal experiences of it, there are people that are currently not with us at the moment because of COVID-19.

“Many countries in the world are fighting this pandemic, over 9 million people have tested positive, not suspicion, but tested positive for the disease and at least 22,000 of them are in Nigeria.

“There are thousands more in our country. For every one case, there are a handful of cases that we are missing because we are not able to test everybody.

“Governments across the world and even in Nigeria, have shut down their economies and lost valuable resources in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.

“The containment measures that we have put in place to protect the public are there to protect the public, they are not there to swindle. No sane country on earth will destroy its own economy willingly. No sane country on earth will take major decisions that they know will be detrimental to their economy.

“Even among the strong economies, some of them have had significant drops in their GDP as a result of containment strategies. They will not take those steps lightly, no.

“Certainly for our generation, this is the most important public health emergency of its kind. When was the last time people were locked in their house for five weeks? When was the last time we closed the civil service completely? Or stopped flights from coming in? We haven’t had international flights that are scheduled for a long time.

“So we are getting in really challenging times and we couldn’t have taken such decisions just on the basis of a decision may be a suspicion that the disease exists. This disease does exist, whether we like it or not. It exists and if we want to survive it, we have to start believing in it.

“The profile of infected people has shown us that COVID-19 knows no class, knows no race or gender and it can certainly affect anyone who is exposed to it. We don’t need to know someone personally who has died from COVID-19 to believe it’s real. In fact, I think it’s a disservice and insensitive to those families that have lost loved ones for people to continue to claim that COVID-19 doesn’t exist.

“The PTF is appealing to Nigerians to assist the government and all our partners at all levels to fight against this virus by taking ownership of this fight and this is by strictly following all advisories we have provided.

“Let us not wait for the virus to reach disastrous proportions before we begin to believe and act, we are already seeing this happening in other countries. We must learn from their experiences to mitigate preventable fatalities.”


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