The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic has assured that unless vaccines are safe and effective, they will not be administered on people in the country.
Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who gave the assurance, on Monday, during the task force’s media briefing in Abuja, noted that apart from the use of vaccines, the adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions will continue to be emphasised in the fight against the virus in the country.
He admonished Nigerians to make all sacrifices necessary to prevent a second lockdown in the country, pointing out that Nigeria is in a difficult situation that makes it necessary to consider all options.
He said: “The positive news about vaccines remains high in the ranking of discussions nationwide. Nigerians are assured that the PTF will ensure that the vaccines to be approved will be safe and effective. We must however work together as foot soldiers in the vaccine advocacy so that we can eliminate the pandemic.
“The PTF wishes to emphasise that the success of our national response shall not depend on vaccines alone. Rather, compliance with the non-pharmaceutical protocols must remain top on our individual priorities.
“Let me remind you that the pandemic is raging and all tiers of Government and citizens must keep their hands-on-deck. We are in a difficult situation in which a balance must continue to be struck between lives and livelihood. We are considering all options while hoping that broad cooperation will be received. We must do everything possible to avoid the second lockdown in Nigeria.”
Speaking on the reopening of schools, on Monday, the SGF tasked state governments to ensure that the non-pharmaceutical interventions are strictly adhered to in schools so as not to worsen the escalating spread of the virus.
He added: “You will also recall that the PTF had informed you that the resumption of schools nationwide would be reviewed due to rising daily numbers of infections and the challenges of case management especially the shortage of oxygen so that we do not allow our facilities to be overwhelmed.
“While we note that several States have proceeded with the resumption of schools, the PTF recommends strongly that very strict adherence to Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions should be enforced by the States to avoid the escalation of cases. The PTF will continue to dialogue with the Governors and the Federal Ministry of Education to closely monitor the situation.”
On plan by the government to speed up testing rate across the country, he said the PTF had already charged the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to immediately commence the planned 450 tests per council area nationwide, even as it charged all stakeholders to start getting involved in risk communication and community engagement on COVID-19.
Mustapha further stated: “The PTF has also authorised the NCDC to immediately implement the 450 tests per LGA plan, nationwide, immediately. We are aware that states are not on the same pedestal in the area of testing and we shall begin with states that are in the forefront of resourcing and infrastructure.
“The PTF wishes to emphasise the need for all segments of the society to get involved in the risk communication and community engagement. In our continued collaboration with the religious and traditional rulers, we align with the statements issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) guiding the sick and the elderly on the need to avoid large gathering by staying at home. We are optimistic that other institutions will follow suit as we progress.
“We are making progress with the Case Management under our National Response. The National Response continues to receive the support of the private sector in the delivery of medical oxygen to the various facilities.
“At the same time, funds for the rehabilitation of existing oxygen facilities have been released to the various institutions. There is also a process in motion to ensure the construction of at least one oxygen facility in each state.”
On the national response effort and the comparative developments across the African continent, Mustapha re-emphasised the need for testing for the virus to be ramped up.
He stated: “On the African Continent, South Africa and Nigeria continue to report highest daily count, while South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya account for 76 per cent of all cases in the region. Nigeria has moved up to the third position in highest cumulative caseload but remains 2nd for new cases and 5th highest in cumulative deaths on the WHO African region.
“From the foregoing, testing has proven to have become more significant in our national response. The PTF still urges the State Governments to enable their EOCs to step up on sample collection and to maximise the capacities of the PCR Laboratories already established in their states.”
He also said the next 100 violators of international travellers’ COVID-19 protocols will soon be sanctioned, as approved by the President.
Mustapha also said that the PTF is proceeding with the next phase of the approved Presidential sanction against all in-bound international travellers that failed to undergo the day-7 post-arrival test.
He added: “The PTF will publish the next list of 100 defaulters very soon.
“Let me clarify, however, that there is a strong multi-sectoral approach to the activities, decisions and engagement of the PTF with institutions of government and the public sector. Consequently, all steps being taken are outcomes of in-depth consultations and review before they are made public.”