The Presidential Task Force on the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday observed that Nigerians are getting tired of the virus, but warned that it is a situation coronavirus may seize upon to further spread in the country.
The National Coordinator of the task force, Dr. Aliyu Sani, who made this declaration during a briefing in Abuja, said citizens are not testing enough for the virus.
He affirmed that the only way to control its spread is aggressive testing, which he said, is currently not happening in the country.
Aliyu also back-tracked from an earlier statement by the PTF that the curve of the spread had started to flatten, saying that the task force cannot be convinced that is the case unless there is aggressive testing.
He said: “PTF remains seriously concerned about the current low testing rate we have in the country. Nigerians are not getting tested for Covid-19. But we must test to track in order to slow the spread of the virus even further and to stop any more preventable Covid-19 related deaths.
“People all over the world are experiencing Covid fatigue. We are all tired. This has been going on for seven months now in the country and almost 10 months globally since December.
“But unfortunately, while we are getting tired, the virus does not tire. It doesn’t realize that we are all getting tired. In fact, to the virus, it’s an opportunity to spread. Therefore, we must sustain our approach because of the impact the virus has, not only, on our lives, but also, on our livelihood.
“So, for clarity, we are not convinced that we are flattening the curve. We can only been convinced, we can only know where we are with infection rate with aggressive testing.”
He said the country’s testing capacity of about 10,000 per day is clearly insufficient and well below the target, noting that there is the need to avoid a second wave of the virus as being experienced in parts of the world.
The PTF Coordinator warned that an increase in cases may lead to additional restrictions, which will drag the country backwards.
In his remark at the press briefing, PTF Chairman and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, called for greater vigilance to maintain the progress already achieved, stressing the need to overcome the Covid-19 fatigue.
He said: “I wish to underscore the need to overcome fatigue in this fight against the virus. We simply cannot afford it. This is the time to test more, detect more, isolate more and treat more. Go out and get tested. Seek help if you are positive. Persuade your friends and relations that have just arrived in Nigeria especially from high burden countries to self-isolate and get tested on day 7, post arrival.”
Mustapha added: “More specifically, the lesson for us in Nigeria, is that in spite of appreciable progress recorded, we should be vigilant more than ever before, because we have opened our air spaces to international travels, we have relaxed a number of restrictions in opening up more sectors of the economy and schools are beginning to open in varying degrees.
“The call for greater vigilance is underscored by the fact that our economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic and we are pushing through our home-grown economic recovery strategies to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Also, our health systems, in-spite of its fragility, have been able to withstand and contain cases resulting from COVID-19 infection, where those of more advanced countries have been overwhelmed.
“This call is made more pertinent in view of the noticeably increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven very successful. Face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era.
“The PTF will continue to work with our partners from the private sector to fine tune the protocols for international travellers, especially those arriving in Nigeria.
“We urge all travellers to ensure that they complete all pre-boarding and post-arrival processes, especially on the portal to facilitate seamless arrivals at the airports.
“We cannot afford the importation of the virus. We appeal strongly to all Nigerians to persuade their relations arriving Nigeria to self-isolate upon arrival, as required and test on day seven as prescribed.”
On the strike embarked upon by the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (JOHESU), he expressed delight that the union heeded the plea to return to work but wants the suspension of the action to be permanent.
He stated: “Last week the PTF called on the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (JOHESU) to reconsider its decision to go on strike at this critical period of our national life.
“We are pleased to note that the strike has been suspended and all workers have returned to work. We, however, wish the strike is called off permanently. This gesture would help sustain efforts aimed at strengthening our health systems in the fight against the coronavirus.
“I also call on all sub-national governments to support our health professionals in carrying out their duties.”