We are studying new COVID-19 strain ― PTF
• Mulls measures on flight from high burden countries
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to study the new strain of coronavirus noticed in some parts of the world.
Speaking during a briefing in Abuja, on Thursday, the chairman of the task force and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who revealed this, said there will be a statement on it soon.
He also noted the concern expressed about flights from high burden countries into Nigeria, hinting that there will not be a full ban on flights from such countries because of its implications on Nigeria’s neighbours.
He said: “The PTF is aware of the global conversation on the new strain of virus discovered in the UK. We had assured Nigerians that our experts working with the WHO are studying the variant strain and shall make a statement at the appropriate time. The WHO Rep will elaborate on this
“On international travel especially from the UK, South Africa and some very high burden areas, we continue to evaluate the actions taken by various countries. We note that some of the countries that initially banned flights have now adopted the requirement already in place in Nigeria.
“We have also weighed the security, economic and social implications of a full ban especially when we consider the situation in our neighbouring countries and the ECOWAS as a whole. The PTF shall increase measures pertaining to those high burden countries to scale down the possibilities of importation. The National Coordinator will elaborate on this
“The PTF is working assiduously on the turn around time for receiving test results. We are working with the NCDC to improve on this. Nigerians should expect improvement very soon.”
As the task force prepares to add vaccines to its task, Mustapha reaffirmed that all aspects of the pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari will be approached with the seriousness it deserves.
He said new guidelines have been developed, saying that even though the task is huge, “our will is stronger this time.”
Accordingly, he said, the PTF is working with the relevant MDAs on regulatory and certification issues before we go further, on the subject of vaccines.
While affirming that in 2021, it will be the issue of vaccines and Non-pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), he appealed to states not to close their treatment centres but to make them more efficient.
He stated: “In 2021, its vaccines plus NPIs. As we make progress on this NPIs +Vaccines phase, I urge the State Government not to close down their treatment centres. Rather they should keep them running efficiently and smoothly because the cases of infections are rising and we must intensify our efforts to support the public sector laboratories with critical reagents and the PTF expects the leadership of all Federal Tertiary Health Institutions to raise their level of testing and turnaround for results.”
While urging citizens to shun non-essential travels during the Christmas season and to avoid gatherings, the SGF also noted: “You will recall that in line with the authorisation of the President, a number of advisories were issued to States on ways to curb the spread of the virus in Nigeria. As a follow up to this development, the PTF met with the select team of Governors on the platform of the National Economic Council and by extension, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. The meeting was robust and the Governors shared their experiences on the implementation of these measures and pledged to push it further.
“In his speech, the President made several pronouncements including:
Further extension of the mandate of the PTF till March 2020;
Authorisation to ensure that violators of the Travel Protocols are sanctioned;
“The plan for a comprehensive health sector reform; and The determination of the government to pursue the issue of vaccines in a safe, effective and cost-friendly manner.
“For us on the PTF, we thank Mr President for the confidence he has in our ability to deliver on the mandate and we rededicate ourselves to more work.
“The successes recorded by the PTF in managing the control of the pandemic since March 2020 could never have been possible without the support of our partners being the media that took the message to Nigerians. We also thank the National Assembly, the Sub-National entities, the private sector coalition, the international community, development partners well-meaning Nigerians security agencies and our frontline workers. The list is endless.”
We are studying new COVID-19 strain ― PTF