Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has charged Nigerians not to lower their guards during the raining season that comes with cold, catarrh and other COVID-19 mimicking illnesses.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, gave the warning at Thursday briefing of the task force, saying that complacency of the COVID-19 infection was dangerous.
According to him, the call to take personal responsibility cannot be more strident than now.
The SGF also stated that in the last three months of the federal taskforce assignment, the greatest challenges are human resistance to change, stigmatization, mental health, skepticism, culture, religious belief, rising incidents of domestic violence among others.
According to him, Wednesday 17th June, 2020 made it exactly three months since the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was inaugurated and assigned the task of putting in place sustainable measures for the control of the spread of the virus and strengthening the nation’s health care systems to withstand the deadly virus and prepare for the future.
He said that the PTF was given a time line of six months for its assignment and also given the Terms of Reference (ToR) including strengthen the national response strategy, particularly in the areas of testing, containment and management of COVID-19.
Also is strengthen collaboration with all tiers of government, private sector, faith-based organizations, civil societies, donors and partners; build awareness among the populace; direct the deployment of any relevant national assets when necessary.
Others are to lay a foundation for scientific and medical research to address all emerging infectious diseases; and advise government on the declaration of national emergency as part of the containment measures when necessary.
He said that there has, no doubt, been some modest achievements, challenges and lessons learned over the past three months.
“The COVID-19 is certainly the greatest invisible public health emergency that has threatened humanity in modern history.
“As at the last recorded numbers on Wednesday 17th June, 2020, global figures of confirmed cases were 8,408, 203 resulting in 451,463 deaths in 213 countries.
“Unfortunately, as at the same period, Nigeria accounts for 17,735 and 469 fatalities. Ladies and gentlemen, these are not just numbers. They are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and colleagues. These fatalities are forceful reminders of the task before us all,” Mustapha said.
He added that while the PTF has planned a full mid-term report with larger stakeholders groups on 2nd and 3rd July, 2020, he thought it necessary to share some of the high points of the last three months.
He also listed the functional working areas through which it implements its objectives as PTF National Pandemic Response Center (NPRC) Coordination; epidemiologyy and surveillance; Risk Communication and Community Engagement; laboratory; security, logistics and mass care; points of entry and finance monitoring and compliance.
According to him, since inception, several measures have been instituted by the Federal Government through the PTF on COVID-19 to curtail the spread of the disease and protect the health of Nigerians, including initial lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the FCT; ban on flights to prevent importation; ban on inter-state travels and domestic flights; closure of schools and religious centres; and imposition of nationwide curfew.
Mustapha said that in addition to non-pharmaceutical measures, there has been expansion of the testing laboratories from two to 38 as at today; training of over 13,000 health workers in Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC); developed policy and protocols for testing returning Nigerians; and developed policies and protocols for integration of primary healthcare into national response.
Others, according to him, are developed stronger and sustainable policy for community engagement and risk communication; collaborated with development partners to boost our resources and enrich our capacity for technical response; raised the isolation centre bed space from three-thousand to over five thousand nation wide.
The SGF added that like the rest of the world, the National Response continues to face challenges, especially as there is no known cure for the virus, presently.
He said these include inadequate infrastructure, manpower shortage, global shortage of essential items (test kits, PPE), strain on the economy which has compelled the need to balance between lives and livelihoods.
“By far the greatest challenges are human resistance to change, stigmatization, mental health, skepticism, culture, religious belief, rising incidents of domestic violence and a host of others.
“Always remember, that the virus is real, potent and dangerous. Our relaxed lock down should never be interpreted to mean otherwise. This point is further underscored by reported resurgence of a second wave in countries like China and the USA and this should put all of us on alert, knowing that this virus can only be eliminated if we agree to play our part.
“This call becomes more pertinent as we go fully into the rainy season that ordinarily brings with it cold, catarrh and other COVID-19 mimicking illnesses. Our call to take personal responsibility cannot be more strident than now,” he said.