Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic, has said it would submit the seventh Interim Report to President Muhammadu Buhari and waits his directives on the next phase implementation on Thursday.
This is even as the extended eased lockdown phase of the nation’s national response ends this week.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this at Monday’s briefing in Abuja.
According to him, the decisions and approval of President Buhari would be transmitted at the national briefing on Thursday.
He called for caution as states across the country announce dates and plans to reopen schools, urging them to learn from the experiences of other countries where opening of schools in some cities led to an increase in confirmed cases and fatalities.
He also stressed that as the nation plan to re-open more sectors, everyone must stay the course and stick with the winning strategy anchored on the ability of the nation’s health institutions to contain the virus while citizens wear facemasks properly, stay away from crowded places, avoid mass gatherings, maintain simple hygienic practices and as much as possible protect the elderly and most vulnerable to this pandemic.
Mustapha said the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases.
However, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has raised the alarm over the reduction of sample collection and testing for COVID-19 in the states which account for low number of confirmed cases in recent time.
According to him, testing has, dropped quite significantly, due to reduced sample collection across many states, but the reasons are not clear in all cases. The minister said that one state, for example, tested over 35 thousand in July and just under 20 thousand in August, while another state dropped from 23 thousand in July to just under 4,000 in August.
“These are just examples that show that there is more work to do and many more challenges ahead. There is reason to worry that in states facing election, campaign activities throw caution to the wind and COVID-19 infection increases dramatically, while testing may decline due to frustration.
“I urge authorities in these states to remember the risks of crowding and ensure that government workers can do their work unhindered. I shall commission a study group of the Ministerial Experts Advisory Committee to begin processes to examine this development and bring up new knowledge which can guide response or may have an implication on government decision making,” Ehanire said.
Ehanire said logistics for sample retrieval and testing must be assured, as the Federal Government makes provision for at least one laboratory in every state, with only Niger, Kebbi and Taraba now outstanding.
He lamented that most of the laboratories are, however operating well below capacity and that plans have been concluded to set up and optimize laboratories in all states.
Ehanire said that as plans for Lagos and Abuja airports to reopen for commercial international flights become reality, everyone must raise the vigilance level.