From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC) has disclosed that a manhunt has begun for passengers who returned from countries where a new travel banned was introduced and had escaped quarantine facility for prosecution.
Chairman of PSC on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha made this disclosure on Monday at the media briefing.
Following concerns about the rising cases of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in India, Brazil and Turkey had issued a travel advisory on international flights coming from these countries.
‘As you are all aware, the PSC has already issued a Travel Advisory which took into consideration, the utility of travel restrictions, outcomes of epidemiological risk assessment, factors that aid transmission as well as control measures that could be deployed. In the Advisory, additional requirements were placed on passengers from India, Turkey and Brazil,’ Mustapha said.
‘The PSC has received reports of some returning foreign passengers who violated the mandatory quarantine requirement under the advisory by escaping from the facilities. We deprecate such violation of the laws of our land and our hospitality. The PSC is awaiting the report of on-going investigations and we wish to assure Nigerians that appropriate sanctions would be imposed on the violators.’
He reiterated that PSC continues to watch with focus and concern the unprecedented rising cases of infection and fatalities caused by variants of concern in a number of jurisdictions around the world.
He said the committee continues to rely on data, science and experiences around the world to establish the basis for steps to be taken to strengthen the National Response programme.
‘Since the last national briefing on 26th April, 2021 the PSC has also received the expression of genuine concerns by experts, international organisations, the Africa CDC, Nigerians and other friendly nations over these developments. It has also, on the merit, assessed the situation in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the USA with a view to preventing importation of the variants of concern,’ Mustapha said.
‘The surge and virulence of the variants of concern has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of persons in India and a number of countries and has unfortunately disrupted the production of and global delivery programmes for vaccines. These developments clearly underscore the fact that indeed, no one can be safe until everyone is safe.
‘On behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria, the PSC wishes to express deep sympathies and condolences to these nations that have been badly affected by the new surge and pray that the Almighty should bring relief and total halt to the ravaging effect on humanity. The PSC also calls on all nations of goodwill, to continue the good work of supporting nations that are encountering the turbulence at this time.’
Mustpha said the PSC has also considered several pre-emptive measures to be taken to mitigate the likely impact of the variants of concern, should they get imported into Nigeria.
According to him: ‘This step has become compelling in view of the fragile state of our health systems, the disruption to the vaccines delivery and the lack of compliance with the extant public health measures and social measures contained in the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021.
‘The PSC has therefore considered it imperative to re-institute the various public health measures that were put in place under the health Protection Regulations.
‘In taking this step, the PSC requests the State Governments to please step up to play lead roles in the area of enforcement and sanctions. Similarly, our appeal goes to traditional, religious and community leaders to take up more ownership and responsibility for risk communication and community engagement on the virulent nature of the pandemic, concerns over the variants of concern and the need for compliance. The National Incident Manager will elaborate on the re-instituted guidelines.’
Speaking on the issue of vaccine access and administration, the SGF said given the challenge of vaccine nationalism compounded by the production situation in India, the PSC is exploring other options to get Nigerians vaccinated.
‘As at date, 1,690,719 persons have received their first dose of the vaccine in Nigeria representing 84% of the targeted persons for this phase. We appeal to States, especially those high burden areas, to push ahead with the vaccination programme,’ he said.
‘Accordingly, the PSC has produced a new Implementation Guidelines being Phase IV of our Eased restrictions of COVID-19 Lockdown in the Country.
‘The Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government has fixed the cost of COVID-19 testing, whether PCR or otherwise, at $50 (Fifty US Dollars) at all Points of Entry with effect from 17th May, 2021. This is to ease travel and trade among citizens of ECOWAS States traveling within the region.
‘Let me use this opportunity to wish our Muslim brothers and Sisters a happy Eid El-Fitr and may the Almighty answer all our prayers during the Ramadan.
‘I thank you all for listening.’