Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has said only 12 out of 36 States are testing for COVID-19 despite support from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID), the World Bank and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and other bodies.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic, Boss Mustapha, stated this at Monday’s briefing in Abuja.
While calling on States to prioritise testing, the SGF stressed that no State can complain of lacking in resources as the national response has been targeted at supporting States embark on massive testing in order to help the country flatten the pandemic curve.
The World Bank Board of Directors had in August approved a $114.28 financing to help Nigeria prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 with a specific focus on state level responses.
This included $100 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) and $14.28 million grant from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility.
The Federal Government had recently disclosed how much it had spent so far in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic out of the public funds and donations by individuals and corporate organizations.
It said it has spent N30,540,563,571.09 in four months to fight COVID-19, out of the N36.3 billion public funds and donations.
But speaking specifically on the States not testing, the SGF said the Federal Government has released N1 billion to 34 States with the exception of Lagos and Kano, that got N10 billion and N5 billion, respectively.
Mustapha reiterated that the only way to ensure that the gains of the past months are not eroded is for increased testing at the sub-national levels and adherence to the non-pharmaceutical measures on COVID-19.
The PTF chair also said that the task force would be multiplying testing for the virus during a planned ‘testing week’, in commemoration of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Day celebrations.
He reiterated his appealed to Nigerians to be more vigilant at this time not to be infected, despite the improved national response.
Speaking on the plan to have a testing week to mark the nation’s Diamond Anniversary, the SGF also said the task force would be intensifying risk communication and community engagement.
‘As we commence the activities marking 60th Independence Anniversary of our nation, the PTF is ramping up the risk communication and community engagement. Testing will be escalated under a national testing week programme which the national coordinator will elaborate on,’ he said.
On the need to be more vigilant in order to keep safe, Mustapha said ‘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,’ he said.
Mustapha also commended the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Healthcare Professionals (JOHESU) for suspending the industrial action called recently, charging the body permanently call the strike off.
He, however, emphasised the need for the states to ensure more testing are conducted as the country could not afford to allow fatigue set into the speed of fighting the spread of the virus, asking all Nigerians to play a role.
‘Finally, 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 Nigeria especially from high burden countries to self-isolate and get tested on day 7, post arrival,’ he said.