Fred Ezeh, James Ojo, Benjamin Babine Abuja, George Onyejiuwa, Owerri and Seye Ojo, Ibadan
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress and the Nigeria Academy of Science have called for a complete shutdown to stem the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
NLC in a statement by its President, Ayuba Wabba, said such a decisive action will save the country from the deadly disease.
Ayuba said there was need to protect the vulnerable from the scourge, as well as those on essential services to carryout government directives on safety measures in addition to their core duties.
He stressed the need for the provision of suitable quarantine facilities that would inspire confidence in the citizens and assure that contacting the disease is not a death sentence.
Also, he harped on massive investment on testing equipment and treatment of established infections.
Like labour, scientists also called on the Federal Government to order immediate a lockdown of the country.
NAS, which acts as a scientific advisor to the Federal Government of Nigeria, gave the advice in a statement by its president, Prof. Mosto Onuoha.
He said the lockdown should be national with uniform regulations, and led by the Federal Government.
He said the country should be locked down for four weeks to reduce the number of new importations of COVID-19 and provide the environment and condition for clear thinking and planning.
“It is now time for a national lockdown, especially now that the disease has invaded the highest level of our governance threatening our national security. While the effort of individual state governments is lauded, with a lockdown, all citizens are required (as much as possible) to stay at home leaving room only for essential activities that allow for basic functions such as feeding and accessing health care.”
He said only workers needed to provide essential services, such as health care and electricity, should be allowed go out.
Similarly, the Lagos State Council of TUC has declared its support for any complete lockdown declaration that would contain further spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Its Chairman, Mr Gbenga Ekundayo and Secretary, Mr Abiodun Aladetan, made the pledge in a joint statement.
“We believe a complete lockdown declaration is needed at this time.
“This is because, if we allow this pandemic to get out of hands, it will overwhelm our health facilities and the whole country.
“This pandemic is real and critical; we can see the devastating impact in Italy and presently in the U.S.
“As at March 23, 2020, the US has 34,407 cases at about 4:35pm Nigerian time, according to CNN, a media organisation.
“This figure almost doubled in the space of 24 hours; the only way to break the circle of spread is total lockdown, which is what the government is gradually progressing toward,” Ekundayo said.
The union leaders urged Lagosians and Nigerians at large to adhere to the directives of the government on how to stay safe at this critical time.
They also called on well meaning Nigerians to show patroitism by coming together to support all efforts of the government.
•NCDC overburdened, says CMA
President, Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele, has suggested that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) be unbundled to allow for more efficient and effective services.
He said the speed of response to calls and other request for services on account has exposed the level of manpower, state of preparedness and readiness of NCDC to respond to epidemic emergencies.
While appreciating some strides so far made by NCDC, he said he has received lots of complaints about NCDC’s slow pace of response to issues of medical emergency, attributing it to the overburdened state of NCDC.
Dr. Enabulele took the position after he visited the Covid-19 isolation centres at University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH) Gwagwalada, Abuja, and National Hospital, Abuja, to ascertain the readiness of the facilities and health workers to respond to cases of coronavirus.
“We had to visit facilities in Abuja too to also assess the level of preparedness, in terms of equipment and manpower that would respond to the cases. This is to enable us take proper decisions and other strategic interventions at the level of the Commonwealth Medical Association.”
•Prioritise health as political agenda, health advocates tell FG
National Advocates for Health (NAH) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritise health as a political agenda and sustain its funding in the midst of Coronavirus pandemic and crashed global oil price.
The Advocates, specifically, requested that President Buhari directs Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to ensure all funds due for health sector are released on time and in full.
They also asked the president to also ensure and monitor effective implementation of the National Action Plan for Health Security (2018-2022), insisting that health is wealth and Nigeria’s ability to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic and other economic crisis relies on healthy population and workforce.
Leader of the Advocates, Prof. Oladapo Ladipo, in a statement in Abuja, admitted that evidence of adverse impact of coronavirus pandemic on the health, banking, economy sectors, as well as the social distancing and lock down of regions are strong justifications for the government to prioritise health.
Hesaid the non-compliance with Abuja declaration of allocation of 15 percent of National revenue to the health sector, gross under-funding of the health sector, which he said, was responsible for dysfunctional health care system, medical tourism and human capital flight to greener pastures, resulting in inequitable distribution of health manpower and unacceptable preventable mortality and morbidity.
•UCH shuts down outpatient clinics
The University College Hospital (UCH) has reversed its earlier decision to keep the hospital open following reports of suspected cases of COVID-19 among some of its medical doctors.
The outpatients (OPD) clinics including Medicine, Surgery and Children Out Patients Departments of the hospital have been shut down. But the accident and emergency department was open and healthcare workers including doctors and nurses were seen on ground rendering services.
The hospital’s main Pharmacy Department was open but rendering only skeletal services to patients with prescriptions.
Also, essential duty workers of the hospital were also seen cleaning at intervals the frequently touched surfaces, including the handrails.
Some patients with slated appointments were seen looking confused and disappointed over the unexpected shutdown of the outpatient clinics.
One of the nurses, who declined giving her name, said she had lost count of the number of patients she had turned back.
She, however, said that shutting down the out patient departments was the best decision the hospital’s management could have made amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UCH, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, said the closing of the outpatient clinic became necessary to reduce the risk of a coronavirus epidemic within the hospital community.
Otegbayo said the decision was also made due to inadequate number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the healthcare workers to limit the risk of transmission and infection. He said that the hospital was also merging its wards to reduce the number of patients on admission.
•Uzodinma orders screening of commuters coming into state
Imo Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, has ordered that commuters entering the state through the land borders are to be screened before being allowed entry.
He also directed the closure of all major markets in the state, effective Saturday
He appealed to citizens to do their shopping between Thursday and Friday.
This is just as he reiterated that civil servants who fall within the approval given by the Head of Service not to report to office should stay at home until further notice.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, told journalists after the maiden meeting of the State Executive Council, that the state government has procured Ambulances for the 27 Local Government Councils in Imo State, and also established more testing centres across the state.
•Pantami tasks workers video conferencing for meetings
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami has urged civil servants in Abuja to use the Federal Government’s Unified Communication Services (UCS) platform to provide reliable and secure audio and video communication.
Pantami in signed by his spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman said the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy through its parastatal Galaxy Backbone has provided video conferencing, telepresence and video IP phone facilities in most MDAs within its Abuja metro Fiber network, to provide a smart means of communication and collaboration within the public sector during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy through its parastatal Galaxy Backbone has provided video conferencing, telepresence and video IP phone facilities in most MDAs within its Abuja metro Fiber network, to provide a smart means of communication and collaboration within the public sector,” Pantami said.
•Culture and tourism industry bleeding badly –Runsewe
Director General National Council for Arts and Culture( NCAC), Otunba segun Runsewe has called on culture and tourism players not to lose faith about the sudden uncertainty that engulfed humanity.
Though the industry is highly affected and bleeding, he is optimistic the industry and practitioners will survive the scourge if the medical and hygiene culture protocol are strictly adhered to by all and sundry.
“Our industry at times like this had survived many socioeconomic and medical visitations in the past because we are very close to the people and will be the first to experience negative impact of any local or global restiviness on all fronts. This experience must count now. Yes, we have lost money from bookings for our various cultural tourism events, running our hotels on low occupancy and generally witnessed a lockdown never seen before but i’m confident, once it is over, our industry will respond positively beyond expectation. So I urge all of us to be careful and prayerful.”
The DG who was in Jos, Plateau State, last week, in preparation and activation of various activities towards hosting Nigeria’s biggest cultural festival, the National Festival of Art and Culture (NAFEST) later in the year, commended the leadership of all private sector players in culture and tourism for the proactive actions taken to educate customers and owners of leisure businesses on covid 19 protocols.
“Apart from medical professionals, our industry practitioners are also in the Frontline of falling victims to this humongous pestilence, hence the commendation of all levels of leadership in the sector for keeping all concerned well informed about the impact of the disease,” Runsewe explained.
He said closure of the nation’s land borders and restrictions of air travel will mitigate the spread.