From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The federal government has said the objective of the new 38 oxygen production plants across the country is to ensure that Nigerians will not have to travel a distance of over 100 kilometres before they can access oxygen.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made this disclosure Monday in Abuja when he received the Ambassador of the United States of America to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard, during a courtesy visit to the PSC to foster partnership on COVID-19.
According to him, facts on the ground shows that lack of oxygen accounted for fatalities in India, even as he acknowledged that the fragile Nigeria oxygen distribution network was a concern.
‘The President has approved and I believe that we will be seeking approval for the award of oxygen plants that the federal government is going to establish in all the 36 six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory,’ Mustapha said.
‘This is all in order to ensure that our health infrastructure is strengthened for adventure, the third wave comes in a very virulent and deadly manner like it has impacted India.
‘We are preparing for that. Not only that, but we are also using the opportunity of COVID-19 to reconfigure our health infrastructure and make it better and make it more enduring and sustainable. for posterity,’ he said.
Speaking on vaccines, the PSC chairman said that the first source of supply in Nigeria was delivered by the COVAX facility from India about four months ago before that country witnessed the upsurge that hence the target to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population.
‘India needs to vaccinate about 70 per cent of its population, which is a huge number, it’s not a small number. It’s a challenge, all over the world, you can see that there are shortages of vaccines everywhere.
‘So part of our discussion with the US ambassador was to see how the American government can help in terms of vaccine and other donation,’ he explained.
Minister of State for Health Olorunnimbe Mamora appreciated the US government for its support for Nigeria in its fight against COVID-19.
‘The field hospital which you donated to the federal medical centre here in Abuja, has gone a long way in our response activities. Also, your desires to donate vaccines, is what we really need at this point in time.
‘As in response activities we have done well and thanks to all our partners who supported,’ adding that the country’s big challenge right now was access to vaccines.
‘Particularly, the first set came from India through the COVAX facility and we are in our second dose of administering the vaccines which will run out soon,’ he added.
NCDC Director-General Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said that the new US administration was really looking at health security as a priority moving forward with its engagement in that space.
‘The fact that global health security is very important, holding the space in the next few years, is commendable.
‘The World Health Assembly also with discussions going on the new pandemic treaty around the world, so it’s a very important space that Nigeria look forward to your continued collaboration, as revealed in this very important visits,’ he noted.
Earlier, Leonard said that the US was supporting countries worldwide to promote the COVID-19 vaccines.
She added that the COVID-19 vaccination was a priority of the Biden administration, adding that the US government was aware that until the COVID-19 pandemic was eliminated, no country was safe.
Also speaking, the Country Director of the US Center For Disease Control, Nigeria, Dr Mary Boyd, said that all countries should be worried about the classification and COVID-19 strains called ‘strains of concern.
‘So, the COVID-19, the Indian variants is one of those. And it’s not the only one, it’s the only one of several that should be of concern but, as we all know, the government of Nigeria has put in place some measures to control the importation of these strains, and to make sure that, if we do see them, we will identify them and we respond appropriately,’ Boyd said.