From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has urged Nigerians not to panic over the new variant of the new coronavirus said to have emerged in Nigeria, assuring that it was studying it.
The Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, gave the assurance at Thursday’s media briefing. The Head of Africa Center for Disease Control had announced on Thursday that the new strain has been discovered in Nigeria. The discovery of the new strain could add to new alarm in the pandemic after similar variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that appear to be more contagious were announced in the United Kingdom and South Africa, leading to the swift return of international travel restrictions and other measures just as the world enters a holiday season.
According to Mustapha: “In 2021, its vaccines plus NPIs. As we make progress on this NPIs +Vaccines phase, I urge the State Government not to close down their treatment centers. Rather they should keep them running efficiently and smoothly because the cases of infections are rising and we must intensify our efforts to support the public sector laboratories with critical reagents and the PTF expects the leadership of all Federal Tertiary Health Institutions to raise their level of testing and turnaround for results.
“Similarly, the PTF is aware of the global conversation on the new strain of virus discovered in the UK. We had assured Nigerians that our experts working with the WHO are studying the variant strain and shall make a statement at the appropriate time.”
Speaking on the international travel especially from the UK, South Africa and some very high burden areas, the PTF chairman said, “we continue to evaluate the actions taken by various countries. We note that some of the countries that initially banned flights have now adopted the requirement already in place in Nigeria. We have also weighed the security, economic and social implications of a full ban especially when we consider the situation in our neighboring countries and the ECOWAS as a whole. The PTF shall increase measures pertaining to those high burden countries to scale down the possibilities of importation.”
The PTF chairman also noted that “the PTF is working assiduously on the turn around time for receiving test results. We are working with the NCDC to improve on this. Nigerians should expect improvement very soon.
“For us on the PTF, we thank Mr. President for the confidence he has in our ability to deliver on the mandate and we rededicate ourselves to more work. “The successes recorded by the PTF in managing the control of the pandemic since March 2020 could never have been possible without the support of our partners being the media that took the message to Nigerians. We also thank the National Assembly, the Sub-National entities, the private sector coalition, the international community, development partners well-meaning Nigerians security agencies and our frontline workers. The list is endless.” Mustapha said the penalties approved by President Muhammadu Buhari will be fully enforced.