Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on the COVID-19 pandemic has described as unfortunate the declaration of industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), saying that it is capable of reducing the gains and leading to more loss of lives.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made the remarks at Monday’s briefing in Abuja.
The health workers had declared a nationwide strike starting from 11:59 p.m., on Sunday, September 13, over the inability of the Federal Government to meet their demands.
The Federal Government had described the strike as unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal.
According to Mustapha, although Nigeria continues to progressively witness declining confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a record low number of 79 cases on Sunday, September 13, it was not time to lower the country’s guard yet.
He added that while this suggests that ‘we are winning this war, the reality is that we need to improve on our commitment to eliminate the virus completely by abiding with the protocols so that we can return to a semblance of what was our normal life.’
The SGF noted that: ‘One critical element we must not loose sight of is the fact that our cautious approach has tremendously helped in our containment efforts. Therefore, we should avoid complacency at all cost. Our focus should go beyond flattening the curve and ridding our land of this virus just as we did with the polio virus.’
While applauding the contribution of the health workers in the gains recorded so far, he appealed to JOHESU to call off the strike even as relevant ministries try to meet their demands.
Mustapha said: ‘Similarly, the contribution of our health workers has no doubt contributed to our gains. In this regard, the PTF wishes to appreciate the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) for calling off their strike action. The PTF, however, views the recent declaration of industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) as rather unfortunate and capable of reducing our gains and endangering more loss of lives. We, therefore, call on JOHESU to stand up to be counted at this critical moment because a continuation of the strike could jeopardize the small gains made in the fight against the virus and the efforts to transform our health systems.
‘The Hon Minister of Labour and Employment has assured that every effort is being made to resolve all issues and have JOHESU call its members back to work.’
The PTF Chairman, expressed the appreciation of President Muhammadu Buhari for keeping the land borders closed, ‘because those are potential seeding points for importing the virus into Nigeria. More so, as ECOWAS Champion of the COVID-19 response, Mr President should adopt all practical means of containing the virus within the sub-continent of West Africa.
‘The PTF has received with encouragement, the recent United Nations General Assembly omnibus resolution seeking for a comprehensive and coordinated global response to the coronavirus pandemic which further amplifies the significance of Mr. President’s role in the West African region.’
The SGF, speaking on reopening of schools, reiterated the call for states to be more vigilant in adhering to protocols appropriately developed with the guidance of experts.
He said: ‘The PTF is aware that a number of sub-nationals have announced the re-opening of schools from this week, while others have developed a phased plan for such re-opening. I wish to re-iterate the need for more vigilance in adhering to protocols appropriately developed with the guidance of experts. The fear of a likely spike and/or resurgence should always put us on our toes. Always remember that a number of countries including Israel have announced new stringent measures. These are warning signs for us in Nigeria and Africa.’