From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic (PTF) has accused religious organizations of holding large gatherings that are capable of spreading the virus.
It has therefore, called on state governments to enforce COVID-19 protocols and Non-Pharmaceutical Initiatives.
Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, stated this at Thursday’s media briefing of the Task force.
He said: “We have observed, rather sadly, that Nigerians, particularly some faith based organisations have continued to hold events of large gatherings capable of spreading the virus. The PTF urges all sub-national entities that signed the protocols with these organisations and have primary responsibility for enforcing the protocols and NPIs to step up their roles of enforcement.”
Mustapha noted that the PTF has also continued to engage with relevant stakeholders on the issues arising from the impact of COVID-19. These include the mental health, drug use and gender-based violence.
He said he joined the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to launch the campaign against gender-based violence particularly triggered by COVID.
“It is true that family economies have collapsed, jobs lost, mental health issues have arisen, some persons have taken to drugs and rape has escalated. The solution is to exercise enormous self-restraint, vigilance and the PTF urges that citizens should take advantage of the mental health programmes nearest to them”, the SGF said.
Mustapha further noted that the COVID 19 pandemic has persisted in the disruption of human activities.
He said: “We have just received a Report that one of the annual events of a critical security agency has ended abruptly out of abundance of caution, due to detection of an infected personnel. The significance of this occurrence is that testing is critical to the success of our National Response. We therefore urge Nigerian and organisers of events to vigorously pursue the path of testing especially for delegates attending events.
“The PTF recognizes that testing level is still very low in Nigeria. Last week, the country’s COVID 19 infections witnessed yet another significant increase after a period of low numbers. The analysis show that the total number of 1,607 new confirmed cases are higher than the numbers recorded in the week of Nov. 29 – December 5 when a total of 1,102 cases were recorded.
“For emphasis, the breakdown of testing nationwide in the last one week by state is as follows: four states (Lagos, FCT, Rivers and Ogun) accounted for 64% of all tests conducted; seven states conducted more than 1,000 tests in last week, testing increased in 17 states, testing declined in 12 states (Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Yobe, Borno, Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue and Anambra).
“Summary of situation pertaining to cases across states in last one week: Cases increased in 23 states; four states: Increase from zero cases in previous week, 12 states: 100% increase, more than double (Sokoto, Osun, Edo, Nasarawa, Kwara, Delta, Jigawa, Taraba, FCT, Rivers, Kano, Katsina).
“By implication, the biggest increases (by both absolute count and percentage increase), FCT, 689 (129%); Kaduna, 365 (86%); Lagos, 694 (77%); States that have NOT reported a case in at least one week – Abia, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Cross River, Ondo, Niger, and Yobe.
Mustpha said the PTF is fully aware of the global race and discussions around the vaccine.
“The country has set up technical machinery to ascertain the most effective, safe and prudent vaccine for Nigerians. One assurance we wish to give is that any vaccine that will be approved for Nigeria will be endorsed by the WHO and must be certified safe for Nigerians to use by our research and scientific bodies.
“In the meantime, the PTF wishes to pass on the following key messages from the World Health Organisation: While we work towards rolling out a safe and effective vaccine fairly, we must continue the essential public health actions to suppress transmission and reduce mortality; Even as vaccines are rolled out, people will need to keep adhering to public health measures so that everyone is protected;
The pandemic still has a long a way to run and decisions made by leaders and citizens in the coming days will determine the course of the next days and months; and
“In addition, and in line with the guidance on the use of masks, we need to discourage the practice of removing masks to speak.
“The PTF has observed rather sadly the activities of unscrupulous citizens who do every thing to frustrate the transparency infused in to the processes of our National Response. The first is the report on social media relating to the procurement of fake COVID PCR certificates. I am pleased to inform you that this is being investigated and technology backed measures have been taken to limit such activities.
“We also received the letter which purportedly emanated from the desk of the Chairman PTF (See Screen). This is outrightly fraudulent and we urge Nigerians to remain vigilant so they do not fall into the hands of fraudsters.
“In the next two weeks, the PTF will be submitting its final Report to Mr. President. This is not the end of the assignment as the virus has not gone away. Similarly, there is the significant issue of vaccine to address in the coming months and years. In recognition of this fact, a suitable transition programme that will take into consideration the multi-sectoral approach will be recommended.
“The PTF wishes to appeal to all Nigerians to seriously consider putting on hold all non-essential trips and avoid large social gatherings during the Christmas and New Year festivities.”