From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The National Economic Council (NEC), meeting has raised alarm over the spike in COVID-19 cases in the country and has therefore decided to act on the strict enforcement of measures to contain the spread of the disease across the country.
This was contained in resolution released at the end of the virtual meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and attended by Governors, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and other federal ministers from their various locations.
The Council noted that it “is alarmed that the current trends are now approaching or surpassing the levels reached during the lockdown imposed at the height of the epidemic earlier in the year.”
While enlarging the membership of its Adhoc Committee on COVID-19 and mandating it to urgently come up with additional measures to deal with the spike in cases, NEC noted that “the country is now experiencing a huge resurgence of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care and the existing health facilities are fast becoming overwhelmed.
The Committee chaired by the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa with the Governors of Lagos, Bauchi, Plateau, Kano, Anambra and the FCT Minister, has now been enlarged with the addition of the Governors of Ogun and Kaduna. The Minister of Health is also a member of the Committee, while the Ministers of Information and Youth and Sports have also been asked to join. Also, Health and Information Commissioners in the States would also now be co-opted into the assignment.
The Vice President asked the Committee to urgently develop innovative and new measures to curtail the spread of the disease, acting in the best interests of both the health and overall welfare of Nigerians.
The resolution read: “NEC is alarmed that the current trends are now approaching or surpassing the levels reached during the lockdown imposed at the height of the epidemic earlier in the year.
“The trends also show that more and more younger people are getting infected. While many of the young victims may be asymptomatic or recover without serious illness, they pass the virus to older and more vulnerable people, especially people with pre-existing health conditions, who develop serious illnesses and may easily lose their lives in the process.
“Sadly, the country is now experiencing a huge resurgence of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care and the existing health facilities are fast becoming overwhelmed.
“NEC notes that this increase is being accelerated by non-compliance with the non-pharmaceutical interventions advised by government, including the wearing of masks, limiting of gatherings, especially indoors and the washing/sanitization of hands.
“NEC, therefore, wishes to reemphasize the importance of these measures. Particularly as we approach the end of the year and the social gatherings associated with the holiday season, we must avoid activities or behaviour that may aggravate the situation and necessitate another lockdown.
“Members of the Council, therefore, resolved to enlarge its current COVID-19 Ad-Hoc Committee led by the Governor of Delta State, and further mandates the Committee to urgently consider and propose additional measures to manage the current situation.
“Meanwhile, NEC firmly resolves to advocate rigorous and strict enforcement of the non-pharmaceutical interventions listed below:
“Restrict all physical gatherings and instead opt for virtual meetings, whenever possible. If physical meetings must be held, ensure there is adequate ventilation of the room, limit the number of attendees, wear face masks, maintain a physical distance of at least two metres and adhere to other public health measures.
“No mask, no entry, no service – all staff members, visitors and customers entering workplaces, shops, entertainment or business premises must wear a face mask that should cover the mouth and nose at all times, and should not remove them, especially if speaking to another person in close proximity.
“Temperature checks must be carried out on all employees and customers entering office and business premises (any person with a temperature 38 degrees Celsius or above, should be denied entry and advised to go for a health check).
“All office and business premises must have a handwashing station with running water and soap or hand sanitizer at the entrance. Employers and business owners have a responsibility to ensure hand sanitizers are always refilled and soap and water always available.
“Office, shops and business premises must be well-ventilated and cleaned regularly throughout the day, ensuring that frequently touched surfaces like desks, countertops, work stations, railings, door handles, are cleaned and disinfected. An occupational health and infectious diseases preparedness plan must be in place, in case an employee, customer or visitor becomes unwell.
“The continued spread of COVID-19 puts increased pressure on our already fragile health systems and threaten Nigeria’s economy. Traditional, social and religious leaders are therefore urged to play their own part by promptly taking responsible and decisive actions to help stop the spread and upsurge of the virus in Nigeria.
“States are also encouraged to take any further steps as may be considered necessary in their areas.”
Members of NEC also commiserated with families of the Kankara schoolboys who were abducted by terrorists in Katsina State while also consoling with the entire people and government of the State.
They expressed outrage on the kidnapping of the boys in their school premises and utterly condemned the brazen act of the abductors as not only criminal and lawless but a deliberate attempt to sow seeds of fear in people. The members while supporting immediate steps already taken by the Federal and State governments to rescue the boys, urged for more effective collaboration between security agencies and the communities to ensure that such despicable act does not repeat itself anywhere in the country.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National planning, Zainab Ahmed reported to Council the balances of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) at $72,410,574.08 as at December 17th, Stabilization Account: ₦26,433,355,427.91, and Development of Natural Resources
She said there was no update on Budget Support Loan Facility as deductions have been suspended due to COVID-19.