From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government of Nigeria has said it is worried about happenings in India, Brazil and Turkey and is considering issuing travel advisory on international flights coming from these countries in the next 48 to 72 hours.
It has also warned that, though the cases in Nigeria are not rising, the third wave of the pandemic might hit the country soon hence the need to maintain the non-pharmaceutical measures protocols.
The Head of the Secretary of Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Mukhtar Mohammed, said this at Monday’s media briefing.
‘While we continue to reopen the economy, we must also be aware of the happenings around the globe. Mr. Chairman and Honourable Minister of Health have made reference to specific incidences in India, Turkey, Brazil and also South Africa. These were taken with serious concern and we continue to monitor what is going on in these countries. We sympathise with the people of these countries because it is really a very trying time particularly for India, that is recording over 300,000 cases a day. And according over 2000 deaths,’ he said.
‘It is not easy. India is a prime destination for medical tourism for Nigeria. We know that many Nigerians like to travel to go to India, but now we see the situation that the country has found itself in. While we urge Nigerians to limit all travellers to only essential travel, particularly to these affected countries.
‘We will continue to urge Nigerians to also comply with public health measures that are put in place to continue to ensure that we comply with the regulation.
‘We actually empathize with those countries and what is happening in those climes. However, on our part, we are looking seriously into this issue. We are looking at other considerations that we need to provide. The health of Nigerians is of prime importance and whatever we need to do to protect Nigeria and to protect Nigerians from going into escalation of this current situation, the PSC will do that as necessarily.
‘We will be providing some travel advise in the next 48, 72 hours with particular reference to both Nigerians and those coming into the country to help advise us.’
Speaking on the gradual reopening of the economy, Mohammed said: ‘We have continued with this. And in the last few weeks, we have recommenced international flights in Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. We are in preparation to commence Port Harcourt tomorrow and probably Enugu later in the month.
‘It is important to note that while we are opening these international flights, there is also a risk, that is the risk of importation of additional cases into the country. We have to balance the economy with also our public health. This calls for increased vigilance on our side, from the Federal Ministry of Health to the port Health Authority, the state governments, public health departments, and the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, to continue to man our borders and ensure that people that come into this country, either COVID negative, or they are safe to pass into our communities.
‘The state governments have been of tremendous assistance. They have all collaborated with us, particularly the Government of Kano State, the government of River State and also the government of Enugu state. They are providing quarantine facility which will be used for passengers who do not comply to this protocol. And they are also providing additional security, as well as logistics for transport of conveying passengers from the airport to the quarantine facility.
‘The state governments are also provided an additional staff since we do not have enough staff at the borders or in these airports to provide the necessary health services. And the state governments are also doing many other things to support this services.
‘The state ministers of health are also collaborating with us to ensure that will attract people who come into the country to ensure that they remain in self isolation, and they also conduct their tests on day seven.
‘We will continue to urge Nigerians to also comply with public health measures that are put in place to continue to ensure that we comply with the regulation.’
On the Ramadan month, he advised the Muslim Omah that ‘we are the month of Ramadan and very soon will commence Salah celebration. Let us remember that COVID-19 is still here with us. And we have to take all the necessary precaution to ensure that we remain safe and also protect our loved ones.
‘We must continue to use face masks in public places. We must continue to ensure that we avoid overcrowding in areas. As a reminder, let us also know that our guidelines regarding public spaces still apply.
‘Owners of public places such as supermarkets, malls Event centres are also enjoined to adhere to this compliance. Enforcement will continue to be observed. And we’ll continue to monitor these places for violations.
‘We’re not saying this just for saying sake, but it is important to looking at what is going on around the globe to ensure that we protect our country.
‘The fact that the number of cases in this country are not rising, it does not mean that we are immune or we are completely protected against COVID-19.
‘The third wave the way we see it going on now, it’s only a matter of time. It is not a matter of if, but truly a matter of when it is going to occur. And therefore this measures that have been outlined, we must continue to ensure that we comply and make sure that we protect our public and our communities.
‘I asked the state governments to continue to show ownership by demonstrating increased testing supporting staff, and also ensuring that our isolation facilities are in place. ICU centres have been set up across the country. It is our duty and responsibility to ensure that we maintain these facilities as functional as we can.
‘In the area of staffing, we must continue training of medical officers, other health workers to ensure that when the need arises, and we maintain a database, so that when the need arises, we’re able to utilise them effectively.’