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Buhari: Nigeria in perilous situation with COVID-19

President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that the country is currently in a perilous situation due to the second wave of the Coronavirus (COVID- 19) ravaging the country. The President, who extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, till the end of March 2021, said government must act decisively to protect the people.

Buhari, in his remarks while receiving the Endof- Year Report of the task force at the Presidential Villa yesterday, declared as worrisome the new surge in the number of COVID-19 cases. He said: “Recent reports reaching me indicate that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.

“New epicentres have been identified and the nation cannot afford to lose the gains of the last nine months. I have critically evaluated the situation and remain convinced that urgent measures have to be taken to halt the spread and the attendant fatalities.

“Closely associated with the foregoing is the need to speedily and strategically access and administer the COVID-19 vaccine in a safe, effective and timely manner. This is an important obligation that we owe Nigerians as we go into 2021 and it must be carried out through an efficient machinery.” He added that: “The nation is clearly in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of this second wave and we must act decisively to protect our people.

I, therefore, urge all sub-national entities, traditional rulers, religious and leaders of thought to collaborate with the PTF by taking up the responsibility for risk communication and community engagement at all levels.

Now is the time for collective efforts to be intensified. “As the festive season approaches, I urge all Nigerians to remain vigilant and stay safe. Non-essential trips and large social gatherings should be avoided or shelved completely.”

National Coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, in his remarks, identified certain challenges facing the body to include fatigue. According to him, an increasing number of people stopped adhering to the Non Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) just as it was served that there were increased mistrust around the severity of COVID-19.

In the steps to be taken by the PTF in the New Year, Aliyu said the body will devolve greater coordination to the states in order to ensure accountability on implementation of already funded activities, especially getting states to use the funds for the response effectively.

The PTF, he said, would also improve sample collection and testing across all states. Collection of 400-450 samples across each of the 774 LGAs in the country must be instituted quickly. Also ramp up testing will be carried out at our land borders, particularly Seme amongst others, he said.

On lessons learnt so far from the pandemic, the National Coordinator told the President that: “COVID-19 will be with us for a while. Although this is the new normal, it continues to be just as deadly. Nevertheless, we have shown it is possible to keep it in check through the work we have done – we must persevere and continue the communication and enforcement aspects required to keep us safe until the epidemic is over.

“Next year will be all about the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a huge chal-lenge for the country and will require your leadership and continued commitment, Mr. President. All hands must be on deck to deliver and overcome the challenges of securing the supply of safe and effective vaccines, logistics and acceptance.

“Our health system has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s health system is fragile and may not withstand the effect of a major outbreak of COVID-19 or other infections.

There is an urgent need for a carefully thought through and action-oriented reform of the health sector that will improve our health security and place the country in a better position to manage future health threats.”

The Federal Government had, on Monday, imposed a fresh round of restrictions on social activities across the nation, following the confirmation that Nigeria had come under the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with rising cases of infections and fatalities on a daily basis. Over the next five weeks, all bars, night clubs, pubs, event centres and recreational venues across the nation, will have to be shut down, ostensibly to reduce human contact and likely spread of the virus.

In addition, all restaurants, except those providing services to hotel residents, takeaways, home deliveries and drive-ins shall remain closed while attendance at all informal and formal festivity events, including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events, shall be restricted to not more than 50 persons.

Mustapha said Buhari had approved the fresh restrictions and authorised the PTF to liaise with the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for their implementation. He explained that restrictions were being placed on these social activities because government considered them as super spreader events.

The SGF said that all gatherings linked to religious events shall be restricted to less than 50 per cent capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing, mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced.

“Where more than 50 persons are attending any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only; public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50 per cent of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules, while enforcing compliance with NPI protocols, especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces,” he said. In order to reduce overcrowding in public spaces, the SGF said markets, shopping centres, offices and schools, states are advised to encourage virtual meetings in government offices. All government staff on GL.12 and below are to stay at home for the next five weeks, while schools are to remain closed till January 18, 2021, Mustapha said.

 

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