The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has raised the alarm over the spate of infection since the second wave of the disease hit Nigeria. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who doubles as the Chairman of PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, disclosed that 16 out of every 100 tests carried out now return positive.
Mustapha, at a media briefing in Abuja yesterday, also hinted that the national response to the pandemic was facing challenges because of the second wave of the disease. He said: “Week 52 has so far given us the highest number of infections, in a single week, to date.
Our TPR analysis shows that 16 out of every 100 tests carried out are positive. We are also seeing increasing transmission among younger people and this is not considered good and safe. We must, therefore, exercise utmost restraint by taking responsibility.”
The PTF expressed worry that despite resources deployed to states, testing remained low in various degrees. He called for optimal utilisation of all the 90 laboratories established across the country.
Speaking on the underutilisation of laboratories in some states, the SGF said: “You will recall that we recently issued some protocols to states to which a number of states have been actively implementing.
We thank these states and urge others to follow suit. Closely related to these protocols, is the fact that the strategy of testing to detect and treat remains central to the role states are expected to play.
“Data shows that despite the resources already made available to sub-national entities, testing is very low across states in varying degrees. This is not helping our National Response. Indeed, some states have not reported any infections in several weeks.
“Reports received also point to the fact that laboratories recently established in the states are not working optimally. You will recall that we moved from two laboratories to about 90 (public and private) located in all states of the federation. Their inability to function optimally has resulted in unacceptable levels of delay in receiving results and pressure on the National Reference Labs.
“We wish to urge all states to reopen all laboratories and ensure that testing is expanded and turnaround time for results is substantially reduced. “In the same vein, states should please keep their Isolation/Treatment Centres open because of the rising cases of infection nationwide.”
The SGF also expressed great concerns about the situation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He said: “The situation in Abuja and its environs has been of concern to the PTF.
During our conversation with health authorities (including the CMDs of Federal Tertiary Institutions in Abuja – National Hospital; Jabi and Gwagwalada) this afternoon (Tuesday), the PTF directed that the level of Infections, Prevention and Control as well as case management should be prioritised immediately.”
Meanwhile, from January 1, 2021, Nigeria will begin to suspend passports of travellers who flouted the COVID-19 protocols. Mustapha said the offenders’ passports would be suspended for six months.
He said: “With effect from 1st January, 2021 the passports of the first 100 passengers that failed to take their day seven postarrival PCR test will be published in the national dailies. The passports, as a deterrence, will also be suspended till June 2021.”
The PTF chairman also announced two additional quarantine protocols for travellers arriving from the United Kingdom and South-Africa. He said: “The PTF has worked out additional quarantine protocols to be observed by travellers arriving from the UK and South Africa. This is in keeping with our determination to minimise any possibility of importation of the virus. “The new policy started from Monday, 28th December, 2020.
Key changes include: Requirement for passengers for two additional documents permit to travel/ QR code obtained from the travel portal after payment for the day seven postarrival test; and COVID-19 PCR negative test with a validity now shortened to 96 hours or four days.
“The PTF shall remain vigilant on this matter and our relevant agencies are also working on the sequencing to determine the strain found.”
In a related development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that vaccination do not guarantee that infectious diseases would be eradicated.
Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO Emergencies Programme, warned that there might be a chance of another pandemic, more serious pandemic spreading across the world. “The next pandemic may be more severe; we need “get our act together”, because we live on a fragile planet, and in an increasingly complex society.
“Let’s honour those we’ve lost by getting better at what we do,” he said Also, the WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19, Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, noted that some of the countries that had coped better with COVID-19 had history of managing outbreaks.
“Those countries that have cope better are not necessarily been those with the highest incomes, but those that have lived through other infectious disease outbreaks.
“Those countries have used the “muscle memory” of traumatic events to kick their systems into gear, and act to comprehensively tackle the virus,” she said. Kerkhove, however, called for the world to be better prepared for the next health crisis, with well-trained health workers able to take full advantage of innovative technology, and informed, engaged citizens capable of keeping themselves safe.
Also, Prof. David Heymann, a disease expert and member of a WHO “surge team”, said that we now have the tools at our disposal to save lives allowing us to learn to live with the virus.
Heymann, deployed to strengthen the COVID-19 response in South Africa earlier this year, said COVID- 19 was likely to become endemic in the global population. Vaccinations, he explained, do not guarantee that infectious diseases will be eradicated.
“Societies would do better to focus on getting back to full strength, rather than on the “moonshot of eradication,” said the official. Total number of samples of people tested for COVID-19 in the country is 937,712; number of confirmed cases, 84,811; active cases, 12,190; discharged till date, 71,357. Number of deaths till date, stands at 1,264. The case fatality equals 1.49 per cent.