Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 (PTF) has confessed that national response to the pandemic is passing through a challenging phase due to the seriousness of the second wave of infections in Nigeria.
It lamented that Week 52 of the National response had so far given the highest number of infections in a single week to date. According to the Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha, analysis shows that 16 out of every 100 tests carried out are positive.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government is to suspend for six months the passports of the first 100 passengers that failed to take post-arrival PCR with effect from January 1, 2021.
Mustapha, who disclosed this during briefing, yesterday, in Abuja, said apart from the suspension of passports, the first 100 passengers that failed to take their day-seven post-arrival PCR test would be published in the national dailies to serve as a deterrence.
The SGF noted that the PTF had worked out additional quarantine protocols to be observed by travellers arriving from the UK and South Africa in keeping with government’s determination to minimise importation of the virus, adding that the new policy started on Monday December 28, 2020.
According to him, key changes include requirement from passengers of two additional documents, permit to travel/QR code obtained from the travel portal after payment for the day seven post-arrival test; and COVID 19 PCR negative test with a validity now shortened to 96 hours or four days.
He observed that the PTF would remain vigilant as relevant agencies work on the sequencing to determine the strain found recently. Boss Mustapha stated that Nigeria was witnessing increasing transmission among younger people, noting it was not good and safe; hence the need to exercise utmost restraint by taking responsibility.
He said, “The PTF, this afternoon, discussed two very critical issues namely (i) oxygen supply and (ii) case management. With the increasing number of infections and hospitalisation, our objectives are to ensure that infection, prevention and control (IPC) is properly instituted to minimise spread and exposure of healthcare workers to the virus; ensure that those who require hospitalisation are well managed; that those requiring medical attention for other ailments gain access to treatment at medical facilities; and that critical care is available and deployed, especially where oxygen is needed. 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 & Gwagwalada) this afternoon, the PTF directed that the level of Infections, Prevention and Control as well as case management should be prioritised immediately.”
Boss Mustapha, who recalled that the PTF recently issued some protocols to states to which a number of states have been actively implementing, observed that the strategy of testing to detect and treat remained central to the role sates are expected to play.
He said data showed that despite resources already made available to sub-national entities, testing has been very low across states in varying degrees, frustrating national response.
According to him reports received also points to the fact that laboratories recently established in states are not working optimally.
“Recall that we moved from two laboratories to about 90 (public & 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 National Reference Labs,” he said.
The SGF urged states to reopen all laboratories and ensure that testing was expanded and turnaround time for results substantially reduced.
“In the same vein, states should please keep their isolation/treatment centres open because of the rising cases of infection nationwide. The New Year is just three days ahead of us and we wish to remind you that in addition to the NPIs and the hope given by the arrival of vaccines, commitment to personal survival and compliance with protocols will remain critical. We urge Nigerians to make this part of their New Year resolutions.”
The PTF chairman, while highlighting oxygen availability as critical to the success of case management, said that there was an ongoing review of the chain for the supply of medical oxygen for medical facilities across the nation.