President Muhammadu Buhari has asked governors of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to own the fight against COVID-19 in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic.
Buhari on Tuesday authorised the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to engage with the governors to “assume full ownership of this stage of the response” to the second wave of the novel coronavirus plague.
President Buhari, who spoke at State House in Abuja while receiving the end-of-year report of the task force, said the governors should take full ownership by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions.
Daily Trust reports that Buhari had severally urged the governors to be decisive in the fight against the dreaded disease before it got out of hand. Some experts believed some of the governors had not been responsive and wondered what happened to the N1 billion given to each of them in addition to other interventions.
The President also on Tuesday extended the mandate of the PTF chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, which was constituted in March 2020 till the end of March 2021.
The president 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 vaccine in a safe, effective and timely manner. This is an important obligation that we owe Nigerians as we go into the year 2021 and it must be carried out through efficient machinery,” he said.
Get vaccines quickly
The president said the PTF should coordinate the strategy for access, delivery and administration of the vaccines using the existing health structures that had worked in the past.
He also directed the PTF and the Nigeria Immigration Service to ensure that all in-bound passengers who failed to show up for post-arrival COVID-19 test were sanctioned within the ambit of the law, for breaching the public health protocols.
The PTF chairman Boss Mustapha had on Monday at the joint national briefing of the task force said that of the 163,818 inbound international travellers captured on the Nigeria International Travel Portal for the control of possible importation of the virus, 20,216 (31 per cent) had not shown up for the post-arrival test.
Daily Trust also reliably gathered that while the federal government and some states governments favoured a planned nation-wide lockdown, others were not amenable to such move saying individual states should take appropriate measures, even with a unified national response and enforceable guidelines.
Mustapha said the new epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country including Lagos, Kaduna and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) accounted for over 70% of all confirmed cases, saying they remained a major challenge that must be addressed.
“The virus has not abated and still raging across the world. We have to overcome the pandemic fatigue, intensify risk communication, expand surveillance, testing and infection prevention and control,” he said.
‘Our health system can’t withstand major COVID-19 outbreak’
The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, also said the country’s health system was fragile and might not withstand the effect of a major outbreak of COVID-19 or other infections.
He, therefore, stressed the need for a carefully thought through and action-oriented reform of the health sector that would improve health security and place the country in a better position to manage future health threats.
He said as 2020 drew to a close, the PTF needed to redefine its role in the COVID-19 response and identify how to streamline into a lean but effective response body that would focus on tackling COVID-19 by sustaining the gains made while maintaining a reasonable level of readiness in response to this second surge of the pandemic but also other outbreaks in the future.
According to him, “COVID-19 will be with us for a while. Although this is the new normal, it continues to be just as deadly…Next year will be all about the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a huge challenge for the country and will require your leadership and continued commitment.
Different measures in states
The Lagos State government said on Tuesday in a tweet that failure to wear a face mask in public could send anyone to prison.
“Failure to wear a face mask in public or breach of any COVID-19 regulations, you can be prosecuted under the Lagos State Infectious Diseases (Prevention) Regulations or Criminal Laws of Lagos State and upon conviction liable to imprisonment up to one year,” the tweet said.
In Kano, the coordinator of the state’s response team, Dr Hussain Tijjani, told Daily Trust via phone interview that the state was reviving all the structures that responded to the first outbreak of the COVID-19 in the state.
“We are also trying to see how all the health advisories are enforced now, especially the use of face masks, social distancing.” He said they had never relented in their fight against the scourge.
Osun State government said no decision yet on the second lockdown over COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ismail Omipidan, said it would be hasty to make a definite comment on another lockdown at this moment.
“We are monitoring the situation and we shall act appropriately at the right time. When we get to the bridge, we would cross it,” he said.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State said they would rely on the data analysis of the COVID-19 since its inception to decide on the second phase of lockdown in the state. Makinde, who stated this while addressing correspondents yesterday, said the state would not rely on the information from other states to decide on the lockdown.
The Kaduna state government said the task force and other government agencies had commenced strict enforcement of the new COVID-19 regulations signed and authorised by Governor Nasir El-Rufai last week.
Daily Trust reports that while hotels remained opened in the state, the state task force had enforced the closure of bars, event centres, night clubs and gyms while government and private offices now enforce the use of facemasks and other COVID-19 protocols.
The state government had on Sunday directed all civil servants below grade level 14 to work from home as from yesterday, and also mandated all places of worship to enforce the use of facemasks among other measures.
The Niger State Government had directed the closure of public and private schools as well as tertiary institutions across the state from Friday, December 18.
In Abia, the Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Chris Ezem, said residents had been directed to visit molecular laboratories in Aba and Amachara for COVID-19 test to ascertain their status, saying they must also wear a face mark all the time.
Sokoto mulls re-closure of schools
The Sokoto State Government on Tuesday said it would enforce all the restrictions announced by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19. The Commissioner of Health, Dr Ali Inname, said, “We will restrict gathering of people to 50 in the state.”
He added that in addition to other measures, relevant stakeholders would meet to decide on the need to close schools or not.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State had warned against Christmas and New Year activities by citizens across 23 local government areas of the state. He said the decision was reached at the state’s Security Council meeting, which he presided over.
Ortom advised residents to celebrate the occasions in their homes in line with COVID-19 protocols, adding that they should report any suspicious movement to relevant authorities.
In Kogi, the position of the state government was that the state does not believe in the existence of COVID-19.
Governor Yahaya Bello had said repeatedly that what people called COVID-19 was a political gamut to fast tract the syphoning of government resources at the detriment of the poor.
On his part, Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State called on the people of the state to stand firm against the second wave of COVID-19, saying the state cannot afford another lockdown.
Speaking on Monday, he lamented that the directive on social and physical distancing had gradually failed.
The Akwa Ibom State Government had cancelled all state-related events to forestall further spread of COVID-19 and urged citizens to adhere to safety protocols.
Governor Udom Emmanuel had also ordered the return to strict compliance of the safety protocols against COVID-19, especially the use of facemasks, washing of hands and observing social distancing.
“All state government events requiring large crowds are hereby cancelled. Large political meetings are discouraged until the current spike COVID-19 infections are reduced,” he said.
In Adamawa State, findings showed that it takes up to seven days to get results of samples taken to labs for testing due to the sudden surge in the number of samples collected.
The state recorded 26 cases on Tuesday and many patients who tested positive had reportedly gone for isolation in their houses.
A member of the COVID-19 containment committee, who did not want his identity revealed, said he could not give details of preparation for the second wave of the pandemic because the committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government, Engineer Bashiru Ahmad did not meet since September.
In Taraba, equipment looted at the isolation centre located at NYSC Camp Jalingo, during the EndSARS protests have not been replaced. It was learnt that the centre was closed after the incident.
Commissioner of Information, Barrister Danjuma Adamu, who confirmed that two testing centres located at Federal Medical Centres, Jalingo, and Specialists Hospital, Jalingo, were fully equipped and operational, saying the isolated centre would soon be fixed.
The Commissioner of Health, Dr Innocent Vakkai could not be reached to speak on the measures taken about the second wave hitting many states.
Sources in Bauchi said the shortage of testing kits and logistics challenges have weakened response efforts in the state.
A member of the surveillance and contact tracing committee said, despite the second wave, the state has not been provided with additional testing kits and the majority of the people who volunteered for testing were denied the opportunity, and the number of people seeking for testing is increasing daily.”
In Cross River, the COVID-19 rescue team headed by the state Commissioner of Health, Dr Betta Edu, warned that “persons travelling into the state should observe compulsory isolation for seven days before mingling with members of the public.”