The federal government yesterday warned of another lockdown if Nigerians continue to disregard non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) introduced to combat the spread of COVID-19.
It also cautioned schools against demanding COVID-19 test results as a prerequisite for allowing in students, who resumed studies yesterday.
The resumption of schools was, however, characterised by low compliance with COVID-19 protocols in many states, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
Also, as the nation grapples with the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has issued a health advisory to all churches in the country to check the rising infection rate.
At its briefing yesterday in Abuja, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 urged Nigerians to do everything possible to avoid a second lockdown in Nigeria by ensuring strict compliance with the NPIs.
The Chairman of PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said this can be done by complying with the protocols released by the government.
He said: “Let me remind you that the pandemic is raging and all tiers of government and citizens must keep their hands on deck.
“We are in a difficult situation in which a balance must continue to be struck between lives and livelihood.
“We are considering all options while hoping that broad cooperation will be received.
“We must do everything possible to avoid a second lockdown in Nigeria.”
Mustapha raised the alarm that South Africa and Nigeria have continued to report highest daily count on the African continent, adding that South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya accounted for 76 per cent of all cases on the continent.
Mustapha said one in every five persons tested last week was positive for the virus.
He added that Nigeria has moved up to the third position in the highest cumulative case load while it remains second for new cases and fifth highest in cumulative deaths on the WHO African region.
Also speaking at the PTF briefing, the Coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said the federal government was ramping up testing for COVID-19 nationwide with a directive to all the 774 local government areas of the federation to test between 400 and 500 samples within the next three weeks.
Aliyu, represented by the National Incident Manager, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Mukhtar Muhammed, stated that the federal government is working with state governors to ensure that funding and logistics arrangements are put in place for the exercise.
He added that though the task force has noticed substantial improvement in the level of compliance with the airport travel protocol by international travellers arriving in the country, the PFT will publish the list of another 100 persons who have defaulted by failing to book their second test.
“With regard to airport travel protocol, the PTF was forced to sanction defaulters of established protocols by placing them on a six-month travel restriction as a standard practice that public notices are issued by arms of government on important issues. The PTF after consultation with relevant agencies published the names of the first 100 defaulters and subsequently reached out to a large number of those affected with a view to resolving their complaints.
“We have started noticing a great improvement in compliance and testing following the sanctions that have been published. We will be publishing the list of another 100 persons who have defaulted. This time, these are people who have failed to book their second tests in the laboratories,” Aliyu said.
He added that the federal government has commenced activities in the maritime sector in order to have better control and containment in that area.
A special Task Team on COVID-19 for the Niger Delta and the maritime sector has been inaugurated to develop a protocol for implementation in both the formal and informal waterways.
The team includes all the states in the Niger Delta and the riverine areas. The membership includes Rivers, Delta, Edo, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ondo and Bayelsa States.
It will be supported by government agencies including, NIMASA, NNPC, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the Nigeria Navy Operations Delta Safe.
“With the implementation of these protocols, we hope to implement more testing on the waterway corridors with a view to identifying people who are coming without PCR test and to offer them the opportunity to test and to also have isolation,” he said.
FG Targets 70% of Nigeria’s Population for Vaccination
The federal government has also said it will strive to procure vaccines for at least 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population.
The government also said it has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed while making presentations at the media briefing by the PTF yesterday in Abuja said:
“Nigeria is participating in the African Union initiative called ‘African Vaccine Availability Task Team’, which reports directly to the African Union Chairman, President Ramaphosa of South Africa, and has secured options for 270 million doses of various types of vaccines.”
According to him, the Federal Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.
On claims by some persons in Nigeria, to have COVID-19 vaccines for sale, Ehanire advised all citizens to disregard such claims as they are criminals.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said that it has published new guidance for state governments, public and private institutions, on the use of approved Antigen (Ag) based Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for the pandemic.
NCDC’s Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said following approval of the Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of two Ag RDTs, manufactured by SD Biosensor anOVID-19 testing, NCDC in collaboration with other stakeholders carried out a national validation of these RDTs.
No Test Required for Schools Resumption, Says FG
The federal government has stated that on no account should schools demand COVID-19 test as a prerequisite for allowing pupils to resume their studies.
It stated that only temperature checks should be carried out on pupils and any other person crossing any school gate.
In a statement yesterday by the Director of Information and Public Affairs to the Ministry of Education, Mr. Ben Goong, the federal government warned school authorities to desist from asking pupils or parents to undergo a test before they are accepted in their schools.
“Only temperature checks should be carried out on students and any other person crossing any school gate. School authorities should therefore refrain from asking students or parents to undergo COVID-19 test before they are accepted in their schools,” the statement said.
CAN Rolls Out Health Advisory on Pandemic
Following the outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic, CAN has issued a health advisory to all churches.
The 11-point advisory issued yesterday by CAN General Secretary, Joseph Bade Daramola, appealed to all churches to observe all the COVID-19 protocols.
The advisory said worshippers without face masks should not be allowed in and urged people who are sick or too old to stay at home.
In addition, it advised that there should be temperature screening at every entry point to the church.
The association called on churches to: “Ensure adequate ventilation in halls of worship, open windows, and doors for air to circulate in and out freely and if possible avoid the use of air conditioners.
“Handwashing facilities and hand sanitisers should be provided at the point of entries and strategic points within the church premises.
“Attendance should not exceed one-third of the sitting capacity of every church. Churches can make use of their educational facilities and multi-purpose halls to avoid overcrowding in the main church auditorium.
“Church auditorium should be clearly marked such that people sit and maintain two metres distance from each other.
“There should be no form of direct contact. Practices such as handshakes as peace signs are discouraged. Sanitisers should be made available in all the restrooms.”
Schools Reopen with Scant Observation of NPIs
An investigation carried out by THISDAY yesterday in over 20 states revealed that many schools, especially government-owned, partially observed the protocols.
The states visited by THISDAY were Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau, Enugu, Delta, Ekiti, Ondo, Kogi, Kaduna, Anambra, Ebonyi, Kano, Taraba, Sokoto, Benue, Osun, Ogun, Bayelsa, Lagos and Katsina.
Some states, including Edo and Oyo, have not reopened schools.
In Enugu State, the compliance was so low that the state government has threatened to close down any school that breached the protocols.
The state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Eze, said the target is to ensure that there is 100 per cent compliance with the protocols.
“We observed that while some schools did not allow students and visitors without masks into the premises, others did. But we have warned them not to repeat that,” he said.
In Sokoto State, most pupils and teachers flouted the protocols.
Many of the pupils and teachers, especially in public schools, also jettisoned the wearing of face masks and washing of hands.
At Government Science Technical College, Farfaru, majority of the teachers and pupils neither wore face masks nor observed social distancing.
At Col. Muazu Science School, Ahmadu Bello Way, the situation was the same as pupils and teachers were seen without face masks, while most classes were filled to capacity without observing social distancing.
There was also partial compliance as pupils resumed for the second term in Delta State yesterday.
While some schools made provisions for hand washing buckets, ensured social distancing and wearing of face masks, some others complied with only one or two of the requirements.
The Principal of Urhobo College in Uvwie Local Government area, Mrs. Patience Dubi, also confirmed the Delta State Government made provisions for hand washing buckets to her school.
She, however, said the major problem confronting the school was non-cooperation of parents in providing face masks for their children.
In Benue State, there was a low turnout of pupils in all the schools that were visited.
But in most of the schools visited, pupils were seen wearing face masks, while hand sanitisers were placed in front of the schools.
At the International Primary School, Makurdi, Mrs. Rose Ejimbi, who brought her wards said she was satisfied with the protocols adopted by the school.
In Ondo State, there was partial compliance with the COVID -19 protocols.
Though, managements in some of the schools visited in Akure, Ondo State capital, provided buckets at the entrances to their schools for handwashing, the large number of students, made enforcement of handwashing unachievable in many of the schools.
Also speaking on the matter, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Ondo State, Mr. Akin Asaeniyan, said the ministry would not allow any school that failed to enforce the protocols to get away with the lapses.
Low compliance with COVID-19 protocols also characterised the resumption of academic activities in both the public and private schools in Ilorin, and other parts of Kwara State.
THISDAY monitored activities at some schools in Adewole, Oko-Olowo, Ogidi Oloje, Ita Nma, Adeta, Okelele, Asa dam, Taiwo, GRA and Gerewu, where it observed partial compliance with the protocols.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who spoke with journalists after monitoring the level of compliance, reiterated the government’s commitment towards flattening the COVID-19 curve in the state.
The COVID-19 protocols in schools in Akwa Ibom State were partially observed by some public and private schools.
A parent of a pupil at Parent Day Spring School in Eket Local Government Area of the state, Mr. Peter Isioeyen, lamented that pupils were not provided with COVID-19 materials.
“School authority is not insisting on safety measures; students are allowed at the mercy of God,” he stated.
But the state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Idongesit Etiebet, assured parents and guardians of the safety of the pupils.
Schools visited by THISDAY in Adamawa State observed other protocols except for social distancing.
THISDAY observed that pupils were overcrowded due to inadequate classrooms.
Also a tour of some of the schools in Jos, Plateau State, revealed that while some schools have put some measures in place in preparation for the resumption, others were simply not prepared.
Higher institutions in the state such as the University of Jos, Plateau State University, Bokkos and Plateau State Polytechnic were yet to resume.
There was minimal compliance with the COVID-19 protocol in schools in Ebonyi State.
There was no physical distancing and many teachers and pupils were not wearing face masks.
A school principal who spoke to THISDAY noted that they have not received any COVID-19 materials as promised by the state government.
A pupil of Girls High School, Abakaliki said she was not provided with a face mask but she uses her handkerchief in the classrooms.
Schools in Anambra State yesterday resumed without pupils.
One of the teachers who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “We do not deal with files, our job is to impact students with knowledge. So, what are we doing here without our students?”
In FCT, huge success was recorded, as pupils and teachers were seen wearing the face masks.