As the second 14-day total lockdown imposed on Lagos, Ogun and Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari to curb the spread of the Coronavirus ends midnight Monday, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has asked that it be scaled down to partial mode with relaxed restriction.
In a letter dated April 24, 2020, and addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, the NGF requested for, subject to the president’s approval, internal free movement in all the states, but with restrictions on large gatherings.
The other things the governors want incorporated into President Buhari’s impending pronouncement on the lockdown are: “Inter-state lockdown, excluding movement of essential supplies- food, beverages, medical and pharmaceutical, petroleum supplies and agricultural products; internal free movement but with restrictions on large gatherings and assemblies; overnight curfews; lockdown of flights; and compulsory use of face masks/coverings in the public.”
The NGF’s letter, signed by its Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, said its position was a follow up to a teleconference meeting with the Vice President on 22nd April 2020.
The NGF added: “Recall at the meeting it was agreed that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) articulates the issues that it would want to be included in the next Presidential Pronouncement on COVID-19 so as to have a Uniform and coordinated Policy on COVID-19 at both the national and sub-national levels.”
On the same day, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country surpassed 1000, with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announcing that the number of people confirmed to be positive now stands at 1095, with 208 discharged and 32 deaths.
This latest data was tweeted by the NCDC at 11.30 PM, last night, stating: “114 new cases of #COVID19 have been reported; 80 in Lagos, 21 in Gombe, five in FCT, two in Zamfara, two in Edo, one in Ogun, one in Oyo, one in Kaduna and one in Sokoto.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) yesterday warned that the country cannot afford to relax measures being pursued to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director General of the centre, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who spoke in Abuja at the media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, said the country ought to remain focused on implementing key response actions to arrest the spread and damage of the dreaded virus.
Ihekweazu said: “I recognise how difficult things are at the moment, many families I know have not been able to bury their dead, some have rescheduled their marriages, rescheduled their baptisms and have rescheduled everything they are doing. So, it is like life is suspended because we have suspended many things that we hold dear.
“Everyone on this side of the table recognises the great sacrifices being made by Nigerians but we only have to encourage each other to continue till we get to the position where we think we can relax. To get to that point we must continue doing what we are doing now,” he said.
Ihekweazu said that among those who are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection at the moment are the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, adding that this segment of Nigerians deserves to be assisted and protected.
On how the centre has been dealing with the management of the virus spread in Kano, the NCDC boss said that test results for Kano, which was suspended due to exposure of some laboratory staff and subsequent decontamination of the facility, would be out by yesterday’s evening.
While speaking at the briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that the federal government was worried that a good number of health workers may be knocked down by COVID-19, thus incapacitating the health sector, if they do not take adequate measures to protect themselves.
“I urge you to protect yourselves as prescribed and use the PPE judiciously. Do not attempt to treat COVID-19 patients without using adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), or if your institution is not accredited to do so. This is important because we need to keep health workers safe at this time and cannot afford the numbers testing positive to COVID-19.
Remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19,” he said.
NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who led a team of labour leaders to interface with members of the COVID-19 taskforce yesterday, said that the number of health workers infected by the virus was a source of concern to the labour congress.
He said that NLC and its affiliates had set up a Labour and Civil Society Situation room to monitor developments and to intervene to assist workers where necessary.
On whether the contributory pensions could be used as palliatives, Wabba objected to such a move, saying that the contributed pension fund was solely savings by workers that they hoped to rely on at retirement.
NLC’s intervention came on the heels of outcry by some pensioners who have waited in vain for PENCON to release fund to Pension Fund Administrators to take care of elderly Nigerians.
These retirees had sought ways to get the taskforce to intervene and compel PENCON, which they alleged was using the current lockdown as an excuse not act on their case.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has expressed concern over the number of health workers already infected by COVID-19 in the country.
In a statement issued yesterday by NMA president, Dr. Francis Faduliye, the body frowned at what it described as recalcitrant attitude of some VIPs in the society who are refusing to report to and be admitted at Isolation and Treatment centres, adding that such behaviour was responsible for the level of infection suffered by health workers.
Some States Yet to Submit Samples for Testing
The NCDC head also disclosed yesterday that some states are yet to submit samples for test to know if they have COVID-19 cases.
While speaking during a television programme, Ihekweazu said the NCDC expects a number of tests to be conducted for each state.
As at yesterday, 26 out of the 36 states, in addition to the federal capital territory (FCT), have confirmed cases of the disease.
Ihekweazu said while the NCDC is improving on its testing capacity for COVID-19, it is worrisome that samples have not been sent by some states yet.
does not exist because you are not looking for it,” he said.
“In every state, we expect a certain number of people to fit the case definition of an acute respiratory infection without an underlying cause.
“If you take away contacts with travellers and with confirmed cases, the third part of our case definition which says anyone with an acute respiratory infection for which there is no underlying cause should have a sample collected to know whether they have this disease or not.