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PTF warns states against schools’ reopening

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has warned unprepared state governments against reopening of schools to avoid fatalities as experienced in some countries.


Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, in his remarks yesterday at a briefing in Abuja, equally cautioned against fatigue in the fight against the disease. He urged the people to continue to strictly adhere to the non-pharmaceutical protocols in their daily lives.


Mustapha, who urged vigilance in the face of the recent decline in reported number of COVID-19 cases in the country, also called on states to create more sample collection centres and test more for the nation to know exactly where it stands in the fight against the disease.


The SGF said: “As we plan to re-open more sectors, we must stay the course and stick with our winning strategy which is anchored on the ability of our health institutions to contain the virus while we as citizens wear our masks properly, stay away from crowded places, avoid mass gatherings, maintain simple hygienic practices and as much as possible protect the elderly and most vulnerable to this pandemic.


“It is in this context that the PTF appreciates the ongoing calls for re-opening of the education sector and indeed some sub-nationals are already making preparations for such.


“Whilst the PTF does not discourage making such preparations, we need to be guided by experiences from countries such as Germany, France, the United States and the UK where opening of schools in some cities led to an increase in confirmed cases and fatalities.”


Commenting on the drop in reported cases of COVID-19 infections in recent times, Mustapha said: “For us in Nigeria, the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases. Indeed, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases (138) was reported on 30th August 2020.


The PTF still urges caution and vigilance on the declining numbers because the virus is still potent and very dangerous. “This position is informed by the fact that in spite of our enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing  has not been encouraging.


While we intensify our targeted testing strategy, we still urge the states to expand the scope of their sample collection.” He recalled that at the outbreak of the disease, it was predicted that the African continent, with its weak health infrastructure and propensity to high disease burden, would be the worst hit.


He disclosed that the PTF would be submitting its seventh interim report to the President this week and would be guided by his directive just as he promised to transmit Buhari’s decision and approvals at the next briefing slated for Thursday. On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, expressed fears over the recorded decline in confirmed cases of COVID- 19 in recent days.


He said this might be due to the significant reduction in COVID-19 sample collection and testing nationwide. Ehanire cautioned Nigerians not to let their guards down thinking the war against the pandemic was gradually being won.


While noting reasons behind the sudden drop in sample collection was still unknown, he said a study group comprising of Ministerial Experts Advisory Committee would be commissioned to examine the development, and bring up new knowledge that could guide response or have an implication on government’s decision making.


His words: “In the past 24 hours, we recorded just 138 COVID-19 positive cases in Nigeria, one of the lowest numbers in many months, giving a total of 53,865 positive cases out of 403,347 tests conducted as of August 31, 2020.


“In the same 24 hour period, 199 persons were discharged from hospital, giving us total successful treatment of 41,513 patients.


We are beginning to see a situation where the number of those treated and discharged exceeds the number of positive cases detected.


While these figures may seem reassuring, they may be deceptive, and we cannot assume that the curve is flattening, since we are yet to perfect due diligence on our side.


“Testing has, for example, dropped quite significantly, due to reduced sample collection across many states, for reasons that are not clear in all cases. Lagos, for example, tested over 35,000 in July and just under 20,000 in August, while Kano dropped from 23,000 in July to just under 4,000 in August.


These are just  examples that show that there is more work to do and many more challenges ahead.


“As long as we still record deaths from this disease, there is no room for complacency until we meet our goal to reduce fatality rate to less than 1%. Our target is to test 2 million Nigerians for COVID- 19, of which we have achieved barely a quarter and to scale up to 4 million persons.”


Ehanire urged all states and the FCT organs not to relent in strengthening surveillance and setting up sample collection sites in all Local Government Areas (LGAs), and in all wards of the hotspot LGAs. Furthermore, the Minister has approved the use of Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs), in the treatment of confirmed malaria cases in the country

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