AS Nigeria crossed the 100,000 mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has blamed the spike on increased travel, business activities, including social-related one and nightlife, religious programmes and reopening of schools without strict compliance with protocols.
Nigeria now ranks second highest in Africa in terms of the number of new cases of confirmed COVID-19, the PTF affirmed on Monday.
The Federal Government is, therefore, reviewing the date for resumption of schools nationwide earlier set for January 18.
Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this during its weekly media briefing in Abuja, pointed out that the number could be more, because many people with the infection may have been missed.
He said: “In Nigeria, we have crossed the 100,000 cases mark and now rank second in the number of new cases, fourth in cumulative cases in Africa and fifth in cumulative deaths.
Last week, Nigeria recorded over 9,000 cases. “Realistically, if we estimate the numbers missed, we would be in a much higher region.
“There is no state in Nigeria that is immune to this pandemic, even if reports are not coming out of such states.
“It is, however, very instructive to stress that factors that have contributed to rise in numbers from late November included increased local and international travels, business activities, religious programmes and reopening of schools without strict compliance with COIVID-19 safety measures.”
He maintained that reports coming from all over the world show that the COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking huge havoc on humanity, economies and systems, noting that as of last Sunday, 833,496 cases were recorded, representing the highest ever since the pandemic started.
He added: “The three days preceding the 8th, each recorded over 700,000 cases; global cases have now reached 90,676,320 mark; global fatality count is fast approaching the two million mark; the global CFR has declined from 2.2 to 2.1 per cent; the CFR for Africa has also declined from 2.3 to 2.2 per cent; and the WHO African region crossed two million case mark on Wednesday, January 6, 2020.
“The full import of the foregoing is to press further on the need for us all to elevate the level of our vigilance and compliance with the recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“The current wave of infections is swift and virulent and we do not know how long it will last. Besides, the facilities available for the treatment of critical cases remain very limited and we do not wish to be overwhelmed. Your best bet, therefore, is to avoid infections completely.”
The SGF also affirmed that the pilot exercise on the use of Rapid Diagnostic TestKits (RDTs) will be rolled out in five tertiary health institutions in Abuja next week. He said the isolation of different strains of the virus is being pursued, noting that in this regard, the PTF is working with the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on the sequencing of the COVID-19 strains circulating in Nigeria.
The PTF boss said the task force had continued to receive inquiries about the issue of testing before travelling out of the country, saying that for the avoidance of doubt, the protocol in Nigeria requires inbound passengers to test, not more than 96 hours, before boarding flights to Nigeria. However, he added, for passengers leaving Nigeria, it remains the responsibility of travellers to confirm the requirements of the country of destination and that of the carrier of choice.
He announced that for inbound travellers, a new protocol on pre-boarding has been released and compliance is still recommended, adding that the additional requirements for passengers coming from the United Kingdom and South Africa also remain in force. He added that lessons are being drawn from other jurisdictions on the successes and challenges of the vaccine administration.
Speaking on the third stream of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members that will resume on January 18, Mustapha said the PTF is working with the management to ensure that participants are tested and protocols are complied with. In his remark, the PTF national coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, hinted that the existing curfew may be reviewed to curtail nightlife which, he observed, is contributing to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.
Speaking at the briefing, Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, hinted on the possible extension of resumption date for schools, citing spike in the number of cases of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and some other stakeholders had cautioned the Federal Government against the January 18 resumption date for schools across the country. NUT Secretary-General, Dr Mike Ike-Ene, had warned that there was no need to hurriedly resume if the rate of COVID-19 infection keep increasing, saying if coronavirus infection was increasing, teachers would stay at home.
Adamu, speaking during the PTF briefing on Monday, said the January 18 resumption date is not sacrosanct, hence a new date might be announced.
“It (January 18 date of school reopening) is not sacrosanct. When we decided on that date it was just a target towards what we were working on.
“Of course we are keeping it in view and looking at what is happening in the society and then it is supposed to be subjected to constant review.
“Even today at the PTF meeting we looked at the rising figures and thought about if we should probably take another look at it. “On January 18 resumption, we are reviewing it, we are going to review it.”