COVID-19 killed 405 Nigerians in two months – PTF

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The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, on Monday, said that 405 persons had died of COVID-19 in just two months.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Seventy-five health workers were infected last week.

The Federal Government said seven cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 have been identified in the country.

It described Kogi State, whose Governor Yahaya Bello denies the existence of the virus, as a “high-risk state.”

It also listed 22 high-burden council areas, some of them in Lagos State, and hinted of a likely suspension of flights  from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and The Netherlands.

PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, said the fatality rate is 34 per cent higher.

According to him, COVID-19-related deaths increased from 1,173 as at last November 29 to 1,578 on January 31.

The SGF spoke during a sensitisation meeting on COVID-19 vaccine introduction with leaders of the Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN) and scholars in Abuja.

He said: “The global infections have exceeded 100 million, while fatalities have also crossed the two million mark.

“Unfortunately, Nigeria, like the rest of the world, is now experiencing a more virulent second wave, which has increased the number of COVID-19 related deaths from 1,173 on November 29, 2020, to 1,578 on January 31, 2021, an increase of 34 per cent.

“The number of infections has also grown, tremendously.”

Mustapha said the arrival of vaccines has, however, given hope to humanity, adding that the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) will not be discarded.

He said from now on, the national response strategy would be a combination of the NPIs and the vaccines.

“I wish to make it abundantly clear that nobody is safe around the world until everyone is vaccinated,” Mustapha said.

He noted a lack of compliance with the NPIs even among church leaders and the very low testing, which limits detection

The Federal Government said the Africa Centre for Excellence in Genomics in Ede, identified five new COVID-19 variants in Osun, one in Kwara and one in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The government urged health workers to increase their index of suspicion for COVID-19, as the new variant has been identified with the increased transmission.

NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, speaking during the PTF briefing in Abuja, said: “We are all aware that there is increasing transmission and this virus is adapting all the time.

“We are working very hard with my colleagues to get access to the vaccines because if we don’t, the virus keeps circulating, mutating and potentially getting better adapted to (PTF) the environment and its ability to transmit.

“The fact that we are finding the variant is not surprising because it is found in more than 50 countries around the world. As countries look for this, they will find them because people travel and viruses travel with people as they travel.”

Ihekweazu noted that some health workers, particularly doctors and nurses, were found not to be wearing their face mask within the hospital premises.

He urged them to be an example to Nigerians by complying with the protocols.

He said: “We are gradually experiencing an increase in the number of deaths. These are tragic circumstances.

“Everything we are doing in the response is really about preventing severe cases and death. This is what we are most worried about.”

The Federal Government is considering flight suspension from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and The Netherlands.

The decision, according to the PTF, is due to the new COVID-19 protocols introduced by both countries for travellers.

The two countries recently asked passengers from Nigeria to do a PCR test four hours before departing.

Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, who spoke during the PTF briefing, said: “For us, passengers do the test 72 hours before departure and then the PCR test.

“The PTF recognises the right of all countries to put in measures to protect their citizens just like Nigeria has done.

“However, these countries and airlines cannot determine for Nigeria who to approve or how these test will be done. We are going to be discussing with these airlines and these countries.

“If they insist on having these additional tests being done, then the PTF has decided that their operations will be suspended into Nigeria until the time the PTF puts in a structure and deals with the logistics on how this second test can be done successfully within four hours before departure to these two countries.”

Nuhu said the procurement process to have the test done at the airports has begun.

He said: “The PTF has started the procurement process of who will be allowed to do the test at the airports and there is a shortlist of four or five companies.

“So, this process will be brought to conclusion to select the laboratories who will carry out the tests at both Lagos and Abuja airports.”

He said airlines that flouted the COVID-19 protocols have been sanctioned, adding that a comprehensive list would be out soon.

No fewer than 57 million doses of vaccines from various makers are expected in the country in batches, beging from this month.

Over 50 million Nigerians are to be vaccinated this year.

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