• Nigerian leaders, health workers to be vaccinated first
• FG, China in talks on COVID-19 vaccine, direct flights
Friday Olokor, Adelani Adepegba and Leke Baiyewu
The Federal Government on Tuesday said it hoped to get 42 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to battle coronavirus in the country.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, who stated this at the press conference of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, said 100,000 doses of the vaccines would be received by the country at the end of this month.
He stated, “Through Covax facility, we expect to receive apprioximately 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of January. A letter announcing this allocation is being expected this week.”
According to him, “also through Covax facility, Nigeria is expected to secure free delivery of 42 million doses of vaccines, which will be a combination of all the available and approved vaccines currently in the market.”
He, however, said the 42 million doses would only cover 20 per cent of the country’s population.
The Covax scheme was set up to provide vaccines to poor countries such as Nigeria, whose 200 million people and poor infrastructure pose a daunting challenge to medical officials.
Shuaib said the vaccines would first be given to frontline health workers, first responders, national leaders, people vulnerable to coronavirus and the elderly.
He stated, “In order to achieve eradication of COVID-19 in Nigeria, we need to cover 70 per cent of the total population with COVID-19 vaccines. Forty per cent will be vaccinated in 2021, while 30 per cent will be covered in 2022.
“The priority will be given to frontline health workers, first responders (security), strategic country leadership, those with co-morbidities.”
Also at the press conference, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the PTF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said about 731 members of the National Youth Service Corps in the Batch B had tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 35,419 tested so far.
He also confirmed that government had commenced the sanctions on international passengers who defaulted on Day-7 post arrival tests, with their passport numbers published in newspapers, and travel restriction imposed for a period of six months effective January 1, 2021.
Mustapha also expressed concern over the increasing daily number of infections.
“From our analysis, we are beginning to see the effect of activities carried out during the Christmas festivities. We can only hope that numbers will not escalate beyond control. We, however, still appeal to all citizens to take full responsibility through compliance and vigilance. In Africa, Nigeria has joined South Africa in reporting the highest daily infection cases”, he stated.
Mustapha also said there were about 100 laboratories across the country, including 71 public labs; 22 private labs and 7 corporate labs.
He said, “In continuation of the NYSC engagement, the PTF has conducted the testing of batch B corpers using RDTs. Out of the 35,419 in the Batch B, 731 tested positive compared to 108 recorded during the Batch A. It is on record that cases were recorded from corps members from every state of the federation.
“In the last two weeks, a lot has been discussed on case management and in particular, the availability of oxygen to save lives. We are pleased to inform you that the private sector – CACOVID – has commenced supporting our response with 100 oxygen cylinders per day till the end of March, 2021, for distribution to critical care centres in Abuja.
“Furthermore, approval has been given to rehabilitate five oxygen plants across various tertiary health institutions in Abuja. The President has also approved that at least one oxygen plant should be established in each state of the federation immediately.
“The PTF is progressing on the issue of accessing vaccines for Nigerians. Additional information will be provided to Nigerians on accelerated vaccines introduction and deployment plan.
“What is currently confronting us is a critical phase of infections globally. We are constantly reviewing our strategy to emerging situations especially in risk communication, vaccine hesitancy, fake news/disinformation.
“Finally, I wish to confirm that the PTF has commenced the sanctions on passengers who defaulted on day-7 post arrival tests. Their passport numbers have been published and travel restriction imposed for a period of six months effective 1st January, 2021.
“Let me categorically state that the PTF has generated over 20,000 inbound passengers that have also defaulted. The publication will continue weekly till it is exhausted.”
COVID-19 killed 44 in Lagos, Abuja December – PTF
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said 44 persons died of the disease in Lagos and Abuja within December 2020 alone.
He said seven died from the disease in the two locations earlier in November.
Aliyu said, “As we know, different parts of the world are now witnessing a surge in Covid cases and the PTF will like to reiterate the importance of continuous adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions. There is no doubt that here in Nigeria, we are experiencing our own second wave, which is now sweeping across the country.
“For those of you following our numbers, the number of new cases per week has tripled. We were running around 2,000 cases per week; we now exceed 6,000 cases a week. Three weeks ago, if we took 100 samples, we got four positives; we are now getting 16 positives.
“In November, in Lagos, five persons died of Covid; in December, 26 died of Covid. In Abuja, in November, two persons died of Covid; in December, 18 died of Covid. And these are all preventable deaths from a disease that we know we can protect ourselves from.
“So, there is no doubt (that) we are in a great danger, hence the reason why we have continued to talk about these non-pharmaceutical interventions. We know that vaccines are available but these vaccines are not here yet with us. Even if you have a vaccine today, based on the vaccines that we currently have, it will take at least a month to get a good immune response because you will need a second dose. So, why not use the vaccine that we have already here, which are the non-pharmaceutical interventions?”
The PTF coordinator also announced that the Federal Government had pencilled down 20,000 defaulters and had resolved to, every week, sanction 100 international travellers who failed to take required tests after their arrival in the country.
Aliyu said, “On the 100 passengers that we have restricted their passports, we are very grateful to the CG (of) Immigration. Just to clear the air, we have worked with the Nigerian Immigration Service every step of the way over the last few weeks.
“I’m sure that most of you will be aware that in September when the new travel protocols came out, we made it very clear that ‘if you do not comply with the protocols, there will be repercussions, and these repercussions were stated very clearly, that your travel documents will be restricted and you will not be able to travel out of the country for six months.’
“Three months, we have been monitoring this. We had over 160,000 passengers in the last three months; less than half bothered to pay for the test. Of those that paid for the test, more than a third did not even bother to go for the test on Day 7 (after arrival). And we are not interested in the money because the government is not involved in testing within the private sector. What we are interested in is to make sure that you do not bring in Covid into our country. We are interested in making sure that when you come in, you self-isolate for seven days and we know your status at Day 7 when you exit.
“We have appealed, we have cajoled, we have urged travellers to do the right thing but it was very obvious that things would not change unless we apply the penalty, which was why we applied the penalty. We have already published the list of 100 passport numbers of people that are restricted from travelling for the next six months.
“We have over 20,000 passport numbers of those that have not complied with our protocols. We will continue to publish 100 fresh lists every week and monitor the compliance until such a time that we note a significant improvement in compliance. If the compliance improves, in the next one to two weeks, we will not continue. It not in our best interest to penalise people but if we have to, for the sake of public health, we will.”
Aliyu urged Nigerians to continue to obey the safety protocols. He also said the PTF is urging the state governments to set up task forces empowered to enforce the protocols.
The PTF coordinator also noted that testing remained critical in the response to the pandemic, recalling that 37,000 samples were tested nationwide last week, with Abuja having over 9,000; and Lagos, over 7,000; while three states tested only six, 11 and 26 samples, respectively.
FG opens talks with China on COVID-19 vaccines
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said that it has started talks with the Peoples Republic of China on access to COVID-19 vaccines for Nigerians.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffery Onyeama, stated this after a closed-door meeting with the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, in Abuja on Tuesday.
Onyeama said that China was of immense assistance to Nigeria at the onset of the pandemic, adding that the donation of protective equipment by the Asian powerhouse assisted the nation in the fight against COVID-19.
He stated, “We have received a lot of support from China in the area of personal protective equipment that they were very quick to provide us with.
“China is also one of those countries that have been able to discover vaccines for COVID-19, so we are also engaging with China to also help with regard to access to vaccines for our people.”
Onyeama observed that the relationship between both countries dates back to 50 years, adding that the two nations have many areas of cooperation to celebrate
Giving an insight into some of the deliberations he had with Yi during their meeting, Onyeama said that they discussed the trade relations between the two countries and areas that could be improved.
He said that they also discussed health issues and the global pandemic.
“In the area of fostering relations, both countries are now considering having a direct flight from Nigeria to China.
“We want to establish a direct air link with China. We hope that very soon, a Nigerian carrier would be carrying out scheduled flights to China in the not too distant future,” he said.