REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE ON COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL BRIEFING OF THURSDAY, 18th JUNE, 2020.
I welcome you all to the National Briefing for Thursday, 18th June, 2020.
2. Yesterday, Wednesday 17th June, 2020 made it exactly three months since the Presidential Task Force on COVID-10 was inaugurated and assigned the task of putting in place sustainable measures for the control of the spread of the virus and strengthening our health care systems to withstand the deadly virus and prepare for the future. The PTF was given a time line of six months for its assignment
3.You will recall that the ToR given to the PTF include the following:
i. Strengthen the national response strategy, particularly in the areas of testing, containment and management of COVID-19;
ii. Strengthen collaboration with all tiers of Government, Private Sector, Faith-Based Organizations, Civil Societies, Donors and Partners;
iii. Build awareness among the populace;
iv. Direct the deployment of any relevant national assets when necessary;
v. Lay a foundation for scientific and medical research to address all emerging infectious diseases; and
vi. Advise Government on the declaration of national emergency as part of the containment measures when necessary.
4.It is therefore, very apposite that the PTF on COVID-19 undertake a Mid-Term Review to ascertain the extent to which it has been able to achieve set objectives. There has, no doubt, been some modest achievements, challenges and lessons learned over the past three months. The COVID-19 is certainly the greatest invisible public health emergency that has threatened humanity in modern history.
5.As at the last recorded numbers on Wednesday 17th June, 2020, global figures of confirmed cases were 8,408, 203 resulting in 451,463 deaths in 213 countries. Unfortunately, as at the same period, Nigeria accounts for 17,735 and 469 fatalities. Ladies and gentlemen, these are not just numbers. They are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and colleagues. These fatalities are forceful reminders of the task before us all.
6.Although the PTF has planned a full mid-term report with larger stakeholders Groups on 2nd and 3rd July, 2020, we nevertheless find it necessary to share with you some of the high points of the last three months.
7.The Presidential Task Force has the following functional working areas through which it implements its objectives. These are:
(i) PTF National Pandemic Response Center (NPRC) Coordination
(ii) Epidemiology & Surveillance
(iii) Risk Communication & Community Engagement
(v) Security, Logistics & Mass Care
(vi) Points of Entry
(vii) Resource Mobilization
(viii) Infection, Prevention & Control
(x) Case Management
(xi) Finance Monitoring & Compliance
8.Since inception, several measures have been instituted by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to curtail the spread of the disease and protect the health of Nigerians. These include:
(i) Initial lockdown of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT;
(ii) Ban on flights to prevent importation
(iii) Ban on inter-state travels and domestic flights;
(iv) Closure of schools and religious centres;
(v) Imposition of nationwide curfew
(vi) Easing of the lockdown in phases to allow for gradual reopening of the economy;
(vii) Prescription of measures to be observed, to prevent spread such as:
– Mandatory use of non-medical face mask/covering in public spaces
– Mandatory provision of handwashing facilities/sanitisers
– Extensive temperature checks in all public spaces
– Physical distancing of 2 metres between people in workplaces and other public spaces;
– Prohibition of gathering of more than twenty (20) persons outside of a workplace
9.In addition to non-pharmaceutical measures, the following capacity has been developed:
(i) Expansion of the testing laboratories from two (2) to 38 as at today;
(ii) Trained over 13,000 health workers in Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC);
(iii) Developed policy and protocols for testing returning Nigerians;
(iv) Developed policies and protocols for integration of primary healthcare into national response;
(v) Developed stronger and sustainable policy for community engagement and risk Communication
(viii) Collaborated with development partners to boost our resources and enrich our capacity for technical response;
(ix) Raised the isolation centre bed space from three-thousand to over five thousand nation wide
10.Let me acknowledge at this point the leadership and guidance by His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, who has consistently supported and encouraged the PTF. The support received has been a huge boost to the determination of members for success. I similarly acknowledge the collaboration with other Committees set up to address the impact of the COVID-19 and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum
11.The PTF consistently pursued a National Response that was under-pinned by science, data and global experiences that placed a high premium on our local peculiarities. The importance of this approach is further underscored by Mr. President’s call during yesterday’s Extra-ordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against the COVID-19 (Video Conferencing), when he called for knowledge sharing as a fundamental aspect of dealing with this pandemic, globally.
12.Like the rest of the world, our National Response continues to face challenges, especially as there is no known cure for the virus, presently. These include inadequate infrastructure, manpower shortage, global shortage of essential items (test kits, PPE), strain on the economy which has compelled the need to balance between lives and livelihoods.
13.By far the greatest challenges are human resistance to change, stigmatization, mental health, skepticism, culture, religious belief, rising incidents of domestic violence and a host of others. Ladies and gentlemen, the COVID-19 has changed our ways of life and we may never go back to what we used to know.
14.As we push the frontiers of research at domestic and international levels, the debate on which drugs will be clinically suitable also continues. With our reliance on data and science, we eagerly look towards crossing the threshold of experiments into a world of cure. We continue to encourage our researchers and scientists to rise up to the occasion by submitting to the validation processes. The PTF’s position is that every treatment regime must be supported by incontrovertible scientific evidence.
15.The PTF wishes to express its appreciation to our diverse stakeholder for their support and commitment to the course of humanity. These include the health workers (our last line of defence), security agencies, State Governments, the private sector, traditional and religious leaders, international community, professional bodies and public-spirited Nigerians. Your contributions have been highly instrumental to our present level of progress.
16.Ladies and gentlemen, the journey ahead of us all is even more important than the last three months. As you are aware, the main focus is on community engagement and risk communication while not neglecting the need to obey all the guidelines and non-pharmaceutical measures. We therefore crave your buy-in so that we can collectively become champions in the efforts to wipe out the virus.
17.Always remember, that the virus is real, potent and dangerous. Our relaxed lock down should never be interpreted to mean otherwise. This point is further underscored by reported resurgence of a second wave in countries like China and the USA and this should put all of us on alert, knowing that this virus can only be eliminated if we agree to play our part.
18.This call becomes more pertinent as we go fully into the rainy season that ordinarily brings with it cold, catarrh and other COVID-19 mimicking illnesses. Our call to take personal responsibility cannot be more strident than now.
19.As we go forward, therefore, let us look forward to another three months of overwhelming successes, let us create awareness and sensitization, stop stigmatization of survivors and let’s encourage fellow citizens that have contracted the virus to enable them overcome the illness. Our choice of words matter. Our attitude and reactions to them help to boost the stability of their mental health. All combined will help our efforts to test, detect, trace, isolate and treat.
20.I now call on the Hon Minister of Health followed by the National Coordinator to update you on new issues.
21.I thank you for listening.