The country’s apex body of scientists, the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), has said measures put in place by the Federal Government to check the spread of the COVID-19 disease in the country came too late.
Although the government had earlier insisted that it was “well-prepared and ready to contain Coronavirus, if it eventually broke out”, decisive steps were not taken until the number of cases started rising, after an Italian tested positive on February 27.
The Federal Government has now closed the country’s borders, and the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states are on lockdown, following orders issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some states have also locked their boundaries, while also shutting markets, schools, churches, mosques and other public places.
But the Nigerian Academy of Science said the Federal Government should have acted earlier.
The academy specifically faulted the failure to monitor visitors who arrived from high risk countries, as well as the delay in stopping flights coming into Nigeria from such nations.
In an interview with newsmen, President of the NAS, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, noted that the government started doing the right things when it was already late.
Assessing the government’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, Onuoha said, “The response was late in many areas – we should have been monitoring people coming from high risk areas.
“The Federal Government should have stopped flights coming from some countries early enough but that was not done until it became late.
“It was as if the Federal Government could not take that action because it was afraid of those countries due to the fact that we depend on them in many areas.”
The academy, an independent scientific body, also acts as an advisor to the government but our correspondent learnt that recommendations forwarded by the scientists to the authorities on ways to tackle the disease in the country were not acted on.
According to Onuoha, NAS sent the recommendations to the Federal Government even before the Coronavirus disease was recorded in the country.
The academy sent its advice to the government after the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed Nigeria among 13 African countries that were vulnerable to the disease due to close economic contacts with China, the country where the pandemic originated from.
The Federal Government’s reaction to the WHO warning was to set aside the sum of N620million, reportedly to monitor, detect and contain the virus in a bid to prevent an outbreak of the disease in the country.
With the disease now in the country, the NAS also believes that the government is not conducting enough tests.
“They are not conducting enough tests to detect those that are already infected. The government is not testing as many people as they should test,” he said.
Onuoha equally faulted the state governments for waiting until cases were recorded in their territories before taking steps to curb the spread.
“Many of the states were not doing anything. Apart from Lagos State, many of them did not have anything on the ground until they had their first cases.
“Also, the Federal Government did not do much to carry the states along in plans to check the disease,” he observed.
However, Onuoha said many Nigerians are not playing their part in the campaign against COVID-19.
He said, “People are flouting some of the directives issued by the government and the WHO on ways to curb the spread.
“Even there are so many people that believe the disease is not for them.”
The academy also called on the government to provide palliatives for Nigerians who are adversely affected by the lockdown.
Onuoha warned that the lockdown could be counter-productive if measures were not put in place to alleviate its economic consequences on vulnerable Nigerians.
The NAS, in the same vein, welcomed the planned visit of Chinese medical experts to Nigeria.
The Federal Government had on Friday disclosed that the medical team would visit the country to assist in efforts to contain the spread of the disease.
Some Nigerians have expressed concerns about the planned visit amid suspicions over China’s role in the emergence of the pandemic.
There are calls on the government to reject the Chinese assistance.
Onuoha said there was nothing wrong in Nigeria accepting medical assistance from China.
“I personally do not see anything wrong with that. China is currently sending help to many countries, I don’t see why Nigeria should not accept the help, especially if those coming are medical experts.
“China is one of our major partners and they have a lot to lose if Nigeria goes down.
“If we can accept economic and technological assistance from China, I don’t see why we should not accept medical help,” the NAS President added.
COVID-19: ‘No Challenge In Community Sensitisation’
As the fight to prevent the rampaging Coronavirus from infecting Rivers people continues, part of the measures adopted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in reaching out to communities has so far not experienced any notable challenges.
The Lead Coordinator for the State Rapid Response Team for COVID-19, Mr Modekai Ifemide Olowole, who made this known after a recent routine assessment of performance of the Rapid Response Team on sensitization in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt LGAs stated that the compliance level has been encouraging.
Olowole, who credited the success recoded so far to the existing mechanism in place, explained that the sensitisation team of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) works with Institutions on ground , adding that: ‘We have come together to offer our support.
“What we did was to sensitise the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to know how they can engage the communities in whatever they are doing.
“If while doing that they need some support from us, we have a Rapid Response Team (RRT) that are working on ground. They have mobility, they have everything,” he said.
According to him, each time any of the Civil Society Organisations has palliatives for instance, to give to members of any community, they use the opportunity to make presentations on COVID-19 preventive measures.
The RRT, sponsored by UNICEF in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Health, and the Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), he said, decided to adopt the method, knowing that many people in the communities are more bothered by how to overcome hunger than COVID-19.
“If you look at it economically, everybody is hungry. If you go to a community and tell them you want to sensitise them on how to wish hands, they will tell you they are hungry,” he said.
This, he explained further, is part of what Risk Communication entails, and is the platform through which UNICEF aims to support the state.
“UNICEF’s aim is to support the state wherever they are working to pilot a model that is of international best practices and present to the state. That is what we’re doing now,” he said.
WHO Warns Against Lifting COVID-19 Lockdown
The World Health Organisation, WHO, yesterday urged countries to apply caution in lifting COVID-19 lockdowns, warning of a resurgence of infections if current restrictions were relaxed too soon.
WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai,said this during an online media briefing in Manila, The Tide source reports.
Kasai said that lockdown measures have proven effective by reducing transmission of the highly infectious disease while easing the burden on the overstretched health system.
“This is going to be a long battle. This is not the time to relax,” Kasai said.
Instead, he stressed the need to be ready for “a new way of living that strikes the right balance between the measures to keep the virus in check and enable vital parts of the economy and society to function.”
Kasai urged people in the region to protect themselves, their family and their community by physically distancing and frequently cleaning their hands.
Others are covering coughs and sneeze as well as staying at home and away from others, especially when sick.
He also urged the private sector to adopt new ways of working, such as establishing staff to work from home where possible and other measures to reduce the risk of infections in the workplace.
“For the government, this means preparing for the worst, having a system that works in every corner of the country to detect and care for people in case of large-scale community transmission,” he said.
Already, Kasai said, COVID-19 had upended millions of peoples’ lives and had caused a major economic impact on the world.
He said that the governments in the region were making “extremely complex decisions about introducing or enhancing or easing or lifting lockdowns and physical distancing measures.
“As we move forward in these difficult times, our lives, our health systems and approach to stopping transmission must continue to adapt and evolve along with the epidemic.”
According to him, until a vaccine is found, the process of adapting to the epidemic will have to become a new normal.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing this but WHO strongly urges that decisions on measures be guided by public health principles, the lifting of lockdowns, and other measures that need to be done gradually.
“If restrictions are relaxed or lifted before the strong system is in place to identify, isolate and care for this sick, and trace and quarantine their contacts, this will likely lead to a resurgence of diseases.
“As long as the new Coronavirus is circulating, no country is safe from potentially overwhelming outbreaks,” he said.
As at yesterday, Ghana had lifted its three weeks lock down imposed to tackle the spread of the disease.
COVID-19: Body Charges Rivers On Thorough Hand Washing
Amidst fears associated with the dreaded Coronavirus, which has been detected in most states, the Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), says it has taken necessary precautionary measures to combat the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Speaking while fielding questions from journalists, the General Manager of the Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), Mr. Napoleon Adah, said such measures were aimed at raising awareness on proper and regular hand washing, and the use of alcohol base hand sanitiser.
“As an agency saddled with the responsibility of hand washing and personal hygiene, we are working in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Rivers State Ministry of Health in order to carry out adequate advocacy and sensitisation to the communities on the inherent dangers of COVID-19,” Adah said.
He further commended the Rivers State Governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike for his effective leadership to curb the spread of the virus in Rivers State.
According to him, there are several committees set up by the Governor to create adequate awareness in the area of COVID-19. This, he said has invariably made the state to be Coronavirus free.
The RUWASSA boss, who is also an environmental disaster risk management expert, noted that the agency in collaboration with UNICEF is currently working out modalities to provide automatic hand washing facilities to the various LGAs of Rivers State.
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