REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE ON COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL BRIEFING OF MONDAY, 8th JUNE, 2020
I welcome you all to the National Briefing for Monday, 8th June, 2020.
- This briefing is significant because Nigeria on Saturday 6th June, 2020, reached the milestone of 100 days since the index case was recorded. You will all recall that the index case was recorded on 27th February, 2020.
- The COVID-19 has taken the entire world by the storm because it has disrupted all known systems, including governance, economy, financial system, travels, healthcare. Even the best of health care systems and arrangements succumbed to the force of the virus.
- Within our national setting, the weaknesses inherent in our national health care systems were made glaring and needed urgent attention. Government determined immediately, to take on the lessons and to ensure that the healthcare system experienced tremendous leap in human and infrastructure development as well as policy focus, stability and direction.
- Within the 100 days under review, the following modest accomplishments were recorded:
i. The number of laboratories in the COVID-19 network has increased from 2 to 30 – with a laboratory in every geopolitical zone in the country, providing increased access to testing.
ii. Over 80,000 tests have been conducted in the country.
iii. Over 13,000 health workers have been trained, increasing the human resource available for case management.
iv. More personal protective equipment and ventilators have been procured and prepositioned across the country.
v. The number of beds available for isolation and case management has increased from 3000 beds to 5000 beds nationwide.
vi. Developed new guidelines for homecare and general case management;
vii. Evacuated over 1000 Nigerians from different parts of the world while still reviewing the evacuation and quarantine protocols
viii. Enhanced the efficiency of the identification, testing, evacuation, and isolation process for confirmed cases;
ix. Gradually reopening the economy while balancing between lives and livelihood;
x. A Mid Action Review has been conducted in line with WHO guidelines, with lessons and recommendations being used to improve the response;
xi. Introduced Community Engagement and Risk Communication as critical factors that will help to flatten the curve in a sustainable manner;
xii. Engaged with development partners and the private sector to grow the capacity of the nation in the response;
xiii. Introduced several non-pharmaceutical interventions to slow down the spread of the virus.
There are several on-going infrastructure interventions being made by government, development partners and the private sector nationwide.
- The last hundred days has also brought out the best in the spirit of Nigerians. There has been tremendous private sector and corporate mobilization. Similarly, individuals have also sacrificed their little savings for the good of all. What these underscores is the strength of our communal culture and unity in diversity. The PTF thanks every one for giving hope in the face of a global pandemic, even when humanity seemed helpless
- In spite of these accomplishments, Nigeria, like the rest of the world has witnessed a steady rise in the number of infections. As at mid night on Sunday 7th June, Nigeria had the following statistics:
Confirmed cases: 12,486
- Based on the trend, science and data as guiding beacons, it has become obvious that Nigeria has entered the community transmission phase. This has significantly helped in identifying 20 high burden LGAs that accounts for over 60% of infections in Nigeria. The PTF is already pursuing precision actions on these high burden LGAs. It is therefore important for Nigerians to recognize the need to take responsibility and the significant role community ownership and risk communication will play in the future of our National Response.
- Over the last weekend, the ease of restriction on places of worship came into focus. It is important to note that the guidelines gave States the latitude and the opportunity to negotiate protocols that meet their peculiarities. We therefore urge our religious leaders and the entire populace to adhere to the guidelines issued by the PTF and the protocols agreed by the State Governments. The PTF continues to monitor compliance nationwide.
- The PTF wishes to emphasize that a great majority of Nigerians are still susceptible to COVIDー19, and if we allow it to transmit easily between us, it may be even more deadly. If everyone diligently observes the guidelines, we can collectively control the spread of the virus, and help to protect our health facilities as well as save lives.
- On 6th June, 2020, the PTF also visited the National Reference Laboratory to witness, first hand, the processes for testing. Experience, as it is said, is the best teacher. We can confirm that the process is rigorous, thorough and demanding. From the laboratories to the nurses, to our doctors and other medical personnel, enormous sacrifice is being made by these dedicated Nigerians.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, I have considered it important to reiterate the appreciation of the entire nation to all frontline workers who toil round the clock to ensure that we remain safe in this country. The visit has revealed the huge responsibilities shouldered by these young and committed professionals as well as the risks that they face on daily basis.
- The visit also enabled the PTF listen to the challenges faced at the National Reference Lab and to recognize such challenges as opportunities because they represent motivations for action. The shortage of reagents and supply chain issues are global issues because the entire world is seeking to purchase the same commodities. To the PTF, the motivation for action is to look inward, plan ahead and develop our domestic capacities. This is because COVID-19 is neither the first nor will it be the last pandemic. What is certain is that we must not allow the next pandemic to catch us unprepared.
- The strategic thrust of the National Response is to test, test and test. However, the visit to the NRL has shown that while we ramp up capacity for testing, we must also enhance the skills and size of manpower to run the laboratories. Moving from two to a network of thirty technology driven laboratories and coordinating them is certainly not a small feat.
- It is therefore significant to mention that a major outcome of the 100 days assessment is the recognition of the need for States to scale up responsibility for their public health response. In the medium to long term, we hope to build a network of state public health labs that will bring about sustainability in public health response in Nigeria.
- Since the commencement of our National Response, a lot of priority has been given to physical health management of people who are affected. I am pleased to inform you that PTF has commenced the process of integrating comprehensive psychological services program into its activities. This will be for the benefit of people who are in isolation, wellbeing of their families and communities. In this regard, we wish to recognize the Federal Medical Center, Jabi, FCT for spearheading this drive, which shall inevitably assume a national dimension because of the importance of mental health.
- As we mark the one hundred days after the index case, we remember all Nigerians who have passed away from the disease. We commiserate with their families and friends who have had to deal with the difficulty of losing their loved ones at this time. We pray that God will continue to console them and heal our land.
- At this point, ladies and gentlemen, the PTF appreciates the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC), the West Africa Health Organisation, the United Nations family, the European Union and a host of other partners for the support we have received so far.
- Finally, I wish to state that in the absence of a vaccine, Nigeria and the rest of the world must depend on public health, social measures and supportive management of confirmed cases. We urge all Nigerians to take individual and collective responsibility by adhering to public health advice such as:
• Frequent hand hygiene through hand washing or use of alcohol-based sanitizer;
• Use of face mask in public places; and
• Observe physical distancing of at least two metres.
- I now call on the Honourable Minister of Health, DG NCDC and the National Coordinator to update you, before we take the questions.
- I thank you for listening.