COVID-19: Nigerian govt insists on travel protocols, says pandemic not over

The Nigerian government through the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 has said the travel protocols in place to curb the spread of the pandemic are not lifted yet.

Speaking on Channels TV Tuesday morning, the Technical Head, of the PSC Secretariat, Mukhtar Muhammed, said “it is not true that only Nigeria is still observing health declarations for COVID-19” as reportedly speculated in some quarters.

He said some developed countries may have been able to eliminate the travel protocol due to the level of high vaccination and booster doses that they have taken but “as of yesterday, about 85 countries still require people to do pre-departure testing.”

He said: “We have about 49 countries that still require that if you arrive in the countries, you have to do a PCR test.

He said: “We still have countries about 30 of them that require people to quarantine on arrival and this includes Canada, China, even in Africa, countries like Niger and Ghana still have some form of protocol or another.”

“There are countries like Russia that rushed to declare COVID-19 is over but came back a week later and said they made a mistake”.

Statistics

According to the statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 266,283 COVID-19 infections and 3,155 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The data further noted that as of 19 November, 55,278,769 of the total eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination have been fully vaccinated and that 12,522,593 are partially vaccinated across the 36 states and the FCT.

On PSC inactivity

When asked why the steering committee stopped holding meetings or press briefings, Mr Muhammed said “that is not correct,” explaining that the committee has been having technical meetings and the various agencies have been monitoring the situation of COVID-19 in the country.

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He said: “As you know, the idea of the steering committee is to work with the different agencies in government, civil society organisations, and other NGOs in the country to mount a formidable response to COVID-19.

“So yes, we’ve not been doing the public part of what people see, which is the press briefing. We’ve not been providing or changing the guidelines and making announcements like we were doing earlier on, and that is for a reason.

“It is because we need to have good control of the situation before we can change the protocol or make an announcement to the public”.

Speaking further, he admitted that the world has left COVID behind them, nobody is using facemasks, and nobody is doing the safety measures precautions, but COVID-19 is still around and people are getting sick and dying from COVID.

“Within the last few weeks, we recorded some cases. The reality is that the magnitude of the cases has gone down, not like where we were last year. Hospitalizations have gone down, mortalities have gone down tremendously, not only in Nigeria but also around the world,” he added.

Nigeria’s COVID-19 fight

The Nigerian government inaugurated the PSC, formerly known as the Presidential Task Force, in March 2020, to coordinate the activities towards containing the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.

Some of the major duties of the committee are to strengthen the national response strategy, particularly in the areas of testing, containment, and management of COVID-19, and also to build awareness among the populace.

According to Mr Muhammed, the committee is working for a certain period of time, while the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC will continue their work.

Normalcy

Mr Muhammed further explained that the health declaration form used to be universal but upon the outbreak of COVID-19, it was added to the form.

He noted that the declaration form will go back to normal only when COVID-19 no longer poses a risk.


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“Right now what we’re doing is reversing the situation to try to go back to the normal health declaration form without if COVID no longer poses a risk, you know, internationally, that hasn’t happened yet.

“And I’m glad you know to announce now to Nigerians that we have monitored the situation in the last six months, and we have seen a consistent decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19.

“So with this now, we are ready to look at what needs to change in the current regulation,” he said.

Importance of the protocols

Without the health declaration form, according to Mr Muhammed, “the danger is that we will not be able to track of only COVID-19, but other infections like Ebola which is now in Uganda and some other parts of Africa”.

He explained that the health declaration form will enable them to know when an infected person arrives, contact details for the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC to pick up that person almost immediately.

“Completing the health declaration form is good for us if we understand the advantage it is to protect you to protect Nigeria and to protect people and their families,” he noted.


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