COVID-19: PTF accuses religious bodies of sabotage

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The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control on Thursday accused some religious organisations of flouting national response guidelines by holding large crowd events.

It also said that a second wave of the pandemic may have begun, considering the rising infections.

PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who spoke during a briefing, said the pandemic’s impact has resulted in mental health issues, drug use and gender-based violence.

He said “We have observed, rather sadly, that Nigerians, particularly some faith-based organisations, have continued to hold events of large gatherings capable of spreading the virus.

“The PTF urges all sub-national entities that signed the protocols with these organisations and have primary responsibility for enforcing the protocols to step up their roles of enforcement.”

On how to address the mental health issues, Mustapha said: “The solution is to exercise enormous self-restraint and vigilance.

“The PTF urges that citizens should take advantage of the mental health programmes nearest to them. In Abuja, for example, the Federal Medical Centre in Jabi is the facility to visit.”

According to him, the country’s COVID-19 infections witnessed significant increase after a period of low numbers. “The analysis shows that the 1,607 new confirmed cases are higher than the numbers recorded in the week of Nov. 29 – December 5, when a total of 1,102 cases were recorded,” he said.

The Federal Government said it was making plans to procure, at least, 20 million COVID-19 vaccines.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who spoke at the PTF briefing, said: “We are a population of 200 million. There is the hope of vaccinating as many people as possible.

“We want to start with at least 20 million doses, which we are expecting from the COVAX facility, beginning with those who are working in the health sector – who are exposed to risks and are highly exposed and then to vulnerable people who are more at risk. That whole strategy is still being developed.

“Regarding the budget, what we discussed is that it is good to speak with the National Assembly to set aside a certain amount – not that we know exactly what it is going to cost, but we have something to start with when the need comes.

“We do not have a real budget yet because nobody can really measure the volume or extent of expenditure. It is just to have something you can put your hand into, even if it is for a down payment.”

National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said a likely second wave of the pandemic may have begun.

He said: “Sadly, COVID-19 is still very much with us and if anything, we are seeing what is potentially a second wave.

“We’ve seen this with the numbers that have been coming up in the last few days, the increase in testing will not explain this; 25 per cent increase in the last one week, 92 per cent increase in cases. So, it’s very clear that the number of cases is dramatically going up.”

Country Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said WHO will only validate a vaccine that is truly efficacious and safe.

“We are aware that some national regulatory agencies have approved emergency use of some vaccines in the UK and also in the U.S., and others may follow.

“I want to emphasise that for WHO to validate a vaccine for emergency use, there is a process and a strategic advisory group of experts on vaccine immunisation which advises the Director-General on the validation process,” he said.

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