The Federal Government has insisted that the September 22 resumption date for primary and secondary schools in the country would not be extended because there are no strong reasons for such an extension.
Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, who stated this while briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting insisted that those who have reasons to believe that the schools should not re-open on that date should forward same to the Federal Government.
The Nigerian Medical Association, as well as other professional bodies have called for the extension of the resumption date for primary and secondary schools until the country is free of the the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD.
But speaking after the FEC meeting on Wednesday, Professor Chukwu said those calling for the extension of the schools resumption date were being driven by “irrational fears”.
He said unlike other countries where the disease is transmitted through community contact, Nigeria’s case was different and there was no cause for worry.
“The minister of education, after meeting with the commissioners for education from the 36 states and FCT decided when public schools should open, which is 22nd of September.
“In taking that decision, they considered the information that was given by the federal ministry of health that there is actually no reason now, with the expert information we have at hand, why schools cannot resume earlier than the original date of Oct. 13. I think people should just allow us to do the work we have been doing very professionally.
“It was based on advice given by the ministry of health that the minister of education took the original decision that it was going to be in October and nobody quarrelled with the minister.
“Now the minister, based on expert advice, has come back to say the resumption date will now be Sept 22 and some people are now quarrelling with it. I think we should allow the authorities to do their job. It is not an ordinary matter to be discussed the way we want to discuss it.
“If you have any evidence why there is need to review it (the resumption date of schools), supply such evidence to the minister of health and we will look at it.
“We have allowed a football match to go on and we screened every fan in Calabar, we screened every player and everybody, even the governor and the wife were screened.
“Unlike other countries, there is no community transmission of the disease in Nigeria; not one yet. But we have taken precautions. We may as well have said everybody should just be moving about, but we are taking precautions.
“There is no scientific basis for school resumption to be postponed. There is no community transmission of the disease in Nigeria. That is what separates Nigeria from other countries. It is what I call irrational fear, we don’t need to be irrational about this.
“You have asked about Nigerian Medical Association, but the only information I had from NMA is that someone informed me that he had been appointed to head a committee being set up by the NMA on Ebola Virus Disease and I replied that person, that as a government and as federal ministry of health, we look forward to collaboration.
“Now, collaboration doesn’t mean going to media. Collaboration means if they have information they should give it to the federal ministry of health or the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. I have not received any such information. So, if you are telling me what is in the media, I would investigate. I’ll probably call them to let me know the basis of what they are saying through the media.
“The most important thing is that we should work together, but let’s be rational in whatever we are doing so that we don’t cause panic. Panic is not welcome in this business, otherwise we will be in trouble,” he said.
On the reported case of a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, who allegedly had contact with the doctor who died of Ebola in Lagos, the Health Minister confirmed that she had been moved to Lagos for a more comprehensive test to determine whether she was really infected with the virus or not.
The minister commended authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, who took precautionary measures and promptly informed the Ministry of Health of their suspicion of the status of the student.
He added that at the moment, there are still 490 people under surveillance in Port Harcourt while those under surveillance in Lagos have reduced to only 16.