From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic, has said it would on Thursday submit the Seventh Interim Report to President Muhammadu Buhari and waits his directives on the next phase implementation.
This is even as the extended eased lockdown phase of the Nation’s National Response ends this week.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this at Monday’s briefing in Abuja.
According to him, the decisions and approval of President Buhari would be transmitted at the national briefing on Thursday.
He called for caution as some states across the country announces dates and plans to reopen schools, urging them to learn from the experiences of other countries where opening of schools in some cities led to an increase in confirmed cases and fatalities.
He also stressed that as the nation plan to re-open more sectors, everyone must stay the course and stick with the winning strategy which is anchored on the ability of our health institutions to contain the virus while citizens wear facemasks properly, stay away from crowded places, avoid mass gatherings, maintain simple hygienic practices and as much as possible protect the elderly and most vulnerable to this pandemic.
“It is in the above context that the PTF appreciates the on-going calls for re-opening of the education sector and indeed some sub-nationals are already making preparations for such. Whilst the PTF does not discourage making such preparations, we need to be guided by experiences from countries such as Germany, France, the United States and the UK where opening of schools in some cities led to an increase in confirmed cases and fatalities,” Mustapha said.
He noted that globally, the number of confirmed cases has exceeded the 25 million mark, which is attributable to resurgence in countries hitherto considered to have effectively contained the virus while a good number of countries that have relaxed restriction measures are others actually re-introducing such, which in some cases are being made more stringent on the basis of lessons learned.
For Nigeria, Mustapha said the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases.
He said: “Indeed, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases (138) was reported on 30th August 2020. The PTF still urges caution and vigilance on the declining numbers because the virus is still potent and very dangerous. This position is informed by the fact in spite of our enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing have not been encouraging.
The SGF also recalled that at the outbreak of the pandemic, it was predicted that the African continent, with its weak health infrastructure and propensity to high disease burden, would be the worst hit.
He, however said that a recent publication by the Weekly Science Review has indicated that despite having 17 percent of the global population, Africa has accounted for just five percent of global confirmed COVID-19 cases and three percent of deaths.
He said, “Furthermore, a recent study by a group of African countries, in East Africa indicates that Africa has weathered the storm of the pandemic with a death ratio of 1:10000 persons at a total of 23,000 so far. According to the study, far more Africans have been infected with the virus and are now resistant to it for reasons such as more exposure to variants of the coronavirus and regular exposure to malaria and other infectious diseases, which prime the African Immune system to fight new pathogens.
“The PTF is however studying the manifestation of the virus in Nigeria and in other countries and continents in order to understand its nature. This should ordinarily give us encouragement that we are winning the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But unfortunately, the science, data and experience from other parts of the world indicate that such data should be viewed with extreme caution, as it is prone to be very deceptive and could be misleading if we let down our guards and be influenced to deviate from our strategy of cautious optimism that have brought Nigeria this far.”
Mustapha said that equally important for Nigeria is the that the nation is seeing a gradual shift in areas of high infection burden with Plateau State reporting the highest number of confirmed cases and which could be related to increased testing by citizens of the state.
He added, “However, we also need to look at the flip side that there are a number of highly undetected cases lying around which we need to discover and deal with early.”
He noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a draft landscape of the COVID-19 candidate vaccines and that as at 28 August, 2020 a total 173 candidate vaccines are under evaluation.
He said, “33 are under clinical evaluation (eight at phase 3 trials); 143 candidate vaccines are in pre-clinical evaluation; As the PTF has always maintained, early testing, detection, tracing and treatment remains the second-best option for dealing with this pandemic, with the first being staying safe. In this wise, we implore Nigerians to get tested and present cases requiring treatment early to reduce our avoidable fatalities. Testing positive for coronavirus is not a death sentence, not testing and concealing cases of symptoms and presenting late is what leads to death.”