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COVID-19: FG accuses religious leaders of sabotage as cases rise

The Federal Government is accusing religious organisations of sabotaging fight against COVID-19.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has accused some religious organisations of sabotaging the national response in containing the spread of the COVID-19 in the country by holding large gathering events.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 (PTF), Boss Mustapha, said this on Thursday in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the task force.

“​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 and NPIs to step up their roles of enforcement,” Mustapha said.

According to him, the PTF has also continued to engage with relevant stakeholders on the issues arising from the impact of COVID-19, including the mental health, drug use and gender-based violence.

He noted that as the nation approach the end of the year, several competing governance related activities make it impossible for the task force to regularly brief as it desired.

He, however, assured all Nigerians, that the work of the PTF never stopped during such moments and that they have persisted on deepening risk communication and community engagement surveillance, testing and pursuit of a viable strategy for accessing the vaccine in a safe and effective manner.

He said: “It is true that family economies have collapsed, jobs lost, mental health issues have arisen, some persons have taken to drugs and rape has escalated.

“The solution is to exercise enormous self-restraint, vigilance and 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.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has persisted in the disruption of human activities.

“We have just received a report that one of the annual events of a critical security agency has ended abruptly out of abundance of caution, due to detection of an infected personnel.

“The significance of this occurrence is that testing is critical to the success of our National Response.

“We, therefore, urge Nigerian and organisers of events to vigorously pursue the path of testing especially for delegates attending events,” Mustapha said.


The situation now

He said that the PTF recognized that testing level is still very low in the country and that last week, the country’s COVID-19 infections witnessed yet another significant increase after a period of low numbers.

“The analysis show that the total number of 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.

“For emphasis, the breakdown of testing nationwide in the last one week by state is as follows, four states (Lagos, FCT, Rivers and Ogun) accounted for 64 percent of all tests conducted; seven states conducted more than 1,000 tests in last week; testing increased in 17 states; testing declined in 12 states (Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Yobe, Borno, Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue and Anambra).

“The summary of situation pertaining to cases across states in last one week is cases increased in 23 states; four states increase from zero cases in previous week; 12 states, 100 percent increase, more than double (Sokoto, Osun, Edo, Nasarawa, Kwara, Delta, Jigawa, Taraba, FCT, Rivers, Kano, Katsina)

“By implication, the biggest increases, by both absolute count and percentage increase, are FCT, 689 (129 percent), Kaduna, 365 (86 percent), Lagos, 694 (77 percent).
“States that have not reported a case in at least one week – Abia, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Cross River, Ondo, Niger, and Yobe,” he added.

He said that while government work towards rolling out a safe and effective vaccine fairly, citizens must continue the essential public health actions to suppress transmission and reduce mortality.

Mustapha said that even as vaccines are rolled out, people will need to keep adhering to public health measures so that everyone is protected.


Final report in 2 weeks

He also said that the PTF, in the next two weeks, will be submitting its final report to President Muhammadu Buhari.

He, however, said that this is not the end of the assignment as the virus had not gone away.

“Similarly, there is the significant issue of vaccine to address in the coming months and years.

“In recognition of this fact, a suitable transition programme that will take into consideration the multi-sectoral approach will be recommended.

“​The PTF wishes to appeal to all Nigerians to seriously consider putting on hold all non-essential trips and avoid large social gatherings during the Christmas and New Year festivities,” Mustapha said.

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