Hundreds of federal civil servants especially in Abuja are rushing to hospitals and designated centres to take the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of tomorrow’s deadline, Daily Trust reports.
This is in the wake of the ravaging effect of another COVID-19 variant named Omicron, which puts the world on red alert as many countries contemplate closing their borders and restricting movements.
The federal government had months ago announced that workers who were yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be denied access into government offices from tomorrow, December 1, 2021.
Our correspondents who went round Abuja saw hundreds of civil servants rushing to get the jab as many centres recorded a high influx of civil servants.
An anonymous source at the Federal Secretariat vaccination centre said many people were rushing to be vaccinated.
“So far, we have been able to vaccinate dozens of civil servants and their family members with the Astrazeneca and Modena today. Also, we have been able to administer the second round of the COVID-19 vaccine to many people today. The second jab is administered eight weeks after the first jab,” the health worker said.
Long way to go
Daily Trust could not get the verifiable data of workers under the employ of the federal government with a credible source saying while some workers were being retired, others are dead and the speed at which replacements were being carried out was slow.
“It will be difficult to tell you the exact number of civil servants…It will not be easy because of ongoing replacements, new recruitments, deaths and all that. So, I don’t think if you will get the exact number of civil servants that have been vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said.
Also, the Director Communication, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHoCSF), Malam Abdulganiyu Aminu, said they could not be specific on the actual number of civil servants vaccinated, especially for the fact that the exercise was ongoing.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, he said, “But reports reaching us from the various vaccination centres are encouraging. Many civil servants are responding to the call to get vaccinated.”
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaibu, had said that as of November 26, a total of 6,242,224 Nigerians had received the first dose of COVID-19.
He also said 3,487,298 Nigerians had received their second dose and therefore fully vaccinated.
This meant only 1.7 per cent of the total population target of 111,776,503 has been vaccinated.
The federal government had last Friday ordered federal workers from Grade Level 12 and below to resume normal duty effective from Wednesday, December 1.
The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, gave the order in a circular with ref. no: HCSF/3065/Vol.1/107 dated November 26, 2021.
She recalled that as part of the measures to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic, officers on GL 12 and below were directed to work from home.
She, however, said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the Vaccine Mandate Policy, which would require all federal government employees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, had announced that all federal workers would be barred from office from December 1, unless they showed proofs of their vaccination against the coronavirus.
Speaking with Daily Trust on Monday in Abuja, some of the federal workers expressed mixed feelings about the development.
While some of them said it was good that the government made the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory in the interest of the nation, few others said it violated their fundamental rights.
“I am happy that the government has made it mandatory for workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” a worker with the ministry of power, said.
“It is sad that we don’t trust our government because from the look of things, millions of Nigerians are not willing to take the jab and this is dangerous.
“Look at how the variant is mutating! Look at the Omicron that is ravaging the world. Government must deploy all the resources it has to ensure that all Nigerians are vaccinated not only civil servants. The civil servants are a fraction of the over 200m people in the country. It is saddening that up till now less than 2 per cent have been vaccinated. We are sitting on a time bomb,” he said.
“I hope the government is not using style to embark on workers retrenchment”, another worker with the ministry of education, said.
“Some of us have not been vaccinated and I need to be convinced that I would be fine after taking it. We need serious sensitisation because some people alleged that they took ill after taking the jab,” he said.
Daily Trust reports that as of Monday, November 29, Nigeria’s COVID-19 infection toll stood at 214,092; active cases at 3,862; total discharged cases at 207, 254; and the death toll at 2,976.
FG to review travels, other protocols over Omicron variant
As the world’s attention shifts to the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, the federal government said that it will review Nigeria’s travel and other protocols to curtail the entry or spread of the disease.
SGF Boss Mustapha said this on Monday in Abuja at the national briefing of the committee.
Mustapha said, “The world has been hit with a new COVID-19 Variant of Concern called Omicron as announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This variant is potentially dangerous and Nigerians and residents are required to exercise extra caution and vigilance in practice and enforcement of preventive measures.
“As the DG WHO stated today, the emergence of the highly-mutated Omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is. South Africa and Botswana should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant, not penalised,” he said.
He said that the PSC was reviewing the situation around the world and putting in place measures to curtail the impact of the variant on the country and that the new travel protocols would cover travels, testing, enforcement, surveillance and risk communication.
The SGF also said that the impasse on the Nigeria-UAE flights had been resolved in the interest of both parties.
“A date for the commencement of flights between the two countries will be announced in due course,” he said.
We should resist unscientific travel restrictions -Ramaphosa
Speaking elsewhere on the debate on restricting movement, South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa has said that the world needed to resist unjustified and unscientific COVID-19 travel restrictions that mostly hurt developing nations.
Ramaphosa said his country was being punished for its advanced ability to detect new variants early, as bans and restrictions threaten to harm tourism and other sectors.
“We need to resist unjustified and unscientific travel restrictions that are damaging the economies and sectors of the economies that rely on travel,” Ramaphosa said during a speech at the opening of the China-Africa Summit in Dakar.
“There is a world order where a country’s wealth is the difference between sickness and health,” he added. Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, who was hosting the summit, replied that Africa was in solidarity with South Africa and Africa “Will not close its doors to South Africa.”
Lagos airport, others on high alert
Our correspondent in Lagos reports that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had alerted relevant agencies in charge of health screening of inbound passengers at all international airports in the country.
Daily Trust learnt that officials had ramped up medical checks of passengers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, which is the busiest entry point into the country.
Sources told our correspondent that the Airport Manager at Lagos Airport was directed to summon an emergency meeting of all relevant agencies in charge of health checks at the airport.
The intent, it was learnt, was to impress on every stakeholder to be on high alert to detect any passenger.
It was learnt that authorities at other international airports like the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers and Enugu International Airports have been put on high alert to prevent the importation of the new variant into the country.
General Manager, Corporate Communications of FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, in a chat with our correspondent confirmed the development.
AfDB Investment Forum postponed
Also, following consultations with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), the 2021 Africa Investment Forum, which was scheduled for December 1-3, 2021, in Abidjan, has been postponed until further notice.
The President of AfDB, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina said: “The Africa Investment Forum is the premier investment marketplace for Africa. Several billion dollars of investment projects were scheduled for investment board rooms with project sponsors and investors at this edition of the Africa Investment Forum. Unfortunately, with rising global travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant and heightened concerns for health and safety, it is necessary, regrettably, to postpone the event. The health and safety of everyone come first.”
Similarly, the German Biotechnology Company, BioNTech, which manufactures vaccines, has started the development of a new COVID-19 vaccine that aims to combat the Omicron variant.
This was made known by the BioNTech spokesperson yesterday saying that to avoid wasting time, the company was developing an updated vaccine as well as testing its existence shot pending when the data is available.
The vaccine manufacturer, which partners with US giant, Pfizer on COVID-19 vaccines, is reported to have said that it had initiated the development of an adapted vaccine for Omicron to allow it to move forward quickly.
By Ojoma Akor, Sunday M. Ogwu, Abbas Jimoh, Grace Adetutu, Favour Aliyu (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)