The Federal Government of Nigeria says it has released a total of N50bn to states to enable the sub-nationals have enough resources push for increased testing and improved surveillance.
The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said this on Tuesday in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the task force.
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Aliyu, who urged the governors to use the resources for the purpose that the federal government had given, warned that there must be continuous investment in ensuring that the pandemic is defeated.
He noted that the curves of the pandemic had not been flattened in the country.
He also said that the government’s massive testing for COVID-19 would begin this week nationwide.
Dr. Aliyu also said that a list of the first 100 passports of passengers that have failed to show up for the test at day 14 since arrival will be published once it is established that they had no cogent reason for their failure to turn up for testing at day seven of their arrival.
“This week marks the beginning of a major initiative of increased testing for COVID-19 in the country.
“Congratulations to Lagos and FCT for testing at least 81 percent of their population [the targeted population].
“Three states are well on their way, Plateau, Gombe and Rivers.
“They have already gone beyond 50 percent mark of the target.
“But quite a number of states have not even reached even a quarter and we continue to be concerned because we can say with a fair degree of confidence that we know what is happening in Lagos and FCT when it comes to COVID-19 but we cannot say the same of other states.
“So, we thank all states governors for opening up sample collection centres across the country.
“We have given resources to state governments. Every state has received at least a billion naira, the states government have received the largest single bulk of the PTF intervention.
“As of today, a total of N50 billion went to states.
“So, we have enough resources at the state level to be able to push for increased testing and improved surveillance,” Aliyu said.
‘Curve not flattened yet’
He said that the federal government have been investing in ensuring that the pandemic comes down and that there is no doubt the nation have not flattened the curve yet.
He said: “For those of us that follow the numbers very closely, despite the fact that we are not testing enough, if you follow the number on a week to week basis, you would have noticed a change in the trajectory in the last one week based on the numbers released.
“So, please if you have symptoms, get tested. There is nothing to be afraid of if you are positive.
“We will take steps to make sure that you are managed properly and ensure you don’t infect your loved ones. And all of us have a role to play.”
He added: “Over the last few weeks, we have taken the initiative of opening up our economy.
“The combination of opening work places, schools, markets, airports, without any pharmaceutical interventions, is a toxic combination for any country already in the toss of COVID pandemic.
“Therefore, we should continue to be responsible for our actions, protect ourselves and those we relate with or relate to.
“The PTF is monitoring closely the situations in European countries that are now struggling to cope with the second wave of infections.
“Countries like England and France have already gone into lockdown as a number of cases continue to rise.
“Up to 7,000 passengers will potentially come into the country when we fully reopened our airports.
“The risk of reintroduction and a second wave of COVID-19 is real and this is why we cannot rest on our oars.”
Aliyu said that the nation’s airports, portal services are the first lines of defence when it comes to dealing with the pandemic, thus reminded the travellers that it was absolutely essential that they have double testing; testing before boarding and testing at day seven after arrival in the country.
He added: “When we looked at our data for the first 5,000 plus passengers coming into the country, 105 were positive at day seven of testing, whereas they only had negative PCR result on arrival.
“This is in a situation where we have not even opened our airports.
“Nigeria continues to have one of the strictest processes when it comes to entering the country as it relates to COVID-19.
“We are proud of this policy because this is what has been minimizing the risk of reintroduction of the infection.
“We know there had been challenges with the portal, we continue to work very closely with our IT to make sure that passengers have a pleasant experience.
“But there is also responsibility on the part of the passenger.
“A situation where a passenger pays for a test and knows that a test needs to be done on day seven but fails to present for testing despite reminders, is very difficult to understand.
“The reason we test on day seven is in order to pick up those small percentage of individuals that may have been incubating the illness on their way into the country and also to allow people stop isolating on day seven.”
‘Defaulters to have their passport suspended’
On the defaulters who refused to return for testing after seven days, he said: “We are looking at our data and over the next few days, we will be publishing a list of the first 100 passports that we will suspend for passengers that have failed to show up for the test at day 14.
“We will recheck with these passengers to make sure that they had not had the test by day 14.
“If there is no reason for failing to do so, we will suspend the passport for six months.
“This is the only way we can enforce testing at day seven and make sure that we follow up those that are infected.
“The alternative is to stop flights from countries with high prevalence.
“And for us, we don’t think this is an alternative that is palatable for all of us because we need to keep our economy up.
“And for this reason, we will start enforcing what we have right at the beginning of this protocol which we already have approval from Mr. President to do so.”
Cost of testing
Speaking on the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Aliyu said: “We know there has been issue about the cost of PRC testing and why it’s being done with the private sector.
“The cost is being determined by negotiation between the private laboratories and the states government.
“We have taken it as a priority to continue to push the cost of PCR testing down.
“When we started off with Abuja portal, the cost was about N42,000 but it’s down N39,500.
“Last week, we directed the Lagos portal to stop charging passengers outside Lagos N50,000.
“Kano is charging N36,000 per test, Imo is N38,000 per test.
“All these are based on negotiations with states but overall, our plan is to continue to push the cost down, continue to supervise private laboratories to ensure they fulfil their own part of the bargain.”