With the uptick in the number of fresh COVID-19 cases in the country, the federal government yesterday advocated ways to make it a criminal offence for anyone in the country not to wear face masks.
The federal government’s advocacy, which entails state enacting laws to punish errant citizens, is in furtherance of its determination to get people to embrace non-pharmaceutical ways of combating the virus.
The federal government, in the last three weeks, has called on Nigerians to own the fight against COVID-19, following the spread of the virus reaching a community spread level.
It warned that in the absence of drugs or vaccine for the treatment or prevention of the disease, people would have to take personal responsibility for the protection of their lives by wholly embracing non-pharmaceutical methods of combating COVID-19 such as wearing face masks, regular washing of hands and maintaining social distancing.
An update yesterday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that Nigeria recorded 675 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 20,919 the number of confirmed cases in the country.
Of the 675 fresh infections, Lagos recorded 288 new cases, Oyo 76, Rivers 56, Delta 31, Ebonyi 30, Gombe 28, Ondo, Kwara and Kaduna 20 each, Ogun 17, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 16, Edo 13, Abia 10, Nasarawa and Imo nine each, Bayelsa, Borno and Katsina eight each, Sokoto and Bauchi three each, while Plateau has two cases.
It said: “Nigeria has recorded 20,919 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 7,109 persons have been discharged, while 525 have died.”
However, with the widespread violations of COVID-19 regulations by people in many states of the federation, the federal government yesterday called on states to introduce laws that will make the use of face masks mandatory.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, the National Coordinator of the task force, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said criminalising the non-use of face masks had become necessary in view of the laxity of Nigerians to all the protocols introduced to stem the escalation of the pandemic in the country.
Aliyu added that the public only complied with the protocols and guidelines on COVID-19 after the initial two weeks of the lockdown of parts of the country following a spike in the cases of the virus in March.
He, however, said in subsequent weeks, in spite of the exponential rise in number of people infected, many citizens appeared to have become lackadaisical in complying with the regulations.
The national coordinator noted that people were selectively using face masks and cloth coverings to avoid being scolded by security agencies or when challenged to so.
”We are now working with the security agencies and state governments to make the use of face masks in the public mandatory. There is total non-compliance with use of face masks and social distancing. It is unfortunate that about 70 per cent of Nigerians still believe that COVID-19 is not an issue. We are not taking this issue seriously enough. On social media platforms, people still talk of conspiracy theory in reference to COVID-19. We must accept that COVID-19 is with us; we need to fight it and must work with state governors to take measures to protect citizens,” Aliyu said, adding that Nigerians must take measures to avoid contracting the disease.
Also speaking the Chairman of PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, debunked the notion of a conspiracy theory about the virus.
He said at this stage of the ravaging effect of the virus in the country, he was at a loss what purpose a conspiracy theory would serve.
He added that continued denial, blame game and conspiracy theory would not help the efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.
”I don’t know what purpose a conspiracy will serve. The figures of infections and fatalities we have in Nigeria are just statistics. You can place the death of somebody you know, so conspiracy theories are abstract – the reality of the situation is that COVID-19 is real.
“I have a colleague (Abba Kyari) who was instrumental to my appointment as the Chairman of the PTF. Kyari nominated me as the man best suited to lead this response. Do I need conspiracy theory to tell me that it is real?
”I have lost a personal friend, a classmate of over 45 years, a chief judge of a state, who fell victim of COVID-19. I have buried people in the community. I don’t need any conspiracy theory,” he stated.
FG: No State is COVID-19-free
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that no state in the country can claim to be COVID-19 free.
It explained that the only way states and countries across the world can be COVID-19 free is when a vaccine to effectively fight the virus is discovered.
NCDC Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the press conference yesterday, urged states to intensify their efforts on strict compliance with preventive measures.
He said: “Concerning some states declaring themselves COVID-19 free because they were discharging patients, I will like to say no single state in Nigeria is COVID-19 free, not one.
“No country in the world is COVID-19 free. Even New Zealand that is an island state is still having new cases after a period of not having any. We can’t separate ourselves from the rest of the country because we live in a context and viruses spread.
“That is why prevention is very important; if you can’t prevent, then you must detect. It is that detection that we call lab testing, and that is why we have to scale our lab test.
“We can only start talking about any state or community being disease-free when we have an effective tool to fight that disease. “That will come when we have a vaccine. Until then, there is no easy way to say this. “We have to keep pushing on these preventive measures and we have to develop our laboratory capacity to test.
“I think there are six or seven states in the country that do not have a testing facility yet; there are some that are in progress using the GeneXpert technology. By next week, we will be able to say that the country is covered.
“The challenge will now be about how to convey the samples from one part of the state to the other depending on how big the state is. We want to make sure we have testing capabilities in every state in Nigeria.”
FG Strives to Keep Case Fatality Ratio Low
Nigeria is currently implementing a twin-strategy of halting the spread of COVID-19 infection and curtailing its fatality rate on citizens.
Ihekweazu said the country had higher COVID-19 fatality ratio than Ghana and South Africa when viewed in global terms.
“Despite being relatively low, our fatality ratio is still higher than countries like Ghana and South Africa when considered in global terms,” he said.
With regards to COVID-19 laboratory testing turnaround, Ihekweazu said the centre could now deliver results within 36 hours.
According to him, at present no state in the country is without a COVID-19 case.
Nigeria Receives Medical Supplies from UN, EU
Also at the briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said Nigeria received a large consignment of medical supply on Saturday.
He said the medical supply was the first of a series of deliveries from the UN Group and the European Union.
“The donation is made up of a large number of various categories of personal protective equipment (PPE) and 547 oxygen concentrators, courtesy of the WHO, which our experience in Nigeria shows, are much more in use than ventilators,” he said.
He added that the consignment was handed over to the ministry by the Resident Coordinator of the UN in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon.