COVID-19: PTF Urges Caution, Vigilance Amid Declining Numbers

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has called on Nigerians to exercise caution and vigilance on the declining numbers of infections and deaths from the disease in Nigeria.

Speaking at the daily briefing of the task force on Monday, Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha noted that the virus is still potent and very dangerous.

According to him, his position is informed by the fact that, in spite of the nation’s enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing “have not been encouraging.”

He urged states to expand the scope of their sample collection so as to enhance testing.

“For us in Nigeria, the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases. Indeed, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases (138) was reported on 30th August 2020,” Mustapha said.

“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.

“While we intensify our targeted testing strategy, we still urge the States to expand the scope of their sample collection. The following four slides will illustrate the situation of testing in Nigeria.”

While expressing delight at the recovery of the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, the SGF congratulated all those that have recovered from the disease and urged them to tell their stories.

He noted that in spite of predictions that the African continent would be worst hit by COVID-19, data shows that Africa has accounted for just 5% of global confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3% of deaths.

“The PTF is however studying the manifestation of the virus in Nigeria and in other countries and continents in order to understand the nature,” Mustapha said.

“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.”

The PTF chairman acknowledged the rising cases of COVID-19 in Plateau State. He noted that while the development might be as a result of increased testing, there might also be a high number of undetected cases lying around.

“Equally important for us in Nigeria is that we are seeing a gradual shift in areas of high infection burden with Plateau State reporting the highest number of confirmed cases,” he said.

“Of course, this could be related to increased testing by citizens of the state. 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.”

The SGF disclosed that the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a draft landscape of the COVID-19 candidate vaccines.

On the reopening of the education sector, Mustapha urged caution, citing examples of countries that recorded increase in confirmed cases and fatalities after reopening schools.

“As at 28 August, 2020 a total 173 candidate vaccines are under evaluation. 33 are under clinical evaluation (8 at phase 3 trials)/ 143 candidate vaccines are in pre-clinical evaluation,” he said.

“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. Get tested!

“As we plan to re-open more sectors, we must stay the course and stick with our winning strategy which is anchored on the ability of our health institutions to contain the virus while we as citizens wear our masks 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.”

The chairman of the task force disclosed that as this phase of extended eased lockdown draws to an end, the PTF would be submitting the Seventh Interim Report to President Muhammadu Buhari.

“As we end this phase, the would be submitting the Seventh Interim Report to Mr. President and would be guided by his directives on the next phase,” he said.

“The decisions and approval would be transmitted at the national briefing on Thursday 3rd September, 2020.”

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