By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
The federal government has warned striking health workers in the country not to jeopardise the little gains it has recorded in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, gave the charge on Monday during the briefing of the Taskforce.
He said Nigeria continues to progressively witness declining confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a record low number of 79 cases on Sunday, September 13, 2020.
According to him, while this suggests that the country is winning the war, the reality is that she (Nigeria) needs to improve on her commitment to eliminating the virus completely by abiding with the protocols “so that we can return to a semblance of what was our normal life”
“One critical element we must not lose sight of is the fact that our cautious approach has tremendously helped in our containment efforts. Therefore, we should avoid complacency at all cost.
“Our focus should go beyond flattening the curve and ridding our land of this virus just as we did with the poliovirus.
“Similarly, the contribution of our health workers has no doubt contributed to our gains. In this regard, the PTF wishes to appreciate the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) for calling off their strike action.
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“The PTF, however, views the recent declaration of industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) as rather unfortunate and capable of reducing our gains and endangering more loss of lives.
“We, therefore, call on JOHESU to stand up to be counted at this critical moment because a continuation of the strike could jeopardize the small gains made in the fight against the virus and the efforts to transform our health systems.
“The Hon. Minister of Labour & Employment has assured that every effort is being made to resolve all issues and have JOHESU call its members back to work”, he stated.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire on his part said though Nigeria continues to record declining positivity rates every day, “we are reluctant to conclude that we are halting the spread of disease, because some states have not sustained the testing rate that would give us more assurance.
“Only 13 States, for example, reported their figures in the past 24 hours. This can be better. Until all parts of the country can sustain a certain testing rate, it would seem presumptuous to conclude that we are flattening the curve.
“In the words of Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), we are not safe until everyone is safe.
“I therefore again request our state governments to ramp up the testing momentum, so that we can together get control of the spread of this disease in our country”.
Ehanire also urged striking health workers to return to work as their action could have disastrous effects on the system.
He said; “It is gratifying that the National Association of Resident Doctors has called off their strike, but unhelpful that the Joint Health Sector Union has begun theirs.
“The position of the Ministry of Health is that strikes by healthcare workers jeopardize the lives of citizens, especially at such times of global health emergencies as now.
“Nigeria needs the service of all her health workers, to control COVID-19 spread. Issues around allowances are multisectoral and have always been solved with negotiations, no matter how long it took.
“I acknowledge the commitment of health workers who continue to man the frontlines in the fight against this disease and use this opportunity to appeal to JOHESU to suspend their industrial action, not to erode gains we have since made in health care delivery.
“The FMoH is doing all within its power to expedite processes that address the bones of contention”.
Head of Epidemiology at the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Mrs Elsie Ilori, restated the position of the agency that travellers into Nigeria must self-isolate for seven days, after which their results would determine whether they would be admitted or asked to go on with their lives.
“We urge all incoming passengers to take responsibility and contribute to the efforts being made to halt the spread of Covid-19”, Ilori said.
She said some states have issues with their laboratory and have been asked to send their samples to NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika announced that all government-owned and government-approved airports can now operate domestic flights.
“The privately-owned but government approved should however check with the NCAA with regards to safety rules. International flight charter and those for technical stops would however still require approval”, he stated.