The Federal Government on Monday faulted the industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions, describing it as unfortunate.
The government also said the strike was capable of reversing the nation’s gains and endangering more lives in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID – 19, Boss Mustapha, stated these in Abuja during the joint national briefing of the PTF.
He however stressed the contribution of the nation’s health workers to the recorded gains and commended the National Association of Resident Doctors for calling off their strike.
Mustapha said, “We, therefore, call on JOHESU to stand up to be counted at this critical moment because a continuation of the strike could jeopardise the small gains made in the fight against the virus and the efforts to transform our health systems.”
According to him, the Minister of Labour and Employment has assured that every effort was being made to resolve all issues and have JOHESU call its members back to work.
He also lauded the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for keeping the land borders closed because those were potential points for importing the virus into Nigeria.”
Speaking on school reopening by some states, the SGF said, “I wish to reiterate the need for more vigilance in adhering to protocols appropriately developed with the guidance of experts. The fear of a likely spike and/or resurgence should always put us on our toes. Always remember that a number of countries, including Israel, have announced new stringent measures. These are warning signs for us in Nigeria and Africa.”
Mustapha stressed that last Friday marked six months since the World Health Organisation used the term ‘pandemic’ to characterise the multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 reported around the world on March 11, 2020.
He said, “The PTF updated you last week about the progress made with candidate vaccines and the phases of the trials. We also assured you that Nigeria will not be left out when eventually access is needed for a safe and effective vaccine certified by global public health authorities.
“Given this timeline, however, we do not expect vaccines to be available for countries till the second half of 2021. What this means is that we need to, more than ever before, adhere to the prescribed NPIs and diligently avoid contracting the virus.”
The PTF said it had registered over 9,400 passengers scheduled to arrive in Nigeria as of Monday, 10 days after the country opened its airspace to international flights.
According to the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, a total of 9,409 passengers had been captured through the online portal created to capture information on international travellers, since the airspace was reopened on September 5, 2020.
Aliyu said, “Since starting this process, I am pleased to inform you that travellers arriving in Nigeria have been using the international travel portal.
“So far, 9,409 travellers have registered on the portal, where 5,541 persons have made payments through the portal. Based on our technical analysis, it appears that five per cent faced technical difficulty with payment. About a third of travellers did not register with the portal and we do not know whether these travellers subsequently paid on arrival or were able to get to a bank to pay for it.”
The PTF coordinator warned those arriving in Nigeria against evading the mandatory reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test for COVID-19 seven days after their arrival, warning that both Nigerians and foreign nationals would be sanctioned.
Aliyu also recalled that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, was at the last briefing by the PTF on the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, as well as by-elections in other parts of the country.
He said, “If you are going for voting, you must wear your facemask, sanitise your hands and observe all those measures, including the physical distancing to protect yourself and others around you. Please remember, no mask means to vote.”
Aliyu stated that the PTF had remained transparent in the utilisation of funds allocated to the fight against the pandemic, especially towards mobilisation of laboratories for sample collection and tests. He also urged more laboratories to apply for COVID-19 test.
The PTF coordinator also hailed private sector partnership especially towards smooth and safe international flights, saying that some technical hitches being recorded would be addressed soon.
Aliyu, while answering questions from journalists, also disclosed that the PTF had only spent N3bn out of the N22bn made available to it, disclosing that the money was shared with security agencies and ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government.