COVID-19: 26 states yet to meet testing target – PTF

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has said that only the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos state have achieved the target of testing one per cent of their populations for the deadly virus.

The taskforce said 26 states were yet to test up to 25 per cent of the target rate of one per cent of their populations.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha said this at the bi-weekly Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday.

According to him, apart from FCT and Lagos State, three states that have crossed 50 per cent of the target rate . The states are Plateau, Gombe and Rivers.

“States that have achieved the testing target of 1 per cent of its population are FCT and Lagos closely followed by three states that have crossed 50 percent; Plateau, Gombe and Rivers.

“Twenty-six others are yet to measure up to 25 percent. This is considered a serious problem which is further compounded by the increasing general apathy and disbelief about the risk of COVID-19 in Nigeria,” he said.

Mr Mustapha who doubles as the chairman of the Taskforce recalled that at the last briefing, he had said that the PTF had compiled all its observations and findings and would in due course present the 8th Interim Report and recommendations to Mr. President, to enable the National Response to proceed into the next phase.

He said that the 8th Interim Report focused on the primary objective of consolidating the gains recorded in the National Response over a period of six weeks which ended on 13th October 2020.

Mr Mustapha noted that it was due to other exigencies, including the celebration of the diamond anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence, that the phase had to be extended.

The SGF noted that many countries on different continents have, however, gradually commenced reopening and adapting to the reality of the pandemic lasting longer than originally expected.

He said that schools were reopening with strict guidelines; airlines have commenced flights with enforced advisories and other aspects of social engagement continue to be gradually reincorporated.

The SGF said that the response remains buoyed by the ever-increasing global collaboration among nations and with international organisations.

He expressed delight that the PTF had observed and learned great lessons from these jurisdictions and have similarly taken measures to reopen the economy albeit in a safe and cautious manner.

Mr Mustapha also said that as much as the world was coming to terms with the new normal, emerging statistics indicate that Nigerians still have to be cautious, vigilant by taking responsibility due to the second wave of the virus in many parts of the world.

“In Nigeria, the PTF continues to rely on data, research, science and experience of other nations to inform decisions at all stages. Our National response to COVID-19 remains targeted at achieving the purposes of epidemic control through reduced transmission and minimizing mortality among vulnerable parts of the population.

“Till date, Nigeria has sustained the substantial successes earlier recorded. Although statistics show that the pandemic is not slowing down globally, the number of recorded cases in Nigeria has remained between 100-200 daily for the last four weeks with a progressive fall in the case fatality rate to 1.9 percent,” he said.

He said that the reduction in the test positivity ratio to less than 5 percent further corroborates the belief that the epidemic curve is flattening, despite the unsatisfactory testing rate in the country attributable to general apathy among the populace.

The SGF said that as at October 14, 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 was 60,834; total active cases 7,575; 1,116 deaths; 52,143 recovered cases; while the cumulative number of samples tested was 567,857.

The SGF said that number of laboratories established was 69 with at least one in each state. He said, “Presently, there is a molecular laboratory for COVID-19 testing in every state of the country and the additional funding provided by the Federal Government, should help to scale up testing for COVID-19.

“The PTF has concluded arrangements to test additional 100,000 at the various NYSC orientation camps nationwide, when they re-open soon; the PTF has also concluded arrangements to execute the National Testing Week as part of the arrangements to ramp up testing.”

Mr Mustapha also said that over 27,000 international passengers have arrived Nigeria since the resumption of international flights.

He, however, expressed concern over the low level of sample collection by states; increasing apathy, scepticism and disbelief; very low compliance with non-pharmaceutical guidelines by Nigerians; and low risk perception leading to low sample collection rate and decreasing testing.

Listing ways of avoiding second wave, Mustapha said that if the nation must avoid a second wave and continue to flatten the curve, it was imperative for all to jointly address these concerns and the PTF appeals strongly for collaboration and for all hands to be on deck.

He said, “The reopening of the international airspace has been largely successful with most passengers following the laid down regulations and adhering to testing requirements. We have not seen a spike of cases since the reopening of the airspace.

“The PTF, however, noted the huge challenge posed to our national response by states as a result of poor engagement which manifests strongly in the form of low level of sample collection across the country.

“After a very careful review of the national response, the PTF believes that while recent numbers point to a likely flattening of the curve consistent with emerging epidemic control, Nigeria is not yet ready for a full-reopening of the economy.”

The SGF said that President Buhari approved that Nigeria further relaxes the restrictions in this third phase of the response, while maintaining key limitations to curb the risk of a spike in cases.

He said, “The major changes proposed by the PTF are gradual and safe re-opening of schools and NYSC camps; re-commencement of sporting activities, in particular all outdoor activities such as football; sustaining the midnight to 4am curfew on movement nationwide; and removal of the limitation on civil servants allowed to come to work.”

He said that the President also approved maintaining the third phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for a period of four weeks with effect from 00.01am on Monday, October 19th, 2020 in line with amendments to address economic, socio-political and health considerations.


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