COVID-19: Federal Govt Disagrees With ASUU, NMA, Others On School Reopening

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The Federal Government, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), House of Representatives, among others has disagree on school reopening over coronavirus.

Federal Govt Disagrees With ASUU, NMA, Others On School Reopening

The federal government has justified its decision to reopen schools for the second term of the 2020/2021 academic session, saying the benefits of having children in school outweigh the risks of transmission of COVID-19.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Nigeria Medical Association, the House of Representatives and some other stakeholders had faulted the federal government’s resolve to reopen all schools, especially universities, without taking responsibility for the schools to meet COVID-19 precautionary guidelines.

But picking holes in their arguments, the federal government yesterday said children are not the face of COVID-19 at the moment, though they risk being among its highest and biggest victims.

Director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who spoke at the ongoing Virtual Plenary Session and Annual General Meeting of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) in Lagos noted that the current data and statistics for the welfare of children in Nigeria was sad and troubling, and having them stay out of school would further aggravate the situation by denying them what they require to have healthy and productive lives.

The director-general said that Nigeria had the highest number of children out of school, nearly 31million of children under the age of five and about half of the population under the age of 15.

He added that 10.5 million children were currently out of school and closure of schools may result to 10million being out of school forever.

Speaking at event with the theme “Child Survival in Nigeria Amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Issues, Challenges and Way Forward”, Ihekweazu said, “You can see why some decisions around school reopening are so difficult to make by the government; how do you balance the need to control this pandemic versus the other requirements children need to live healthy and productive?

“This pandemic is threatening efforts to prevent major causes of child morbidity and mortality, and threatening the small gains we have made over many years in a very difficult context that is ours.

“I, personally, still support the decision of the Federal Government to reopen schools and try as best as we can to mitigate the risks, at least for now.

“If things get out of hand, we may and we will consider this condition but we all understand that the lockdown had a huge impact on children”.

He said that the NCDC had played its role in mitigating the spread of the virus by supporting the Federal Ministry of Education (FMoE) and the states in developing guidelines and preparing a School Readiness Assessment which were conducted in schools.

Earlier, the director-general said the worst outcomes of the virus had been spared in children because the presentation in them was less severe, often asymptomatic and often not clinically significant to visit the hospitals.

“Just 10 per cent of our cases have been confirmed in children and one per cent deaths. The few deaths that occurred in children were likely to have happened to them through morbidity that led to deficits in coping with the virus,” he said.

Ihekweazu called for collaboration among governments, schools and parents to effectively protect children from contracting the virus.

Also, a Consultant Paediatrician, Dr Ngozi Onyia, said the healthcare system was plagued with many issues that stood as threats in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Onyia, who is also the Managing Director of Paelon Memorial Hospital, with branches in Ikeja and Victoria Island, Lagos, said her hospital had been presented with about 1,766 cases of COVID-19, which included 1,608 outpatients, 158 admissions and 23 deaths.

She said the major threats of health workers managing the patients included burn-out, exhaustion, high infections among staff, and over-regulation without clear guidance from government.

Other threats, she said, are lack of adequate and equitable access and unsustainable out-of-pocket payments for patients.

Onyia urged the government to engage in public-private partnerships, increase uptake of health insurance, reduce brain drain and encourage local private investment in healthcare to manage the current situation.

We’re Expecting Final Confirmation Of Vaccine From Covax – NPHCDA

Meanwhile, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), yesterday said it was expecting the final confirmation for coronavirus vaccine from Covax Initiative backed by Gavi Vaccine Alliance, World Health Organisation and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

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The executive director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

“We are expecting final confirmation soon from Covax on when our first doses will arrive through the programme. In parallel, we are speaking to both the African Union and manufacturers to get the doses we need,” he said.

Shuaib noted that the country was expected to take delivery of its first coronavirus vaccine doses in February, with health workers, top government officials and vulnerable people to be given priority.

He said the country targeted to vaccinate 70 per cent of its population in the country.

Shuaib said the first batch would be enough for a maximum of 50,000 people, equivalent to about 0.00025 per cent of the country’s population.

He said it would be allocated to healthcare professionals working in the coronavirus isolation centers and those supporting them, as well as government officials.

Shuaib stated that the country had also acquired three ultra-cold freezers to keep the Pfizer vaccines at the required temperature.

According to him, in the long term, government plans to invest in vaccines that are easier to store, such as those created by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford.

NAN reports that Nigeria hopes to get 42 million COVID-19 vaccines to cover one fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme.

The initial vaccines would come as part of Nigeria’s plan to inoculate 40 per cent of the population this year and another 30 per cent in 2022, with 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arriving by the end of January. (NAN)

Nigeria Records 1,964 New Cases

Meanwhile COVID-19 infections in Nigeria have continued to surge as the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said it has recorded 1,964 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to 116,655.

The NCDC disclosed this on its official website.

The country on January 21 marked a new single-day increase in COVID-19 cases and has so far tested 1,203,113 people since the first index case was announced on Feb. 27, 2020.

The NCDC said that additional seven people died from coronavirus-related complications in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,485.

It said that with 1,310 people discharged from various isolation centres across the country, after testing negative to the virus, the number of recoveries had increased to 93,646 as many states struggled with mounting infections and hospitalisation.

“Our discharges today include 798 community recoveries in Lagos State and 191 community recoveries in Ondo State managed in line with guidelines,” the website stated.

The NCDC stated that the 1,964 new infections were recorded in 23 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the last 24 hours.

It said that Lagos, the nation’s epicentre, led with 824 new infections, the FCT came a distant second with 246, followed by Plateau with 166 infections.

Other states are Kaduna-128, Ogun-76, Nasarawa-74, Anambra-69, Edo-50, Rivers-45, Ondo-44, Niger-40, Oyo-38, Adamawa-35, Kano-31, Akwa Ibom-27, Gombe-19, Kwara-13, Ekiti-12, Delta-6, Kebbi-6, Bauchi-5, Ebonyi-4, Osun-3 and Zamfara-1.

The agency said that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), activated at level 3, was coordinating response activities nationwide.

Amid Restrictions, States Embrace ICT To Attract Investors

Constrained by travel restrictions occasioned by the second wave of COVID-19, state governments are now investing more on Information Technology (ICT) to attract investors.

LEADERSHIP Weekend checks revealed that as a result of the negative impact of the pandemic on their investments and other businesses, most states of the federation have reactivated their official websites which had remained nonfunctional for a long time.

It was gathered that state governments that hitherto neglected their official websites have returned to them, ensuring that the dormant sites are now up to date with latest information on investment opportunities.

In Sokoto, the director-general of the state ICT Directorate, Dr Nasir Dan’iya, said all information about the state can be gotten from its website.

He said the state has advanced to the level where each of the ministries, departments and agencies, including the state House of Assembly all have their websites updated on daily basis.

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“But the good news is that all information from the various sites is equally channeled to the state central website. I can tell you with all honour that the state website is open and accessible to all,” he said.

Also in Akwa Ibom, the state’s official website, www.aksgoonline, has been reactivated and readily available to provide useful information to investors about available investment opportunities in the state.

Our correspondent gathered that the website is available to both local and international investors to enable them get firsthand information without necessarily traveling to the state.

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini-Ememobng, said with the aid of the website, the state has continued to experience rapid economic transformation which has attracted many investors, especially in the industrial and manufacturing fields despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said since the state is blessed with untapped mineral resources, the government is determined to embark on economic diversification through aviation tourism and sustainable agriculture, even as it would continue to play a major role in entrepreneurial and industrial development.

The commissioner said apart from the official website, the state government has also created an official twitter handle, @aksgovt, to give out timely updates of news, videos and photographs for investors to know more about the state.

Similarly, Taraba State has ensured an active website loaded with necessary information for investors to know much about the state.

Senior media assistant to the governor, Bala Dan Abu, said the state website has been active and most state news and updates are being posted on the site.

However, the commissioner for Information, Bar Danjuma Adamu, did not disclose the exact amount spent on website maintenance each year

Commenting on how the state government leverages on ICT, he said the state government is spending much every month to keep the website working, which explains why COVID-19 updates, budget expenditure, local government allocation, among others, can readily be found on the site.

He stated that information about the state, numbers of local government, tribes, tourist centers and others can be found in Taraba State government website at tarabastate.gov.ng

Also, Delta State government has maintained a functional website it regularly updates with the needed information and is run by the ICT unit of the ministry of Science and Technology on www.deltastate.gov.ng.

The commissioner for Science and Technology, Engr Matthew Tsekiri, said the state website is one of the economic development pillars of the state to gain national competitive advantage.

“It has improved the quality of human life because it has been used for learning and educating the media in promoting and campaigning practical and important issues such as the health and social area. It has provided wider knowledge and has assisted in gaining and accessing state information.

“The state website has become an integral part of Delta lives and increases its importance in people’s lives and it is expected that it will continue, to the extent that ICT literacy will become a functional requirement for people’s work, social, and personal lives,” he said.

However, Kaduna State government has saddled its COVID-19 taskforce team with the responsibility of handling issues of COVID-19 prevention, infection and medication but has no website on the subject matter.

A competent government source who disclosed this said, “The government of Kaduna State is on top of issues as it relates to COVID-19 but has no website. The state is very ready to handle cases of COVID-19 in the face of the rumoured second wave of the pandemic.

“The Government has mobile courts in place to try violators of COVID-19 guidelines and protocols while wearing facemasks is compulsory”.

In Kwara, the state government’s website, Kwarastate.gov.ng, is functioning.

The website was updated last on January 15, 2021 with the news of the launch of the state 10-year Agriculture Transformation Plan.

The chief press secretary to the state governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, said the government has intensified efforts in making use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to conduct its activities and sell the state to the outside world.

He said Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has been according e-governance the desired priority even before the advent of COVID-19.

Ajakaye said since the Advent of COVID-19, the governor had conducted all the state executive council meetings virtually as well as organising workshops on commerce and industry with some youths and other stakeholders virtually.

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In Plateau, the state government said it has a functional website that investors from Nigeria and any other part of the world can assess for any information about the state.

The state director-general of Information and Communication Technology ICT, Daser David, made the disclosure while speaking with our correspondent in Jos.

He said all financial transactions of the State can be assessed by anybody using the state website’s, adding that the website was updated on January 19, 2021and that they are leveraging on the website to promote despite COVID-19.

He said for any information regarding the state, investors can log in plateaustate.gov.ng for any information.

Imo State website is also functional and appears updated on information regarding the investment opportunities and other needed information.

A visit to the website revealed a rejuvenation of the site which is now updated on a regular basis.

Speaking, the commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, stressed that the state government recognises the importance of ICT to the modern world which is now a global village.

According to him, ICT rules the world and nations that recognise the importance of this are doing exploits.

Emelumba explained that the state government has put in motion a process to digitiwze all departments in the ministry and parastatals, adding that the aim is to provide a platform to engineer ease of doing business in the state.

In Benue, the chief press secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, Terver Akase, told our correspondent that the state Website is undergoing upgrade.

He said, “Our website is undergoing upgrade and we will keep you posted when the whole process is completed.”

Ebonyi State government’s website, www.ebonyistate.gov.ng, which was developed by special assistant to the governor on ICT, Mr Emeka Nwankwo, is functioning optimally.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend, the state commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Barr Uchenna Orji, said the state government since the launch of the website has ensured all activities of government are uploaded on it.

Orji said to ensure effective and efficient utilization of the website, the special adviser has the mandate of the State Executive Council to update the sites periodically.

He said the state government has continued to leverage on the information in the website to attract both investors and partners.

He pointed out that partners and investors, through the information on rice production, the industrial clusters and the shopping mall, have visited the different ministries in the state to invest and partner with the government.

Orji further stated that more concerted effort are being made to ensure other ministries also launch their own websites to create more opportunities for partners to access information on the state government programmes and activities.

Also like many states in the country, Ekiti now has a functioning and active website in addition to many other social media platforms.

The website, http://ekitistate.gov.ng, was last updated on January 20, 2021 with the news story of Governor Kayode Fayemi congratulating Bishop Mathew Kukah on his recent appointment into Papal Dicostery

Speaking on how the state government is leveraging on ICT to promote the state, the chief press secretary to the governor, Yinka Oyebode, said the state has two active websites.

Oyebode said one of the site serves all manner of purposes and the second one created sometime in June 2020 was basically for COVID-19 and related health issues.

He said, “The official website of the government is all encompassing. On it you can find tender bids, past and present annual budgets of the state, contract bidding, policies of the government, news about activities of state government as well as the names and designation of state exco members and every information about the government and several others.

“The other one created mid last year gives the information about covid-19 (quarantine, vaccine) and other health issues concerning the state”.

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