COVID-19 still around, hard to predict — SGF

Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, says the COVID-19 pandemic is still around based on reported cases in Nigeria and other countries across the globe but that the pattern it will take is hard to predict.

Mustapha said this during his keynote address on “Safeguarding Nigeria against the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Journey So Far’’ at a two-day Primary Health Care Summit held today (Friday) in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the PHC summit, organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency has “Re-Imagining PHC in Nigeria’’ as its theme.

The event is meant to galvanise stakeholders to invest and collaborative to implement a PHC revitalisation strategy for the country.

It is also geared towards launching a historic programme to transform the under-resourced, weak PHC system by leveraging private sector, international agencies and government collaboration.

The SGF, cautioned Nigerians against letting down their guards, adding that sustained observance of the COVID-19 protocols would enable the country to conquer the variants.

Mustapha noted that there had been good progress on the country’s vaccination campaign rate.

“while we continue to embrace and implement globally adopted prevention strategies, we advise that you continue to observe the protocols for prevention of the spread of COVID-19, namely hand washing, social distancing, wearing of nose mask (especially in public), among others,” he said.

Mustapha noted that despite global shortage of COVID–19 vaccines, the vaccination drive in the country progressed in different phases, expanding the eligible target population to include all adults aged 18 years and above.

He said “till this day, Nigeria recorded 255,092 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 3,142 deaths. When compared with global figures, Nigeria has been able to curtail the spread and detrimental effect of this deadly virus in spite of the overreaching challenge of a weakened health system.

“Over 67.9 million doses of four types of COVID-19 vaccines (AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) were received through support of the COVAX facility and governments of other countries, and we are expecting close to 47 million doses by the end of 2022.

“Similarly, we have reached over 10 million Nigerians with both first and second doses of the vaccines.’’

The SGF said that the virus came with challenges but that it gave the country ample opportunity to invest in its health infrastructure.

He also said that the Electronic Management of Immunisation Data system had strengthened the country’s ability to collect and manage real-time information on COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

The system, he added, enabled the country to monitor and take informed decisions on COVID-19 vaccination rate, noting that “the vaccination card that is linked to the EMID system made it easier for Nigerians to resume international travels, reduce travel restrictions and measures such as quarantine and COVID-19 testing upon arrival and at departure.

“You will agree with me that these digital innovations significantly supported COVID-19 case detection, response, control and management in Nigeria,” the SGF added.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said Nigeria must address the issue of human resources to get its healthcare right.

“With what we have, we are not achieving much in healthcare. We must rethink our systems and it starts by removing every bottleneck that hinders effectiveness.

“I have suggested through the legislation that we create special capitalisation of remuneration for health workers just like we have for other sectors that provide essential services in the country,” he said.

Oloriegbe told stakeholders at the summit that “as we talk about health, we must bear in mind that health does not work in isolation.

“We must consider other social determinants of health such as education, WASH, and electricity to ensure effective healthcare system in the country.’’

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on his part, said that the country’s goal is to achieve Universal Health Coverage and emphasised that it begins with the transformation of PHCs.

“The Federal Government is looking at what works for Nigerians of all ages, wealth and backgrounds. To prevent leakages, we must jointly implement health funding at the federal, state and local levels.

“We must commit to healthcare systems that satisfy the needs of individuals in communities while also being affordable. The sub-national level should shift its focus to investing in PHC,” he said.

Ehanire noted that underperformance of the health sector in the country was not equal to under-investment, adding, “But the PHC Summit aims to address this imbalance and chart the course for more public and private sector collaborations.

He said, “Government wants to ensure health services that meet the needs of Nigerians as close as possible to where they live at affordable cost throughout their lives.

“We have brought partners, friends and leaders of thought and government here today to declare that it is time for action in transforming PHCs by engaging communities in health-related social and behavioural change communication in diverse subjects.

“We engage in public, family, personal health and hygiene, nutrition, reproductive, maternal and child health, immunisation and much more.’’

The minister said that as stakeholders, there was the need to develop an appetite for change, stressing that it must be “a change that directs attention and investment over the next few years to where the current greatest need and gaps are in the health sector of the country. This will be at the grassroots level.’’

Ehanire, therefore, called for stimulating conversations and commitments toward adopting projects that would transform the country’s PHCs to new specifications and pledges to support schools of nursing or health technology for manpower build-up.

(NAN)

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