President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for a further period till the end of March 2021.
The President also said that Nigeria was in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of the second wave, adding that the situation demanded that the government must act decisively to protect the people.
The extension was in view of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic especially the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines.
President Buhari, who disclosed this while receiving the End-of-Year Report of the Task Force, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the nation cannot afford to lose the gains of the past nine months in the fight against the pandemic.
The tenure of the PTF which was set up on March 9 this year is expected to expire this December after an extention of three months from the initial three months mandate.
President Buhari at the occasion said, “Recent reports reaching me indicate that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.
“New epicentres have been identified and the nation cannot afford to lose the gains of the last nine months. I have critically evaluated the situation and remain convinced that urgent measures have to be taken to halt the spread and the attendant fatalities.
“Closely associated with the foregoing is the need to speedily and strategically access and administer the COVID vaccine in a safe, effective, and timely manner. This is an important obligation that we owe Nigerians as we go into the year 2021 and it must be carried out through efficient machinery.
“Accordingly, I have authorised the following measures for implementation: The extension of the mandate of the PTF for a further period till the end of March 2021 bearing in mind the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines;
“That the PTF should coordinate the process for planning and the strategy for accessing delivery, and administration of the vaccines using the existing health structures that have worked in the past in vaccine administration.
“Authorised the PTF to engage with the States for them to assume full ownership of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions. Details of the advisory measures have already been announced.
“And authorised the PTF and the Nigeria Immigration Service to ensure that all in-bound passengers who failed to show up for post-arrival COVID-19 test are sanctioned within the ambit of the law, for breaching the public health protocols.
He further said, “The nation is clearly in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of this second wave and we must act decisively to protect our people. I, therefore, urge all sub-national entities, traditional rulers, religious and leaders of thought to collaborate with the PTF by taking up the responsibility for risk communication and community engagement at all levels. Now is the time for collective efforts to be intensified.
“As the festive season approaches, I urge all Nigerians to remain vigilant and stay safe. Non-essential trips and large social gatherings should be avoided or shelved completely.”
The President said that 2020 has been most challenging for the whole of humanity as a result of the havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 on lives, livelihoods, global and national economies, governance structures, health, social welfare, and other systems.
He said, “It has consumed an inordinate amount of resources deployed to address it by countries of the world, without abating.
“Sadly, the COVID 19 pandemic has also taken and keeps taking, precious lives of our loved ones, leaving several homes, families, and associates to mourn. May the Almighty God grant all those that have lost their lives to this deadly virus eternal rest.
“Over the last nine months, I received a total of eight Interim Reports along with one Mid-Term Report, apprising me progressively of developments on the COVID-19 pandemic, from the Presidential Task Force.
“I similarly approved several far-reaching measures recommended to support the achievement of the objectives of our National Response. I have been in constant touch about the pandemic in all corners of our country.
“Let me also add that I have religiously followed the daily national briefings by the PTF which has become the platform for communicating with Nigerians and the most authentic source of information which substantially reduced the space for fake news.
“The successes recorded by the PTF in managing the control of the pandemic since March 2020 are largely attributable to the multi-sectoral approach adopted by the government, the proactive steps taken and the commitment of its members.
“I wish to acknowledge the immeasurable support received from the National Assembly, state governments, the private sector coalition, the international community, development partners, well-meaning Nigerians who donated in cash and kind and also made sacrifices, the media organisations, security agencies and the frontline workers who toiled day and night as our last line of defence. The list is endless. Our gratitude is endless
“On behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria, I thank you one and all for your support and contributions to this National Response to a global emergency.”
Continuing, he said, “The impact of the COVID-19 on global and national economies cannot even now be fully assessed. No nation of the world has been spared the experience of different degrees of the economic downturn as several countries including Nigeria went into negative growth territories.
“To mitigate this impact, we developed an Economic Sustainability Plan aimed at cushioning the impact at all levels and stabilizing our economy.
“Family businesses, small, and medium scale enterprises, and the manufacturing sector were all supported through various windows.
” Appropriate support has also been provided through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program, as well as the Trader and Market Moni loans. For the very vulnerable, significant steps taken include:
” Expansion of the National Social Register to 3.6 million beneficiaries across thirty-six States,;
“Support provided to 8, 827,129 households through the 70,000MT food grains released from the Strategic Reserve; and
“Support to 1,289,405 vulnerable households that benefitted from the Conditional Cash Transfers across 34 States.
“The pandemic also revealed the vulnerabilities in our health system which compelled our determination to ensure that its support is given top priority in terms of infrastructure, human and institutional capacities, legislative support, etc.
“It must be emphasized that this administration recognizes that an effective and efficient health sector represents a significant component of our security and economic growth strategy.
“It is in this regard that I am pleased to note the legacy improvements made in the health sector in the areas of laboratory infrastructure, treatment centres, training of health care personnel, improvement in surveillance and Port Health capacities, etc.
“I must again single out and thank those private entrepreneurs who sourced and installed impressive healthcare facilities in some strategic places as their contribution to this National Emergency.
“There is still more work to be done in the health sector to help us cater to our citizens and minimize the drain on our foreign exchange and trained manpower through medical tourism. For Nigeria to enjoy a lasting legacy from the huge investment in the health sector, a comprehensive Health Sector Reform that will achieve the following amongst others must be instituted. The objectives include:
“Build the human and institutional capacity to provide a world-class 21st-century health care system, capable of responding effectively to future pandemics;
“Develop a viable strategy for our primary and tertiary healthcare system; re-align institutional mandates and functions within the health sector for effectiveness and efficiency.
“Distinguish policy and coordination from implementation responsibilities, and strengthen the statutory and regulatory capacities within the health sector.