President Muhammadu Buhari has extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 till the end of March 2021, due to reported new surge in the number of cases of COVID-19 and the bid for vaccines.
The President added that his administration will embark on a comprehensive health sector reform aimed at providing a world class 21st century health care system, capable of responding effectively to future pandemics.
The number one citizen, made the pledge when he received the End-of-Year Report of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
He said: “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 to:
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.’’
According to him, recent reports have indicated 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.
The president, therefore, stressed 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 year 2021 and it must be carried out through an 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.
According to the president, the nation is clearly in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of this second wave, saying “we must act decisively to protect our people’’.
In his remarks, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, revealed that the End-of-the-Year Report represented the state of the National Response as at the end of nine months of hard work (Dec. 15, 2020).
He stated that the activities of the PTF remained work in progress because COVID-19 had not abated, saying countries of the world, including Nigeria, had been experiencing a second wave of infections which had proven to be more virulent.
He disclosed that the Report had also captured for posterity the strategy adopted, the resources mobilized and committed, achievements recorded, lessons learnt and it represented a useful roadmap for a national response, should emergencies occur in future.
He said that the Report also highlighted the challenges encountered and the lessons learnt.
Mustapha said these lessons include “the immense benefits derivable from multi-sectoral collaboration to address issues; effective communication with Nigerians.
“Under emergency conditions, well rounded consideration should be given to all sectors; our health sector would require major reforms and must be pro-active; economic sustainability, recovery and preservation of lives and livelihood remain critical at all times;
“Structured data collection, analysis and retrieval remain critical for effective governance; the phenomenon of evacuation of citizens from all over the world should become a significant policy issue for government; across board several public sector rules, practices, systems and some statutes require review/revision to effectively respond to extreme emergency situations.’’
Mustapha stressed the need to urgently establish a dedicated FUND to address all pandemics and outbreaks and the significance of building on the synergy established with the private sector, the National Assembly and the sub-national entities.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, had told the president that “the COVID-19 will be with us for a while. Although this is the new normal, it continues to be just as deadly.
“Nevertheless, we have shown it is possible to keep it in check through the work we have done – we must persevere and continue the communication and enforcement aspects required to keep us safe until the epidemic is over.’’
According to him, 2021 will be all about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is a huge challenge for the country and will require your leadership and continued commitment, Mr President.
“All hands must be on deck to deliver and overcome the challenges of securing the supply of safe and effective vaccines, logistics and acceptance.
“Our health system has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s health system is fragile and may not withstand the effect of a major outbreak of COVID-19 or other infections.’’