Seeks stricter enforcement of Covid-19 protocols
By Egena Sunday Ode
The National Economic Council (NEC) on Thursday expressed outraged over last week’s abduction, by Boko Haram, of about 500 students from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State.
The council, at a virtual meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja on Thursday, strongly condemned the act, calling for more collaboration between security agencies and communities to prevent a repeat.
NEC described the abduction as a deliberate act to sew fear in people.
The resolution issued at the end of the meeting said: “NEC expressed outrage on the kidnapping of the boys in their school premises and utterly condemned the brazen act of the abductors as not only criminal and lawless but a deliberate attempt to sow seeds of fear in people.
“The members while supporting immediate steps already taken by the Federal and State governments to rescue the boys, urged for more effective collaboration between security agencies and the communities to ensure that such despicable act does not repeat itself anywhere in the country.”
The council commiserated with families of the Kankara schoolboys while also consoling with the entire people and government of the state.
The council similarly expressed deep concern at the spiraling cases of Covid-19 in the country, warning the hospitals and facilities are overwhelmed.
This followed a briefing it received on the coronavirus disease pandemic in Nigeria.
The council noted with serious concern the increasing number of cases in many states across the country.
It has therefore decided to act by ensuring the stricter enforcement of measures to contain the spread of the disease across the country.
NEC resolution stated: “NEC is alarmed that the current trends are now approaching or surpassing the levels reached during the lockdown imposed at the height of the epidemic earlier in the year.
“The trends also show that more and more younger people are getting infected. While many of the young victims may be asymptomatic or recover without serious illness, they pass the virus to older and more vulnerable people, especially people with pre-existing health conditions, who develop serious illnesses and may easily lose their lives in the process.
“Sadly, the country is now experiencing a huge resurgence of Covid-19 patients needing intensive care and the existing health facilities are fast becoming overwhelmed.
“NEC notes that this increase is being accelerated by non-compliance with the non-pharmaceutical interventions advised by government, including the wearing of masks, limiting of gatherings, especially indoors and the washing/sanitization of hands.
“NEC, therefore, wishes to reemphasize the importance of these measures. Particularly as we approach the end of the year and the social gatherings associated with the holiday season, we must avoid activities or behavior that may aggravate the situation and necessitate another lockdown.”
NEC, therefore, resolved to enlarge its current Covid-19 Ad-Hoc Committee led by the Governor of Delta State, and further mandated the committee to urgently consider and propose additional measures to manage the current situation.
NEC firmly resolved to advocate rigorous and strict enforcement of the non-pharmaceutical interventions including: “Restrict all physical gatherings and instead opt for virtual meetings, whenever possible. If physical meetings must be held, ensure there is adequate ventilation of the room, limit the number of attendees, wear face masks, maintain a physical distance of at least two metres and adhere to other public health measures.
“No mask, no entry, no service – all staff members, visitors and customers entering workplaces, shops, entertainment or business premises must wear a face mask that should cover the mouth and nose at all times, and should not remove them, especially if speaking to another person in close proximity.
“Temperature checks must be carried out on all employees and customers entering office and business premises (any person with a temperature 38 degrees Celsius or above, should be denied entry and advised to go for a health check).
“All office and business premises must have a handwashing station with running water and soap or hand sanitizer at the entrance. Employers and business owners have a responsibility to ensure hand sanitizers are always refilled and soap and water always available.
“Office, shops and business premises must be well-ventilated and cleaned regularly throughout the day, ensuring that frequently touched surfaces like desks, countertops, work stations, railings, door handles, are cleaned and disinfected. An occupational health and infectious diseases preparedness plan must be in place, in case an employee, customer or visitor becomes unwell.”
The council noted that the continued spread of Covid-19 puts increased pressure on the already fragile Nigerian health systems and threatens Nigeria’s economy.
It urged traditional, social and religious leaders to play their own part by promptly taking responsible and decisive actions to help stop the spread and upsurge of the virus in Nigeria.
NEC also admonished states to take any further steps as may be considered necessary in their areas.
While enlarging the membership of its Ad-Hoc Committee on Covid-19 and mandating it to urgently come up with additional measures to deal with the spike in cases, NEC noted that “the country is now experiencing a huge resurgence of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care and the existing health facilities are fast becoming overwhelmed.”
The committee chaired by the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa with the Governors of Lagos, Bauchi, Plateau, Kano, Anambra and the FCT Minister, has now been enlarged with the addition of the Governors of Ogun and Kaduna.
The Minister of Health is also a member of the Committee, while the Federal Ministers of Information and Youth and Sports have also been asked to join.
Also, Health and Information Commissioners in the States would also now be co-opted into the assignment.
Osinbajo urged the committee to urgently develop innovative and new measures to curtail the spread of the disease, acting in the best interests of both the health and overall welfare of Nigerians.
NEC also received financial updates from the Minister of Finance, Budget and National planning who reported that Excess Crude Account (ECA) is now $72,410,574.08; Stabilization Account, ₦26,433,355,427.91 and
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