The Federal Government has outlined some of the measures being implemented for COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery and Reconstruction in the country, after taking steps to contain the spread of the infection, minimize casualties and ensure that clinical services could cope with the projected fatalities.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who outlined the measures in his keynote address at the 5th Annual Conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) in Lagos on Thursday, also appreciated the media for the good job it has done so far in the reporting of COVID-19 pandemic related events, stressing that it was important for the same media to begin the Recovery and Reconstruction process from itself.
The SGF, who was represented by the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib at the GOCOP conference, held at the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, with the theme: Post COVID-19 Pandemic: Recovery and Reconstruction in Nigeria,” said the media could also use their Code of Ethics to guide their professionalism to remain the voice of the voiceless and the right voice for the people.
Mustapha outlined the post-pandemic recovery and reconstruction measures to include:
· Establishment of Sample Collection Centres in all LGAs, ramping up sample collection to at least 500/week and establishing linkages to testing laboratories and clinical care centers;
· Intense training of Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) in order to strengthen the COVID-19 surveillance system at the district level;
· Heightening of vigilance at Nigeria’s Points of Entry, particularly the airports, to minimize the risk of importation of new cases into the country, includin health screening, testing negative to COVID-19 at least 72hrs before commencing the journey to Nigeria and a second test on the 7th day of arrival.
· Successfully ensuring that Nigerians were not banned from visiting any country of their choice nor were foreign nationals banned from visiting Nigeria.
· Repositioning the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to command national operations, with the Nigeria field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (NFELTP) of the federal ministry of Health serving as the backbone of our national epidemic preparedness and response.
· Harnessing existing capacities in emergency management for public health to handle public security, logistics movement as well as provide mass-care to millions of vulnerable populations.
· Coordination of epidemic and pandemic response systems by developing a COVID-19 Pandemic Risk Alert-Levels System for the country, which both States and the Federal governments can use to effectively monitor and respond to COVID-19 and similar bio-security threats.
· Galvanizing private sector support for public health action by engaging the private sector in efforts at fully recovering from COVID-19 pandemic and the rebuilding of our country from the disruptions unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Building back better health systems, such as National oxygen plan with the construction of 42 new oxygen plants and the repair of at least 18 such plants; National ambulance and emergency service plan to enhance Nigeria’s ability to effectively respond to healthcare emergencies now and in the future and; investment in research and vaccine development aimed at manufacturing vaccines in Nigeria without depend on foreign countries for the meeting of the country’s vaccines needs to respond to current and future epidemics and pandemics.
· Economic stimulus measures/fiscal policies, with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introducing new measures on loans, moratorium and debt repayment, including 1 year extension of a moratorium on principal repayments for CBN intervention facilities; reduction of the interest rate on intervention loans from 9% to 5% and; strengthening of the Loan to Deposit ratio policy, in addition to a N50 billion target credit facility floated for household and small and medium enterprises to help re-grow the economy.
· Other economic stimulus measures/fiscal policies include additional N100 billion intervention fund on healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand/build capacity; N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors; reduction of the crude oil benchmark price from a USD 57 to USD 30; pumping of N1.1 trillion into critical sectors of the economy by the CBN pledged to pump; commencement of a 5-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans; and Provision of credit assistance for the health industry to meet the potential increase in demand in health services and products.
According to the SGF, “these economic measures and fiscal policies that our government adopted facilitated our exit from COVID-19 induced recession earlier than predicted by world-class Economists- which was another big feather on the cap of our managerial sagacity in holistically responding to the pandemic.”
He further assured that on the part of the Federal Government, “we have enough vaccines, and we are expecting more. The vaccination efforts led by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency has been hailed as one of the best globally by the World Health Organization. We believe that, just as we combated the virus, the vaccination program will ensure that every Nigerian gets access to life saving commodities. Let me restate this here and now that COVID-19 is not a death sentence. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Let us all put our hands to the pump as we begin the Recovery and Reconstruction.
While commiserating with the families and friends of those who have paid the supreme price in the fight against this virus, the Government thanked God for the lives of survivors and pleaded with Nigerians not to let their guards down “because the pandemic is yet to be halted.”
“We must continue to observe the non-pharmaceutical intervention measures and be our brother’s keepers. I also urge every eligible person 18 years and above to come out and get vaccinated as this is the only sure way we can achieve herd immunity and recover fully,” he said.