THE Federal Government on Sunday advised Nigerians against non-essential local and international travels during the festive period as COVID-19 cases continued to rise in the country.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control gave the advice in its latest COVID-19 situation report obtained by The PUNCH on Sunday as the Lagos State Government vowed to get tough with violators of compulsory tests for international inbound passengers.
Also, officials of states including Bauchi, Ogun and Kano in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said this week, they would intensify measures to ensure compliance with safety protocols and mass vaccination.
They stated this as COVID-19 cases in the country increased by 761.45 per cent within two weeks.
Amid the surging cases, the NCDC advised Nigerians on non-essential international and local travels during the festive period.
Between November 21 and December 4, the country recorded 1,035 cases of the virus.
But between December 5 and December 18, 8,916 cases were recorded representing 761.45 per cent over the previous two weeks.
The NCDC confirmed in its latest report that no fewer than 845 passengers tested positive within one week.
According to the disease control agency, the country has continued to witness a surge in the number of travellers who test positive to the coronavirus both at point of entries and at point of departure.
The centre noted that while in epidemiological week 48, a total of 235 passengers tested positive, the centre added that the figures increased in week 49 when the total of 845 passengers tested positive.
According to the NCDC, the omicron may also lead to several other mutations.
It said, “The spread of COVID-19 variants of concern including the Omicron variant may lead to a surge in cases globally due to mutations which could give the SARS-CoV-2 virus a specific advantage such as increased transmissibility, possibility of more severe illness or evasion of tests currently used for the detection of COVID-19.
“Importantly, this holiday season, we advise everyone to avoid non-essential travel, both international and national while research is ongoing to better understand Omicron and its impact on the national and global response to COVID-19.”
The centre also noted that the country had continued to speed up testing. For instance, it stated that there was an increase in the number of test samples from week 48 to week 49.
“In Week 49, the number of samples tested increased to 62,537 from 51,345 reported in week 48. These were reported in 36 states and FCT”.
The PUNCH reports that so far, a total of 3,686,403 tests have been conducted so far.The Omicron variant has led to an increase in cases across the world. With many countries currently in the fourth wave of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation continues to advocate for increased vaccination and administration of booster shots.
We are gathering violators of mandatory tests for inbound travellers, they will be taken to court – Commissioner
To stop the spread of the virus, the Lagos State Government on Sunday said it was on the trail of inbound travellers, who evaded mandatory COVID-19 tests.
The state said it would tighten entry formalities at the airport to win the war against COVID-19.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the state would also punish inbound travellers who disobey the COVID-19 safety protocols.
He said, “Recall that recently, the governor issued a statement and guidelines that we have to follow to win the war against COVID-19. He urged Lagosians to join hands with him to defeat the fourth wave, as we have done in the three previous waves.
“We are trying as much as possible to work with the Federal Government to tighten entry formalities at the airport. This virus is believed to be coming from abroad, especially the new Omicron variant. We are trying as much as possible to ensure that people coming in don’t just walk into Lagos without obeying the formalities. They have to go through the second-day and seven-day tests. Some of those who are trying to beat this protocol; I assure you that they will face justice.
‘More vaccination points to be created in Lagos’
“The state government is trying to gather them and move them to the court so that they can have the necessary punishment which is quite explicit in all our guidelines.
“We are ensuring that people who will have events around this time don’t fill more than 50 or 60 per cent of the space they have; people have to show they are vaccinated and above all, we are stepping up advocacy. We have a programme that we call count me in, under which we want to vaccinate four million Lagosians before the end of this month. We increased vaccination points so that people will say they are not seeing vaccination points and that is why they are not getting vaccinated.”
Mass vaccination: Kano targets 15 million residents
In Kano State, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje on Sunday inaugurated mass vaccination, with a target to vaccinate 15 million residents of the state.
This was contained in a press statement by Abba Anwar, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ganduje and issued to newsmen in Kano on Sunday.
According to the statement, the exercise took place at Coronation Hall, Government House, Kano.
Anwar quoted his principal in the statement as saying, “As we are graduating from vaccination of targeted groups and population, we now open a new chapter, which is called mass vaccination.”
Ganduje explained that “We took all the necessary measures that were (are) required to tame COVID-19 in the state. That effort was made possible by the Will of Allah.
Ogun begs residents to wear facemasks, get vaccinated
On its part, the Ogun State Government appealed to the residents to wear face masks and get vaccinated.
The state Commissioner For Health Dr Tomi Coker said this on Sunday while speaking with one of our correspondents on the surging cases of the virus.
Coker said, “Amidst the surge, the key and most impactful intervention is that people should wear their masks and must get vaccinated. This is the only way to curb the spread.”
On whether the government was planning additional measures to check the surge, Coker said the government expected the people to take personal responsibility seriously.
Bauchi to ensure strict compliance to protocols, orders vaccination points at worship centres
Also, the Bauchi State Government said it had ordered the immediate establishment of COVID-19 vaccination centres in places of worship, markets and tertiary institutions across the state.
The decision taken was sequel to the efforts by the state government to contain the spread of the Omicron virus before, during and after the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
The Deputy Governor, Bauchi State, Senator Baba Tela, gave the directives during a continuation of stakeholders meeting with relevant agencies held at the Government House on Friday.
Tela, who is also the Chairman of the Bauchi State Task Force on COVID-19, said that the state government would ensure strict compliance to non-pharmaceutical measures, protocols and public health advice, noting that the approach which yielded positive results in the initial fight against COVID-19, would also be sustained with the new Omicron variant.
But in a chat with The PUNCH on Sunday, the Senior Special Assistant to the Federal Capital Territory Minister on Health, Dr Ejike Oji, said the plan was to increase advocacy ahead of the Yuletide.
Oji said the widespread belief was that the COVID-19 pandemic had ended and so the best way to win the war was to boost engagements through the media and community outreach.
He said Nigeria’s youth demography was the reason the number of deaths was not as high as some other countries.
Oji further stated that enforcement was still on but said advocacy was a better approach.
“It is not that enforcement has taken the back seat but you have to be strategic in order to get the right reaction. In Europe today there are protests over lockdowns. So, we have to ensure that livelihoods are protected as well,” the minister’s aide said.
“The protocols are still in place. We just have to increase public advocacy,” he said.
But to curb the spread of the virus, the Ondo State Government said it would insist on the time limit for the people of the state to get vaccinated.
The state Epidemiologist, Dr Stephen Fagbemi stated that the enforcement would come after the people of the state had been largely vaccinated.
He said, “ The state government’s emphasis is more of ensuring that the people get vaccinated. We have tried the enforcement before but not successful. We believe that if more and more people get vaccinated, it would be better. The government has done a lot, we have increased the number of vaccination points.
“Apart from that, we have mobile vaccinators. Just to encourage people to be vaccinated. We have taken it to institutions and event centres. Civil servants have been encouraged more and more. The media jingles and public enlightenments are still ongoing.
“The government has also given a time limit to get more people vaccinated. Maybe when that one is over, we can now be thinking of enforcement. But this period we want people to get vaccinated because vaccination is protective.”
On the issue time limit for the vaccination, Fagbemi said, “ The time limit for the vaccination is end of January 2022. However, the date is not an ultimatum. We are trying to wrap it up to see that we can vaccinate as more as possible.”