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Laurels for Presidential Task Force on COVID-19

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There is no doubt that the COVID_19 pandemic has virtually brought the whole world to its knees. Businesses and social interactions have been on the verge of a total halt. Most countries of the world have shut their airspace to avoid the spread of the virus in this second wave.

In an attempt to curb the widespread of the virus in Nigeria, the Presidency under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari established the Presidential Task Force on COVID_19 on March 9, 2020, to coordinate and oversee Nigeria’s multi-sectoral and  inter-governmental efforts to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of the COVID_19 pandemic in Nigeria.

The Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr. Boss Mustapha was appointed as Chairman of the Presidential Task Force. Other members include Dr. Dani Aliyu, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Sen. Sirika Hadi, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, among others.

The task force was mandated to provide the overall policy direction, guidance, and continuous support to the National Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of the NCDC, and other ministries and government Agencies involved in the management of COVID_19.

They were also to enhance the effective delivery of national and state-level outbreak control priorities which include; the creation of effective and safe treatment centres, coordination of National and State Emergency Operation Centres, as well as provide tools and commodities for case management, infection prevention, control and diagnostics.

The task force was also asked to review and make recommendations for implementing country-wide or regional non-pharmaceutical interventions if and when needed; such as school closures, suspension of large gatherings, implementation of social distancing, flight limitations, etc.

The task force was equally to provide recommendations for the provision of direct funding and technical support to states and local governments to strengthen their preparedness and capacity as well as mobilise human, material and financial resources from within and outside the country for effective national and state-level control.

Part of their mandate was to also define targets and monitor the progress in the delivery of these targets to meet the minimum requirements for a satisfactory performance, and use this to advise the presidency on the level of overall national response to COVID_19.  They were to coordinate Nigeria’s engagement with other countries as well as bilateral and multilateral bodies, including international organisations to share lessons, best practices, and technical assistance. They also had the mandate to keep the public abreast of the progress achieved so far in Nigeria’s response to the pandemic, as well as emerging developments within the country and globally.

To effectively achieve these mandates, a National COVID_19 Response Centre (NCRC), was established within the PTF. Headed by the National Coordinator of the PTF, the NCRC provided strategic guidance and coordinated the efforts of multi-sectoral and multilateral actors as well as resources involved in the national response to ensure proper synergy and efficiency. To this end, the NCRC developed a comprehensive National COVID-19 Multi-sectoral Pandemic Response Plan, which is to serve as a blueprint in a coordinated national strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Few weeks ago, after showering commendations for their efforts, President Muhammadu Buhari extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to the end of March 2021 as Nigeria continues to grapple with the second wave of coronavirus.

In a series of tweets, Buhari said he took the decision because of the surge in the number of cases, and to ensure the effective procurement of vaccines.

Despite grandstanding by some critics and disgruntled  politicians, the PTF has continued to provide the public with vital information in the fight against COVID_19 through daily press briefings. Unperturbed by attacks from some quarters about what some critics call “a lack of a coherent national strategy to manage the coronavirus pandemic”, the PTF, under the leadership of Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has remained committed to their mandate by delivering top-notch value.

Giving kudos to the presidential task force on COVID_19, the branch chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in Benue State, Comrade Otache John said; “Nigerians must appreciate and give kudos to the Presidential Task Force on COVID_19 for what they are doing during this pandemic. So many of us are increasingly grateful for all the inspiring works the PTF is doing.”

According to him, “Nigeria is blessed to have the caliber of people we see in the PTF who have demonstrated dedication and commitment in this dogged fight against COVID-19. They are such an amazing people with the best sense of humour, caring for the nation”, he added.

On his part, a public affairs commentator, Danjuma Edegbo stressed that, “Nigerians can’t but appreciate the members of the presidential task force on COVID_19. I can only imagine how challenging their job is right now. Nigeria will forever remain grateful to them for their selfless services in this trying times.”

He pointed out to PTF members that, “you would not know how much Nigerians have appreciated your support. I think we complement one another when it comes to individual knowledge and expertise, and I hope we can continue to work together as a successful team until we make COVID-19 a thing of the past.”

Like soldiers, members of the PTF also face considerable mental stress. They too have families, and so will also naturally be fearful that the virus might reach their loved ones.

The PTF knows that Nigerians need accurate information as the best form of defence against COVID_19. Misinformation can cause public panic, suspicion and unrest; it can disrupt the availability of food and vital supplies or even lead to stampede and diversion of valuable resources. This is why the daily briefing by the task force has become very vital. Those directives on COVID management as laid down by the task force has saved millions of lives in the country. This underlines the reason Nigerians must ensure that they comply with all the PTF directives on COVID_19.

Many global bodies including the WHO have said that COVID_19 is not likely to be the last dangerous microbe the world will see. The heroism, dedication and selflessness of the PTF and other front line workers will be a source of inspiration and knowledge for generations to come. Their zeal and dedication has given Nigerians a high degree of reassurance that they will overcome the virus.

Meanwhile, the world is bracing up for the new COVID_19 vaccination passport. The UK and some European countries are leading in the new travel policy while President Biden has also signed an executive order on the document. It is still part of the global effort aimed at curbing the pandemic.

The passport is the evidence of one’s vaccination status and will be accepted by the destination of any traveler.

Danish Government said recently that in the next three to four months, it will roll out a digital passport that will allow citizens to show that they have been vaccinated.

Read Also: COVID-19 Protocols: How Nigerians are Difficult to Manage

It isn’t just the government that is following this line of vaccination passports. In a few weeks, Etihad Airways and Emirates will start using a digital travel pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association, to help passengers manage their travel plans and COVID_19 vaccination. It will provide various airlines and governments with documentation to show that a passenger has been vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 vaccine. It is quite comforting that  many institutions in the world are pushing for the total eradication of COVID_19, just like the PTF is doing relentlessly in Nigeria.

Charles Danson

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