Anxiety Over Rapid Spread Of COVID-19 As Schools Resume

January 19, 2021
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BY OUR CORRESPONDENTS  |

There are palpable fears over possible spike in the spread of coronavirus across the nation following yesterday’s resumption of schools for the 2020/2021 academic session.

Already, the figures churned out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the last couple of weeks have been scary, with the rate of infection increasing by the day.

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Every protocol put in place by both the federal and state governments appears to be far from abating the dangerous dimension the disease has taken.

With the development, most parents are feeling reluctant to send their wards back to school.

LEADERSHIP checks revealed that most students and pupils did not attend school on the first day of resumption following apprehension by the parents about the safety of their wards.

The worry is that with the absence of vaccines and no other curative measure in place, the possibility of students contracting the virus and in turn spread it in their homes will seem most likely.

In most of the schools visited in the states, our correspondents observed that there was partial compliance with COVID-19 protocols as directed by the government.

It was learnt that while some schools pasted ‘no face masks, no entry’ signs at their gates, it was not enforced as most students failed to comply with the directive.

Other protocols like washing of hands with soap, use of sanitisers and adequate physical distancing were also breached in some schools, while parial compliance was recorded in some other schools.

For instance, in Taraba State, there was some level of compliance even though most secondary and primary schools are yet to fully resume in the state.

Presidential-Task-Force-on-Covid-PTF

Presidential-Task-Force-on-Covid-PTF

At the Taraba State University, students were not allowed to walk around school premises without face mask.

The school authority, it was gathered, authorised the school security to send any student without face mask away.

At the College of Agriculture, School of Nursing, College of Education, secondary and primary schools, most of the teachers were seen wearing face masks, while washing hand buckets and sanitisers were made available.

In Kwara State, there was substantial compliance with COVID-19 protocols in both private and public schools.

LEADERSHIP investigations showed that most schools provided hand washing materials for the students and staff while enforcing the use of face masks.

At Rahmatul Adabiyyah Group of Schools, Alagbado, Ilorin, the principal, Mallam Shehu Aduagba said, “As you can see, we have made provisions for hand washing materials for both the students and staff. We have also enforced “no face masks, no entry” policy of the state government.

At Government Day Secondary School, Amule, Okelele, Ilorin, a student, Kudus Nurudeen said they were made to wash their hands at the entry point of the school.

Similarly, when LEADERSHIP visited some of the schools in Abakaliki metropolis of in Ebonyi State, it was observed that most of the schools had been fumigated.

The school authorities also provided running water, hand sanitizers and rearranged the classes to ensure social distancing.

At Presbyterian Montessori Nursery and Primary school Abakaliki, the headmistress, Mrs Elizabeth Udeh told our correspondent that the fumigation of the school and other COVID-19 protocols put in place became necessary as fresh academic session resumes.

Also, the special assistant to the governor on School Monitoring, Ebonyi South, Hon Ogbonnaya Oko Enyim, who monitored compliance in schools, said the state government had embarked on the monitoring exercise to ensure strict enforcement of social distancing, regular hand washing, use of hand sanitiser and face mask.

Two of the students interviewed at the Government Technical School, GTC, Abakaliki and Federal Government Girls College, Ezzamgbo, Master Chibundu Agwu and Charity Chinaza, stated that the school authorities made it mandatory for each student to resume with personal hand sanitisers and face masks.

A health worker in Izzi local government area of the state, Mrs Chinenye Ogbaga, said that as directed by the state government, health officers were posted to different schools to check temperature of each student and to move any suspected case to the nearest medical facility in the state.

Health-Minister-Osagie-Ehanire

Health-Minister-Osagie-Ehanire

In Osun State, primary and secondary schools as well as some tertiary institutions resumed yesterday with minimal compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

At the Osun State University, students, workers and even visitors were made to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, even as materials to complement it were also made available.

Our correspondent however observed that some students and teachers in public and private primary and secondary schools did not comply with the wearing of face mask while few schools made provisions for hand washing facilities and sanitizers.

A teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity said residents were no longer taking the pandemic seriously, especially when the state government is said to be fueling the spread with the recent directive on matching SIM number with NIN which has encouraged noncompliance with the guidelines.

In Rivers State, it was gathered that there was substantial compliance as primary and secondary schools observed all COVID-19 preventive protocols.

In some of the schools visited within Port Harcourt metropolis, hand-washing facilities and infrared thermometers to check temperature of students and teachers were seen at various entry points in the schools.

Some of the students who spoke with our correspondent said apart from washing of hands and wearing of face masks in class, they also avoided crowded places.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP, the principal of Sure Foundation Group of Schools, Amaka Patience Osagede, said the school authority had put everything in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Imo, the state government has given a fresh directive on resumption of schools with a new date that runs contrary to the federal government directive.

In a release made available to journalists, the commissioner for Education, Prof BTO Ikegwuoha, said schools in the state will now resume on January 25, 2021 as against the January 18 date earlier announced by the federal government.

The state government also released the COVID-19 protocols to be followed by the various schools.

Also in Akwa Ibom State, it was observed that a good number of students complied with COVID-19 protocols by wearing face mask.

Our correspondent who visited some of the schools in Uyo metropolis observed that hand washing bucket and sanitizers were kept in strategic places.

A teacher in one of the schools, Mr Johnson  Okon,  told our correspondent that the school has been well kitted by the state government with  nose masks, hand sanitizers, as well as new classrooms to reduce overcrowding.

The state commissioner for Education, Mrs Idongesit Etiebet, while speaking on the resumption of schools assured parents and guardians of the safety of their wards, saying the state government was concerned about the wellness of its citizens, especially the young and the upcoming.

In Ekiti State, most schools were earlier scheduled to resume January 4, 2020 before the federal and state governments extended the date by two weeks due to the spike in the spread of COVID-19.

In most of the schools visited, COVID-19 protective materials were provided for the pupils, teachers and other staff.

A teacher in one of the schools who spoke on condition of anonymity said she and the pupils are elated to return to school after the yuletide.

In Yobe, our correspondent who visited the state university, Government Day Secondary school, Bukar Ali, and Junior Day Secondary School reports that students and teachers wore face masks and washed their hands before entering the school premises.

Adamu Habu, a student at the Yobe State University, said, “As you can see, no one will be allowed to enter the school even at the gate without face mask, while social distancing is compulsory.”

In Benue State, our correspondent who visited Kids Authority Nursery an Primary school observed that parents who brought their children without face mask were not allowed into the school.

At St. Dominic High School, Makurdi, most boarding students had resumed on Sunday while those coming on Monday morning were checked for face masks and sanitizers before they were allowed into the school.

At the Federal University of Agriculture Màkurdi (FUAM), our correspondent observed that no student was on Campus, save for a few lecturers and other staff of the University who were in their offices.

The public relations officer of FUAM, Mrs Rosemary Waku disclosed that only lecturers and other staff of the University had resumed.

At the Benue State University, Màkurdi (BSU), only few Students were seen on the campus.

Our correspondent gathered that the vice chancellor of the

Institution, Prof. Tor Iorapuu, personally went round the University to monitor compliance with COVID-19 Protocols.

Meanwhile, both private and public schools in Lagos State resumed academic activities yesterday.

The Lagos State commissioner for Education, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, visited some schools to monitor the level of compliance with COVID-19 guidelines in education districts I and VI.

Some of the schools visited include Diary Farm Senior Secondary School in Agege, Oregun Junior and Senior School in Ikeja, Anifowose Primary School, St Claire Private School, Ikeja, Alpha Rehoboth Nursery/Primary School at Egbeda, Legacy High School in Akowonjo-Egbeda and Saint Roses Academy School, Ogba.

In Nasarawa State, schools resumed except for the Federal University of Lafia, the State University in Keffi and the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Lafia, that are expected to resume later in the week after meetings by their various academic board.

Our correspondent who visited the College of Education Akwanga and Isa Mustapha Agwai Polytechnic Lafia, reports that few students were seen in the school premises wearing masks as part of safety measures.

It was observed that at the gates of the institutions, staff and returning students who didn’t wear face masks were turned back, just as sellers of face masks made brisk businesses.

Many primary and secondary schools visited in the state capital and made provision for washing taps and sanitizers at the gates and other strategic locations in the schools.

However, a visit to some schools in Abuja, especially the public ones could tell how students struggle with COVID-19 protocols.

In Government Secondary School, Bakin Ado, Nasarawa, the principal of the school, Danladi Tenimo, said allowing students to come to school was not proper.

He said, “This is a very serious issue because this second wave of COVID-19 is the most dangerous one. Today, I addressed all my staff and I informed them about the implication of this second wave of coronavirus. I warned the teachers never to go to teach without face masks.

“Already, my security is assigned at the gate with thermometer to take temperature of anybody coming in. A hand washing basin for running water is also provided, accompanied with liquid soap and sanitiser.”

Test Not Requirement For Reopening – FG

Meanwhile, the federal government has warned school authorities to desist from demanding COVID-19 test from students as requirement for resumption.

The Federal Ministry of Education specifically said that COVID-19 test is not required for returning students to be readmitted into their schools.

The director of Press and Public Relations of the Ministry, Ben Goong, who stated this in a statement stressed that only temperature checks should be carried out on students and other persons seeking access into schools.

“No COVID-19 Test required for resumption of Students. The Federal Ministry of Education says no COVID-19 Test is required for returning students to be admitted into their schools. Only temperature checks should be carried out on students and any other person crossing any school gate,” he stated.

He further said the statement was in response to requests of some schools demanding COVID-19 test results from parents and their returning students back to school.

Meanwhile, despite calls by the House of Representatives against

reopening of schools amid the increasing number of deaths attributed to coronavirus, some stakeholders in the education sector have stressed that closing schools will be more disastrous.

The House, through its committee chairman on Basic Education and Services, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, said the earlier decision to reopen academic institutions was ill-timed.

But reacting in an interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday, the National Association of Private School Teachers (NAPST) said closing schools will not be the solution.

Its national president, Akhigbe Olumhense, urged the federal government to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols instead of thinking about closing schools.

He said, “Our position as regards the resumption is that we are okay with school resumption. What we only want government to do is to ensure that there is strict compliance with COVID-19 guidelines in schools and other places. It shouldn’t be only those in school environment but everywhere in Nigeria they should ensure strict adherence with COVID-19 protocols.

“There should be consequences for not putting on the mask. If everybody is putting on their mask, the transmission rate will be so low and everybody can go about their lives and everything will go on without tempering the economy, not closing schools”.

NCDC To Carry out 450 Test In Every LG

Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) will carry out 450 COVID-19 test per local government area in all states of the federation.

This is even as the PTF has revealed that one out of five persons tested last week came out positive.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said “The number of new COVID-19 cases has continued to rise in Nigeria, such that we confirmed 10,300 cases from just 50,750 samples tested in one week, translating to 20 per cent positivity rate.

“It means one out of every five persons tested in the last one week turned out positive compared to the previous week which recorded a positivity rate of 14 per cent.”

Speaking at the national briefing on COVID-19 by the PTF, the chairman of PTF and secretary to government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, also explained that not all states will start with others as the exercise will start with states that are in the forefront of resourcing and infrastructure.

He said, “The PTF has authorized the NCDC to immediately implement the 450 tests per LGA plan, nationwide, immediately.

“We are aware that States are not on the same pedestal in the area of testing and we shall begin with States that are in the forefront of resourcing and infrastructure.”

On schools’ resumption, the PTF boss said, “While we note that several states have proceeded with the resumption of schools, the PTF recommends strongly that very strict adherence to Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) should be enforced by the states to avoid the escalation of cases.

“The PTF will continue to dialogue with the governors and the Federal Ministry of Education to closely monitor the situation.”

On the position of Nigeria at the global level in terms of spread

of the various, the SGF said, “In the African continent, South Africa and Nigeria continue to report highest daily count, while South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya account for 76 per cent of all cases in the region.

“Nigeria has moved up to third position in highest cumulative case load but remains 2nd for new cases and 5th highest in cumulative deaths on the WHO African region.

“From the foregoing, testing has proven to have become more significant in our national response.

“The PTF still urges the State Governments to enable their EOCs to step up on sample collection and to maximise the capacities of the PCR Laboratories already established in their States.”

On Vaccines, the PTF assured Nigerians that vaccines to be approved will be safe and good for Nigerians, noting that “the positive news about vaccines remains high in the ranking of discussions nationwide.

“Nigerians are assured that the PTF will ensure that the vaccines to be approved will be safe and effective. We must however work together as foot soldiers in the vaccine advocacy so that we can eliminate the pandemic.

“The PTF wishes to emphasise that the success of our national response shall not depend on vaccines alone. Rather, compliance with the non-pharmaceutical protocols must remain top on our individual priorities,” Mustapha added.

Also, the PTF is proceeding with the next phase of the approved presidential sanction against all in-bound international travelers that failed to undergo the day-7 post arrival test.

“The PTF will publish the next list of 100 defaulters very soon. Let me clarify, however, that there is a strong multi-sectoral approach to the activities, decisions and engagement of the PTF with institutions of government and the public sector. Consequently, all steps beingtaken are outcomes of in-depth consultations and review before they are made public,” the PTF chairman stated.

Nigeria To Receive 10m Doses In March

Meanwhile, the federal government has released N10 billion to support domestic COVID-19 vaccine production.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 also revealed that the country is expecting 10 million doses of vaccine in March, 2021.

This is in addition to the 100, 000 Pfizer vaccine doses expected in January or February.

Speaking at the national briefing yesterday, the minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said, “The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.

“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognized institutions. We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in country.

“There are reports of claims by some persons in Nigeria to have

COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country. I advise all citizens to disregard these claims as they are criminal. There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use which include appropriate regulation and certification by NAFDAC. I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no vaccine approved for use in the country and NPHCDA is the only authorized vaccine administrator in Nigeria.”

Ehanire further said Nigeria has written to express interest in 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccine, which could be supplied as from March 2021.

He said, “On vaccines, we are exploring all options available to us for the acquisition of approved vaccines for Nigerians. We are hopeful that the first consignment of vaccines will arrive in the country in a few weeks. Apart from the COVAX facility, which is billed to cover just 20 per cent of our population, we plan to increase our chances of getting enough vaccines to meet the country’s need to cover an additional 50 per cent of the population.

“Nigeria is participating in the African Union initiative called  African Vaccine Availability Task Team”, which reports directly to the African Union Chairman, President Ramaphosa of South Africa, and has secured 270 million doses of various types of vaccines.

“Bearing in mind options suitable for our environment and the available infrastructure, as well as Investment in delivery, Nigeria has written to express interest in 10 million doses of the viral vector vaccine, which could be supplied as from March 2021.

“Preparation for COVID-19 vaccine requires that countries determine criteria for prioritization, develop a robust vaccine distribution strategy and identify vaccine administration sites and teams.

“It also requires that countries develop procurement, supply chain and distribution plan for commodities and devices, as well as a sustainability plan. These we are already working on so that we are ready when the vaccines arrive.”

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