This was in response to the emergence of new COVID-19 virus variants in those countries, according to Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, Head, Technical Secretariat of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, who spoke at a press conference in Abuja yesterday.
He voiced his concern about the situation in India, which is a popular medical tourism destination for Nigerians.
The PSC also urged Nigerians to continue to follow all of the legislation and guidelines in place to protect themselves from COVID-19 contamination, warning that the third wave of the pandemic, based on how it has swept through other parts of the world, is on its way to infect Nigeria, particularly because the country has already reopened its economy to the rest of the world.
“While we begin to reopen the economy, we must still remain mindful of what is going on around the world,” he added. Unique incidents in India, Turkey, Brazil, and South Africa have been mentioned by the Chairman and Minister of Health.
“These were taken seriously, and we are continuing to track events in these nations. We sympathize with the citizens of these countries because they are going through a difficult period, particularly India, which is reporting over 300,000 cases every day. As a result, over 2000 people have died. It is not easy. Nigeria’s preferred medical tourism destination is India. We are aware that many Nigerians enjoy travelling to India, but we are also aware of the country’s current condition. Although we strongly advise Nigerians to restrict their travel to only that which is absolutely necessary, especially to the countries affected,
“We will continue to remind Nigerians to adhere to the public health initiatives placed in place to ensure that we meet with the regulations.
“We understand those countries and what is going on in other parts of the world. However, we are investigating this matter thoroughly on our end. We’re looking at some factors that need to be taken into account.
“The wellbeing of Nigerians is of paramount importance, and the PSC would take whatever steps are necessary to secure Nigeria and Nigerians from further escalation of the current situation.
“Within the next 48 to 72 hours, we will be delivering some travel advice, in specific regard to all Nigerians and those coming into the country to assist us.”
On the prospect of a third wave, Muhammad said that there can be no question about it, stating that it is only a matter of time, and urging all people to continue to follow all previous guidelines.
“We are not doing anything for the purpose of doing it, but it is critical that we look at what is going on across the world and ensure that we defend our country,” he said. The fact that the amount of cases in this country is not increasing does not imply that we are resistant to COVID-19 or that we are totally protected.”
“The third wave is just a matter of time, based on how things are moving right now. It isn’t a question of if, but rather when it would happen. As a result of the steps that have been outlined, we must strive to ensure that we cooperate and that our society and neighbourhoods are protected.”
Speaking about the gradual resumption of aviation operations in Nigeria, Muhammad stated that foreign flights into Port Harcourt International Airport will resume today (Tuesday) and those into Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu later this month.
Last year, foreign flights were reopened at the airports of Lagos, Abuja, and Kano.
“We have proceeded with this, and we have recommenced foreign flights in Kano, Port Harcourt, and Enugu in the last few weeks,” he added. We’re getting ready to start in Port Harcourt tomorrow and Enugu later this month.
“It is necessary to remember that when we are launching these foreign flights, there is a possibility of additional cases being imported into the region. We must strike a compromise between the economy and public health.
“This necessitates intensified diligence on our part, from the Federal Ministry of Health to the Port Health Authority, state governments, public health departments, and the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, to ensure that people entering the nation are either COVID negative or healthy to travel across our communities.”
“We are in the month of Ramadan, and very soon will begin Salah celebrations,” he informed the Muslim Ummah about the Ramadan month. Let us not forget that COVID-19 is still alive and well. And we must take the appropriate precautions to maintain our own safety as well as that of our loved ones.”
Also yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned African countries not to relax their guard, especially when it comes to non-pharmaceutical measures such as preventing big crowds and exercising social distancing, wearing face masks properly, and constantly washing their hands and using hand sanitisers.
It urged African countries and others to benefit from India’s and other countries’ experiences with the covid-19 pandemic, which is currently in a deadly and heartbreaking process.
According to the United Nations (UN), 5.7 million new positive cases have been registered worldwide in the last seven days.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the Technical Lead for COVID-19 at the WHO Emergencies Programme, said during a virtual briefing yesterday: “The crisis in India is really heartbreaking.” The exponential increase of case numbers that we’ve seen is absolutely incredible.
“In a variety of countries, we’ve seen a parallel pattern of growth in transmission; it hasn’t been on the same magnitude, and it hasn’t had the same amount of effect and pressure on the health sector as we’ve seen in India.
“If we let our guard down, this could happen in a lot of nations. I am not implying that India has relaxed its guard, but rather that we are in a precarious position. Last week, there were nearly 5.7 million cases recorded, which is almost definitely an exaggeration of the true amount of cases of infection that existed in the previous week.
“The country is in a vulnerable state, and we have elements all over the place where there is a shortage of strategic and effective public health and social programs for a number of purposes. Some people can’t achieve social distancing when residing in densely populated areas; others can’t ensure good usage of face masks because they don’t have them, or for a variety of other purposes group events are taking place.”