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COVID-19 cases may rise as more schools re-open, experts warn

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Prof. Akin Abayomi


• Stakeholders urge strict adherence to protocols

Medical experts have warned that Nigeria is very likely to experience explosion of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and deaths as more schools re-open.

The experts led by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were reacting to the confirmation, on Friday, of 181 cases among students and staff of a private school in Lekki, Lagos State, by the Commissioner of Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi.

According to them, the country is not prepared for school-targeted response to COVID-19 and does not have the capacity to manage larger scale cases.

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President of NMA and immediate past Director General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Innocent Ujah, told The Guardian: “NMA had predicted this long before. What we advised was that before the schools re-opened, there was need to be prepared for a school-targeted response by governments at all levels, so that possible cases in schools could be easily traced and taken to isolation centres for treatment.”

Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, said: “With the typical Nigerian laissez-faire attitude to issues, we will shrug this off and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and NCDC will cook up some stories lately and weakly accept their powerlessness.”

Joint pioneer of In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in Nigeria and Director of Medical Art Centre (MART), Maryland, Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, told The Guardian that the country was not testing as much as other countries.

But the Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the number of cases in Lagos was evidence of the surveillance systems in the state.

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HOWEVER, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has alleged that some of the private schools were not fully prepared for resumption, but just after monetary gains.

Lagos NUT Chairman, Mr. Adesina Adedoyin, described the development as sympathetic and disappointing, saying the issue was of great concern to the union.

On his part, National President, Association For Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Orji Kanu, described the situation as unfortunate, saying it had strengthened their resolve to enforce strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

He disagreed that private school owners were not prepared for resumption. Former chairman, Association of Private School Owners in Lagos, Alhaji Akande Kamal, sympathised with those affected and assured of efforts to protect other staff and students.

But parents have expressed fears over the development and appealed to government to monitor the schools and ensure that only those that meet the safety guidelines were given the nod to re-open.

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