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COVID-19: Lagos, CAN may clash as Buhari mourns 20 doctors

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Gbenga Salau (Lagos) and Terhemba Daka, Abuja,
27 December 2020   |   4:30 am
Saddened by the death of 20 medical doctors in one week in the line of duty, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, vowed that his administration would “leave no stone unturned” in prioritising the welfare of doctors and other health workers.

Buhari. Photo: TWITTER/NIGERIAGOV.

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• Don’t Shut Down Businesses Over Rising COVID-19 Cases, Foundation Tells FG

Saddened by the death of 20 medical doctors in one week in the line of duty, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, vowed that his administration would “leave no stone unturned” in prioritising the welfare of doctors and other health workers.

This is as the Lagos State government and the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) may be headed for a collision course over the latter’s insistence that churches in the state would hold the traditional crossover night services on December 31.

Buhari while saluting the sacrifices made by the doctors who were killed by COVID-19 in different parts of the country, according to a statement on Saturday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, condoled with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) over the deaths, stressing that the sacrifices made by the frontline medical workers were deeply appreciated.

The NMA chairman in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Dr Enema Amodu, on Friday, while explaining how no fewer than 20 members of the union died of COVID-19 in the last one week, said they contracted the disease in the course of treating infected patients, who failed to disclose their true health status.

Dr. Amodu, therefore, called on patients visiting clinics and hospitals to declare their true health status to avoid exposing doctors and other health workers to the risk of disease infection.

The statement signed by Shehu quoted Buhari as saying: “The death of our frontline health workers in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly sad because these professionals risk their own lives in order to save others.

“Our health workers are making maximum sacrifices for the country in line with their humanitarian calling, and this administration will leave no stone unturned in order to ensure their needs are met,” he stated.

Buhari, who pointed out that the health workers are operating under severe limitations, noted that they are undeterred in discharging their duties in saving lives.

“Let me say without any fear of contradiction that no reward is too much for the sacrifices of our health workers in the country, and this administration will give their welfare the priority it deserves,” he stated.

THE Lagos State on Thursday cancelled the annual crossover services in churches across the state, citing the 12pm to 4:00 a.m. national curfew that is in place, as well as the second wave of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who addressed reporters at the State House in Marina, implored religious leaders to ensure that their followers observe the protocols put in place by the government to curb the spread of the disease.

He said: “We must all do everything in our power to protect the elderly and the medically vulnerable among us. This might mean postponing that long-planned trip home. I spent 14 days in isolation, experiencing mostly moderate symptoms. It was an experience I am very glad to have put behind me.
 
“I received very dedicated and competent care from the Lagos State COVID-19 Treatment Team, and I am extremely proud of the work that they do. They are a big part of the success story of the Lagos State COVID-19 Response. I was fortunate to have had a relatively moderate COVID-19 experience. About one in every 10 persons who contracts the disease in Lagos State is not so lucky; they have to go into intensive care, and some of them do not make it out alive. For this reason, my gratitude is deep and profuse. 

“And it is also for this reason, that I am here to appeal to us all today, that the best way to be lucky is not to get infected in the first place. The cliché, prevention is better than cure, should be a watchword for each and every one of us at this moment in time. Fellow Lagosians, let me sound this note of warning again, as I have done from the onset of this pandemic, COVID-19 is real. It is here with us, and it is not a respecter of anyone, or of social class, religious belief, or partisan affiliation. 

“Not only is COVID-19 here with us, this second wave we are currently seeing is proving to be more ambitious than the first wave. We are seeing infection figures that are surpassing what we saw at the peak of the first wave, and, just like then, Lagos remains the epicentre. As Nigeria’s most populous and densely-populated city, and a centre of international trade and commerce, this is not surprising in any way. But it is also the reason we need to exercise an abundance of caution.

“World over, Christmas is associated with gathering, merriment and traveling – which all, sadly, contribute to the spread of the Coronavirus. We must now seek to minimize as much of these activities as we can, at this time and going forward. Remember that by acting responsibly, you’re not doing only yourself a favour, you’re doing other people a favour, especially those among us who are elderly or medically vulnerable. Here are the steps we must all take note of and abide by during this Christmas period and into the New Year.

“All persons feeling symptoms associated with the Coronavirus must immediately isolate themselves and contact any of our public testing facilities, where a test will be arranged free of charge. All non-essential travel plans, whether local or international, should be suspended or cancelled at this time, until further notice,” Sanwo-Olu said.

The governor added: “There are not meant to be any gathering. The curfew set by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 is still active. There is a national curfew from 12 midnight to 4:00 a.m. and that has to be respected. No night vigils in any form.”
Just hours after the governor spoke, the Lagos State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) came up with a counter position, especially on crossover night services.

Its Chairman, Bishop Stephen Adegbite said churches willing to observe the crossover night shall be allowed to hold service, which must terminate at 12.15a.m.

But the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, in an interview with The Guardian countered CAN’s position insisting that what the governor said on Thursday still stands.

When the state’s CAN chairman, Adegbite was also contacted on his group’s stand, he said the leadership of the CAN has informed the government that churches will meet from 10pm to 12:15am for crossover.

According to him, the position of Christian leaders was based on the fact that Nigerians and Africans are religious people. “And you cannot take away religion from our culture and mentality. Crossover service is once in a year and the one that has protected us from this pandemic is God, not any doctor, or human being. The number of deaths recorded in Europe, America, cannot be compared to what you have in Nigeria. Who is responsible for that, is it man’s intellect or God? So, if God is our sufficiency, we must continue to worship Him. When you are doing something that is right, it is better for you to improve on it and not abandoned that journey.

“We want to praise God to enter into a new year. A God that is bigger than everybody. When you go to Balogun Market, as I am talking to you now, you will find millions of people there, not thousands. I was there. If nobody is managing markets, you are talking about an organised environment like churches, where 50 per cent capacity will be observed, alcohol-based sanitisers would be provided, washing of hands will not be compromised, and social distancing will be adhered to strictly, as well as all the regulations and guidelines set by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). And we have also informed members that those that want to stay in church beyond 12:15 am, must ensure that they do not leave their premises until 4am. Having said that, crossover services are to last between 10pm and 12:15am so that worshippers would return home. That is the position of the church.

“For us in Lagos, God is on our side. Our governor is our person. He is God chosen for this state. The church prayed for him when he was in isolation and he came out. It was not anybody’s intellect. Nobody, I repeat, nobody has contacted Coronavirus in any church. And anybody that wants to prove us wrong should bring evidence of what has happened. Our God is not to be toiled with. He is the Almighty and creator of heaven and earth. We are praying to Him and He is answering our prayers. The scripture is my source of strength. It is God that will heal our land, not anybody. The vaccine they have discovered is not potent, because so many people are skeptical about it. The one that is not allowing us to die in Nigeria is God. Out of about 68,000 that have contacted the virus, over 60,000 have been discharged. Is that our own brain? So, Let us believe in God, let us trust in God for the coming year, He is the one that will see us through and He is not going to disgrace the church, because we are looking up to Him and He has said our help is from Him.”

AS residents of Imo State celebrate the Yuletide, Governor Hope Uzodimma, urged them, and indeed Nigerians, to observe COVID-19 safety protocols.

Uzodimma in his Christmas message to Imo people, urged them to pray for healing for Nigerians afflicted by the virus, and advised them to recommit themselves to making the state better while ensuring that the “flame of the divine light that Christ symbolises remains aglow.”

The governor noted that Christmas would always be “symbolic and significant to the people because it is a great testament to the triumph of light over darkness.

“Jesus Christ heralds a new awakening and Christians should exploit the opportunity of this season to recommit themselves to making the society better and ensuring that the flame of this divine light is not extinguished.

“Jesus Christ did not only come to illuminate the world but remains the undisputed light of the world, the reason he is worshipped, adored and glorified,” he noted.

MEANWHILE, COVID-19 think tank, Anap Foundation established to respond to the coronavirus disease, has asked the Federal Government not to shut down businesses over the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Chairman and vice-chairman of the foundation, Atedo Peterside, and Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, in a statement, yesterday, urged the government to consider current realities in the country in dealing with the second wave, and also allow all businesses stay open.
The foundation also tasked the government to adopt a smart crisis management approach to address the resurgence.

“Our response must take into consideration Nigeria’s realities: recession, high unemployment and rising insecurity. We cannot shut down small businesses. While countries across the world are experimenting with variations of lockdown measures to balance lives and livelihoods as infection cases rise amidst the yuletide season and festivities, we should look up to countries with similar realities such as Ethiopia and Senegal.

“We recommend: One, businesses stay open across the country on the condition that all Nigerians self-regulate and ‘celebrate responsibly’ by wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance from others, avoiding indoor crowds and washing hands frequently.

“Two, the intensification of campaigns on public health policy behavioral change with firm and humane oversight by applicable agencies and society leaders. Three, those who can, should be encouraged to work from home.

“Finally, Nigeria need not join the reactive ban on flights to and from the United Kingdom and/or other hotspots due to our existing robust travel protocols requiring tests before boarding, seven days isolation on arrival and a second test.

“However, closer monitoring of the post-arrival COVID quarantine of travellers into Nigeria will help limit the risk of imported infections. We believe that effective implementation of the above measures along with adherence to recent awareness campaigns spearheaded by NCDC, PTF, Kaduna and Lagos State Governments can help ease the hardship on citizens whilst curbing the spread of COVID-19.”