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Pre-travel COVID-19 testing rate for travels within ECOWAS to be harmonised— Health Minister

18 December 2020   |   7:03 am
The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) says the rate for pre-travel COVID-19 testing for travels within the ECOWAS region will be harmonised.

Osagie Ehanire

The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) says the rate for pre-travel COVID-19 testing for travels within the ECOWAS region will be harmonised.

Dr Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, who spoke at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) Daily Briefing on Thursday in Abuja, said that the conclusion was made at the 4th Meeting of ECOWAS Ministerial Coordinating Committee on COVID-19 .

“The fourth meeting of ECOWAS Ministerial Coordinating Committee on COVID-19 held this morning, of which President Buhari is the ECOWAS Champion.

“The committee applauded the decision of the Federal Executive Council to approve the reopening of four land borders and recommended easing of cross border travel and trade in the ECOWAS sub region.

“Harmonised Guidelines have been developed and agreed on as an important tool to control spread of the pandemic.

“The ministers were concerned about the resurgence of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region, the decline in adherence to non-pharmaceutical preventive measures and agreed to propose a uniform rate for pre-travel COVID-19 testing for travels within the ECOWAS Region.’’

Ehanire also said that the Technical Working Group of the FMoH on COVID-19 was examining modalities to obtain access to vaccines for the country.

“They are in conversation with the WHO-GAVI on the COVAX- AMC facility, to support 180 lower and lower middle income countries to access anti-COVID-19 vaccines.

“ At a presentation to Ministers of Health of the ECOWAS region today, under West African Health Organization (WAHO), the Afro Regional Director of the WHO, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, announced that COVAX has been assured for only 20 per cent of the quantity of vaccines required for low and lower middle income countries.

“This is as high income countries have secured first rights to vaccines rights for all their citizens and in some cases, for double their population.

“We continue to closely follow issues related to vaccine development and have held talks with representatives of vaccine developers to work on additional and alternative sources to meet our national vaccine security needs.

“Nigeria will be working on a mix of public, private and external funds.

“The African Union has set up an African Vaccine Acquisition Team (AVAT), aiming to acquire vaccines for up 60 per cent of the population,” he said.

Meanwhile, the health minister said that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has continued to rise with the total number now at 75,062.

“A record number of 930 confirmed cases were diagnosed on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020; the highest daily number recorded since the virus was detected in February 2020.

“This is what we have warned about for many weeks and it gives cause to worry, not only about the causes, but also about the course of events.

“As the festive season and holidays approach, many people will want to celebrate, many will crowd into shops, markets and places of worship, many will travel with mass transit transport, many will even travel to Nigeria from high burden countries.

“These are all circumstances that are proven to accelerate COVID-19 transmission and have caused explosive increase in other countries,” he said.

According to Ehanire, the country’s epidemiological trend has already started to show that the curve is rising again with the total number of active cases now 7,087.

There is also a corresponding increase in the number of serious cases requiring hospital admission in High Dependency Units for oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation support in Intensive Care Units.

“If we include those in hospital for observation, the need for more hospital beds will become more acute.

“This is an indication of what the second wave is and we all have to play a role in confronting,” he said.

Ehanire urged Nigerians to play their part to prevent COVID-19.

“I shall remind everyone of all that we are already at the beginning of another phase of this pandemic and it is vital that we remember our civic responsibilities, if we are to respond decisively to prevent catastrophic resurgence.

“I urge Nigerians to adhere to very simple non-pharmaceutical measures, such as appropriate wearing of face masks, use of alcohol-based sanitisers and most especially, physical distancing.

“Being in a crowd and not wearing a mask strongly increases the risk of contracting COVID-19, with higher risks for persons especially 50 years and above, and those with co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

“It is always of benefit for citizens to fortify their immune systems by improving their nutrition with fruits and vegetables,” Nigeria’s health minister advised.