Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Wednesday explained why the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 directed that all schools in the country should remain shut till January 18.
NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who stated in response to an enquiry by one of Punch’s correspondents, said the centre detected increased COVID-19 cases in schools and offices.
Ihekweazu also said as part of efforts to battle COVID-19 second wave, the NCDC had deployed more rapid response teams to states.
Recall that following the outbreak of COVID-19 second wave, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, at its press conference on December 21, said all schools in the country would remain shut till January 18.
Ihekweazu, in his response to The PUNCH’s questions, said the agency noticed a surge in COVID-19 cases in settings such as schools and offices.
He stated, “In the last two months, there has been a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country. This has affected nearly every state in the country. We also detected an increase in the number of cases in closed settings such as schools and offices.
“The decision to keep schools closed was to among other things, enable us to control this rapid spike in cases while reducing the risk to children and school staff.”
Advsising states on reopening of the institutions, he said they should “ensure they have put the appropriate measures in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools. Physical distancing, hand washing and use of face masks are critical measures that have to be adhered to, but also require resources to implement in schools.”
The director-general also said that it was the duty of state governments to keep COVID-19 testing laboratories functioning, adding that the NCDC would continue to offer necessary support.
Responding to a claim by some state governments that it was not their function to conduct tests, he explained, “At the beginning of 2020, we started supporting laboratories across states to establish testing capacity for COVID-19. By the end of October 2020, every state in Nigeria had at least one public health laboratory for COVID-19.
“Most of these laboratories are located within existing structures of tertiary hospitals but established to meet the testing needs of states. Our role at the NCDC is to coordinate the network of public health laboratories. We have done this over the years for Lassa fever, yellow fever, cholera and other diseases.
“In this role, we coordinate uniform testing across the country by ensuring laboratories use the same algorithm, provide equipment, reagents and supplies needed for testing, ensure quality assurance, provide training and capacity building support.
“Every state is responsible for ensuring laboratories function to meet the need of the state, while the NCDC continues to support in this regard.”
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to meet with state epidemiologists every two weeks, and with state governors through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the National Economic Council chaired by His Excellency, the Vice President.
“We have maintained small teams across states to support response activities. Following the increase in the last two months, additional rapid response teams have been deployed to more states.”