President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof Innocent Ujah, has raised the alarm about a possible rise in COVID-19 infections in the country following the reopening of schools amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
NMA president stated this on Wednesday while speaking on a PUNCH Online interview programme, The Roundtable.
Schools in the country reopened on Monday, January 18, 2021, after the New Year break. The Federal Government had delayed the resumption for about two weeks to curb the spread of the virus but later directed schools to reopen mid-January.
But the NMA president said though schools would not be closed forever, there was the need for school administrators to enforce all Covid protocols outlined by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to forestall alarming spread of the infection.
According to him, “We are not saying they should not reopen schools because we don’t know how long the pandemic will last. But if we have to open schools, NYSC camps, market places or airports, we should obey the NCDC protocols. Once we do that, we are likely to reduce the rate of infections and the extent to which people get infected.
“We need to be prepared. But we don’t see anything on ground to suggest that schools are ready to reopen. Are they likely to have social distancing and regular hand washing as well as temperature checks? When we talked, the private schools said they are ready but even if they are ready, are the public schools also ready?”
When asked if he anticipates a spike in Covid cases as schools reopened on Monday, Uja said, “We expect that. We expect a spike. Even the National Identity Number registration is another avenue to harvest more cases. People are falling over one another, no social distancing or use of hand sanitisers or regular handwashing.”
He urged the National Identity Management Commission to suspend the NIN enrolment process as the country is in a health emergency whereas the NIN enrolment is not an emergency.
The NMA president further noted that the laxity of Nigerians to Covid protocols in the months of September and October 2020 caused the spike that plunged the country into the second wave of the virus.
Ujah added, “The reality now is that we have an upsurge as this variant of Covid-19 appears to be more deadly. The infectivity rate appears to be high, so, we expect that a higher number of Nigerians will be infected and probably many more will die –unfortunately many are already dying; we are losing our colleagues –nurses, doctors. Only today, one of our colleagues died of Covid-19 in Lagos.
“So, obviously, the situation is not improving and we should not have any illusion that it will improve too soon. We should be more prepared than we were and than we have been doing. It is only then that we can be able to curb the effect of Covid-19.”