Nigerian Academy of Science fault FG on measures to contain COVID-19 across the country
The Nigerian Academy of Science, the country’s apex body of scientists, has said measures put in place by the Federal Government to check the spread of the COVID-19 disease in the country came late.
Although the government had earlier insisted that it was “well-prepared and ready to contain coronavirus if it eventually broke out”, decisive steps were not taken until the number of cases started rising, after an Italian tested positive on February 27.
The Federal Government has now closed the country’s borders, and the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states are on lockdown, following orders issued by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, (retd.)
Some states have also locked their boundaries, while also shutting markets, schools, churches, mosques and other public places.
But the Nigerian Academy of Science said the Federal Government should have acted earlier.
The academy specifically faulted the failure to monitor visitors who arrived from high risk countries, as well as the delay in stopping flights coming into Nigeria from such nations.
In an interview with our correspondent, President of the NAS, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, noted that the government started doing the right things when it was already late.
Assessing the government’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, Onuoha said, “The response was late in many areas – we should have been monitoring people coming from high risk areas.
“The Federal Government should have stopped flights coming from some countries early enough but that was not done until it became late.
“It was as if the Federal Government could not take that action because it was afraid of those countries due to the fact that we depend on them in many areas.”
The academy, an independent scientific body, also acts as an advisor to the government but our correspondent learnt that recommendations forwarded by the scientists to the authorities on ways to tackle the disease in the country were not acted on.
According to Onuoha, NAS sent the recommendations to the Federal Government even before the coronavirus disease was recorded in the country.
The academy sent its advice to the government after the World Health Organisation listed Nigeria among 13 African countries that were vulnerable to the disease due to close economic contacts with China, the country where the pandemic originated from.
The Federal Government’s reaction to the WHO warning was to set aside the sum of N620m, reportedly to monitor, detect and contain the virus in a bid to prevent an outbreak of the disease in the country.
With the disease now in the country, the NAS also believes that the government is not conducting enough tests.
“They are not conducting enough tests to detect those that are already infected. The government is not testing as many people as they should test,” he said.
Onuoha equally faulted the state governments for waiting until cases were recorded in their territories before taking steps to curb the spread.
“Many of the states were not doing anything. Apart from Lagos State, many of them did not have anything on the ground until they had their first cases.
“Also, the Federal Government did not do much to carry the states along in plans to check the disease,” he observed.
However, Onuoha said many Nigerians are not playing their part in the campaign against COVID-19.
He said, “People are flouting some of the directives issued by the government and the WHO on ways to curb the spread.
“Even there are so many people that believe the disease is not for them.”
The academy also called on the government to provide palliatives for Nigerians who are adversely affected by the lockdown.
Onuoha warned that the lockdown could be counter-productive if measures were not put in place to alleviate its economic consequences on vulnerable Nigerians.
The NAS, in the same vein, welcomed the planned visit of Chinese medical experts to Nigeria.
The Federal Government had on Friday disclosed that the medical team would visit the country to assist in efforts to contain the spread of the disease.
Some Nigerians have expressed concerns about the planned visit amid suspicions over China’s role in the emergence of the pandemic.
There are calls on the government to reject the Chinese assistance.
Onuoha said there was nothing wrong in Nigeria accepting medical assistance from China.
“I personally do not see anything wrong with that. China is currently sending help to many countries, I don’t see why Nigeria should not accept the help, especially if those coming are medical experts.
“China is one of our major partners and they have a lot to lose if Nigeria goes down.
“If we can accept economic and technological assistance from China, I don’t see why we should not accept medical help,” the NAS President added.
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