We are prioritising acquisition of COVID-19 vaccine ― Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that that one of Nigeria’s main priorities now is getting the COVID-19 vaccine, saying this is a matter of utmost concern to the federal government.

He stated this on Thursday at the opening session of the virtual edition of the Paris Peace Forum which featured presentations by some Heads of State & Government alongside international organizations, on a collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A statement issued by his spokesman, Laolu Akande in Abuja while stating what Nigeria’s priorities are in its COVID-19 response said: “The priorities of Nigeria in the post-COVID-19 era include improved healthcare and the economy.

First, we need to keep the virus under control. While our guards are still firmly in place, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a matter of utmost concern.”
Osinbajo added: “On this, we are encouraged by the efforts of WHO and other international agencies working to ensure that vaccine delivery will be equitable across all countries, regardless of the priority of orders and ability to pay.”

Noting the importance of prioritizing interventions and investments in the healthcare system, the Vice President said, “we are encouraging private investment to upscale our health sector, with emphasis on improved facilities and affordable universal healthcare.”

While appreciating leaders across the world for their prompt response and cooperation in controlling the spread of the COVID-19, Prof. Osinbajo said, “the sheer scale of disruptions to our lives and livelihoods caused by COVID-19 certainly caught us all by surprise.”
Restating the call for debt relief for developing countries, the Vice President said, “the pandemic underscores the need for adequate financial buffers to cope with the ‘black swan’ events. For many developing countries, the debt burden makes this all but impossible.”

Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo noted that: “We call for debt relief for these countries, and the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) at least until the end of 2021 as well as commercial debt relief where needed.”
The statement recalled that the Vice President had in previous international fora earlier in the year made a case for debt relief for developing countries, noting that “the Debt Servicing Support Initiative of the G20 is welcome and will no doubt bring some relief to relevant African countries.

“However, it remains inadequate because it does not address the problem of commercial debt service obligations.”
He assured that Nigeria stands with all countries of the world, in the effort to eradicate the virus, and leverage experiences for a healthier and more prosperous world.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the COVID-19 Pandemic has expressed concern over the rate of testing in the country, noting that it is too low to defeat the outbreak in the country with a population like Nigeria.
The chairman of the task force and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, stated this during its weekly media briefing in Abuja on Thursday.
Comparing Nigeria to other African countries, he said: “​Let me use this opportunity to urge all Nigerians to come out for regular testing. Our testing rate is very unencouraging.
“Mauritius has the highest tests per million (218,535) while Nigeria stands at 3,605 per million. This is grossly too low to be at a comfortable stage of defeating the pandemic considering the size of our population.”

He said the PTF is still monitoring situations around the world and will continue to raise the flag so that Nigerians pay adequate attention to the rising number of cases, especially in high burden countries.

Mustapha noted that this will particularly help in planning to or not to, embark on trips, saying: “The candid advice of the PTF still remains that non-essential trips should be totally avoided.”

He pointed out that global cases crossed the 52 million mark with USA, India and Brazil accounting for 48% of all global cumulative burden.

According to him, the USA has been recording over 100,000 cases daily in recent times and the rate of fatalities is increasing in the UK and other European countries.

While noting that five countries (USA, Brazil, India, Mexico and UK) account for 53% (685,176) of global deaths, he added that on the African continent, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia reported the highest cases in the last 24 hours while South Africa now accounts for 38% of total cases on the continent, up from 50% as at September.

Mustapha also announced that Nigeria now ranks 6th in Africa, adding: “And we don’t have to let our guards down for a second wave. The number of cases has been fluctuating lately and that is an indication that we are not out of the woods yet. The cases in Lagos where multiple infections were recorded in two schools are typical examples of the danger of reopening institutions without the required measures.”

The PTF urged Nigerians to take responsibility to keep the nation safe by adhering to all COVID-19 preventive measures, saying: “It is our collective responsibility. We must all rally round each other to stop this pandemic from destroying our lives and economy.
“The PTF believes strongly that now is the time to raise the tempo of not just our national response but also our preparedness for a new wave of the pandemic or any other epidemic for that matter.

“For example, it has been strongly observed that places of worship, gatherings and other events have dumped the use of face masks and adherence to other NPIs.”

The SGF expressed concern over the mental health of COVID-19 survivors in the country and is intensifying response under the treatment and post-treatment regimes.

He stated: “The PTF is still very much concerned about the mental health of survivors of the COVID 19 virus. In this regard, the PTF is following reports from researches around the world regarding the state of psychiatric health of survivors and has intensified plans for in-country response under the treatment and post-treatment regimes.”
Mustapha regretted the death of former Ghanaian President, Jerry Rawlings and Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erakat, who both succumbed to complications from coronavirus.

He said: “This afternoon, we received the report of the demise of the former President of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings. We commiserate with the President, Government and people of our sister country and pray for the repose of his soul.

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