Buhari approves complete lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the complete lifting of restrictions approved earlier to curb the spread of coronavirus across the country.

The president’s consent is informed by evaluations of the technical sub-committee on COVID-19 as presented by Boss Mustapha, the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee, PSC.

The presidential endorsement, said credible sources, is based on remarkable progress recorded so far in the management of the pandemic across the country, though just 58.8   million or 53 per cent of the country’s eligible population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Latest update by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, also indicate that 71 million or 64 per cent Nigerians have been partially vaccinated against the scourge which killed no fewer than 6.65 million globally.

Specifically, the restrictions on travel protocols are now relaxed and it is no longer an offence to travel without COVID-19 vaccination certificate.

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The Federal Government had in March 2020, inaugurated a Presidential Task Force to coordinate the activities towards containing the spread of coronavirus. Its mandate was to strengthen the national response strategy, especially in the areas of testing, containment and management of COVID-19, as well as create awareness among the citizens. 

Stringent measures were rolled out to curtail the pandemic, including the closure of public places such as churches, mosques, viewing centres, clubs and motor parks. 

In April, 2022, the PSC issued new international travel guidelines and removed the mandatory Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR, testing for fully vaccinated visitors. 

The PSC also approved stiff penalties for unvaccinated travelers violating the new rules. The guidelines which took effect from Monday, April 4, 2022, also prescribed

 sanctions for airlines that bring violators of the new rules.

Mustapha said that the new guideline prescribed for the fully vaccinated would apply to travelers between ages 10 and 18 years and that unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated international travelers would still be required to take the PCR test 48 hours before boarding a flight to Nigeria.

“This protocol is a revision of the Travel Protocol released on 29th November 2021 Interim Travel Guidelines for Passengers arriving in Nigeria.

“In-bound passengers to Nigeria, who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, are no longer required to carry out COVID-19 PCR test before boarding Nigeria-bound flights.

“Fully vaccinated passengers arriving Nigeria will not also be required to carry out Post arrival PCR test or a Rapid Antigen Test upon arrival in Nigeria.

“Children below the age of 18 years will be accorded the same privileges as persons wh are fully vaccinated.

“In-bound Passengers who are unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated for COVID-19 shall take a COVID-19 PCR test 48 hours before departure and undergo Days 2 and 7 post-arrival PCR tests at their own cost,” Mustapha explained.

Information obtained from the NPHCDA website indicate that over 12.48 million representing 11.0 percent of eligible population targeted for COVID-19 vaccination were partially vaccinated.  Also, more than 57 million citizens, representing 51.1 percent of total eligible population targeted for COVID-19 vaccination were fully vaccinated as of November 27, 2022. 

The Executive Secretary, NPHCDA Dr Faisal Shuaib said Nigeria failed to attain the mandatory 70 percent of the year-end global vaccination coverage for COVID-19 even as he explained that Nigeria is 21.6 million persons away from reaching the target of fully vaccinating 70 per cent of its eligible population by December 2022.

The NPHCDA boss hinted that 13.2 per cent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus while praising the COVID-19 Strategy Group for achieving 50 per cent vaccination coverage in the country, attributing their success to team work.

Shuaib said that he has already directed the team to intensify efforts and close the gap militating against the target, just as he congratulated Nigeria for attaining the feat. 

While promising to sustain the momentum, the NPHCDA boss stated that the country’s ambition is to hit 70 per cent of the targeted population.

As at November 19, 2022 the country had 266,283 confirmed infections; 259,640 discharged cases and 3,155 deaths.

In the last six months, the country sustained a decline in the number of new cases and in the importation of the infection from other countries. Nigeria has also not recorded any mortality in the last 56 days.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has been at the forefront in the management of COVID-19 as well as providing updates on the pandemic. 

Credible News reports that as of Friday, 9 December, 2022, the NCDC advised Nigerians to get vaccinated because COVID-19 vaccines have the greatest impact of reducing severe illness, hospitalisation and death. 

The NCDC via its official Twitter handle @NCDCgov indicated that COVID-19 vaccine boosts the immune system and protects from severe illness while expressing optimism that COVID-19 vaccines would keep all citizens healthy and safe.

Credible News recalls that Nigeria recorded the first case of COVID-19 on 27 February, 2020. The Federal Ministry of Health confirmed that an Italian citizen, who returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos on the 25 February, 2020 tested positive to the pandemic. 

He was confirmed positive by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.