There was panic among staff of the National Youth Service Corps on Tuesday after a resident officer died of COVID-19.
The PUNCH gathered that the top officer was posted to the permanent orientation camp in Kano, a few days ago where he developed coronavirus symptoms and died on Tuesday.
Following his death, workers of the NYSC in Abuja and orientation camps, particularly in Kano, had been gripped by fear of contracting COVID-19.
Recall that the Economic Sustainability Committee led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had in June last year called on the Federal Government to consider suspending the NYSC orientation camp exercises for two years.
But on January 16 Saturday PUNCH reported that the Federal Government snubbed the recommendation by re-opening orientation camps nationwide amid rising COVID-19 infections.
Since the camps were reopened, many corps members have tested positive for COVID-19. For example, at the Cross River NYSC camp, 13 corps members were reported to have tested positive on January 25.
The PUNCH learnt on Tuesday that the deceased officer went to Kano State where he represented the Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier General, Shuaibu Ibrahim.
When contacted, NYSC Deputy Director (Press and Public Relations), Emeka Mgbemena, confirmed the death of the officer to The PUNCH, but said he died outside the orientation camp.
But a top officer of the NYSC, who confided in The PUNCH, said the officer was tested by doctors and officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control who confirmed that he died as a result of COVID -19.
Workers accuse NYSC of hiding case
The source said, “The resident officer, who was posted from the NYSC National Headquarters in Abuja to Kano State NYSC permanent orientation camp died early this (Tuesday) morning as a result of COVID-19.
“But very unfortunately, the NYSC management and the NCDC are trying to hide the case. The officer and representative of the DG was tested by the doctors and the NCDC who confirmed that the officer died as a result of COVID-19 in the camp. Right now, multiple numbers of the NCDC staff are in the camp.”
Another top officer of the service, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said staff of the NYSC in other camps, who had learnt about the development had started panicking.
Giving more insight into the officer’s death, Mgbemena said, “Indeed, NYSC lost an officer. In keeping with COVID – 19 protocols, everyone, including the DG, must subject themselves to COVID-19 test. Only those that test negative are allowed into the camps.
“The officer in question was suspected of COVID-19. Accordingly, the NCDC took over the case. Sadly, he succumbed to the cold hands of death in the course of treatment. It is imperative to state that he did not step into the camp, neither did he die there too. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
“Everybody in the camp, including resource persons, camp market operators were tested for COVID – 19. There’s no COVID-19 positive person in the 37 camps of the NYSC nationwide.”
We have reduced camp capacity to maximum 800 – Service
On Tuesday evening, Mgbemena later told one of our correspondents that the NCDC was in charge of the testing.
He also stated, “The capacity of the camps have greatly reduced to a maximum of 800 persons to ensure social distancing.
Watch hand basins, liquid soap, running water and sanitisers have strategically placed in the camp.
“The number of camp market operators has been scaled down to 50. Corps members don’t sit to eat anymore at the mammy market.”
Also, in a document titled, ‘Sad loss of NYSC staff in Kano State,’ he said, “The officer was tested for COVID – 19, as precondition for admittance to the orientation camp, just like all other camp officials and prospective corps members in the 37 NYSC orientation camps nationwide, as prescribed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID – 19 and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“The test result was positive for the officer, and was subsequently moved to the Kano State Isolation Centre for proper care but unfortunately succumbed to the virus.”
70 million Nigerians to be vaccinated by 2022 – Fayemi
Meanwhile, the Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on Tuesday disclosed that about 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines would soon arrive in Nigeria.
The volume of vaccines, according to Fayemi, will be used to immunise 40 per cent of the country’s population in 2021.
The governor said this was part of measures being put in place to stem the tide of the deadly virus this year, adding that another batch of 60m doses would arrive in 2022.
He spoke while delivering a paper: ‘The role of Nigeria’s State Governments in Recovery, Responses to COVID-19-linked Challenges” at the Chatham House Africa Programme.
The conference was moderated by Elizabeth Donnelly, Deputy Director and Research Fellow, Africa Programme, Chatham House.
Fayemi at the virtual conference which held via Zoom said the amount of vaccines being expected was released by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency during a meeting of the National Economic Council last week.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, indicated that beyond government’s procurement of vaccines, the NGF had remained a strong proponent of the utilisation of public-private partnerships in vaccines procurement as a means of closing the gap between “what is available and what is necessary to achieve herd immunity”.
According to the statement, “The Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi has revealed that about 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available in the country to immunize 40 percent of the population this year.
“This, he said was part of measures being put in place to stem the tide of the deadly virus this year, adding that another batch of 60 million doses would arrive in 2022.
“As of today, Nigeria has tested 1.3m persons for COVID-19, with 10% (131,242) of these confirmed positive. Compared with the global and Africa’s Case Fatality Rate (CFR) of 2.2% and 2.5% respectively, Nigeria has fared better with a CFR of 1.2%.”
Fayemi, who spoke on government’s efforts at minimising the effect of the pandemic on public health and economic growth, explained that the private sector through Coalition Against COVID-19 collaborated with the state and federal governments in raising more than $75m to provide medical supplies, equipment, isolation and treatment centres and food for the vulnerable in the society.
This, he said was in addition to the expansion of laboratories services across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory and the training of about 45,000 health workers across the country on infection, prevention and control measures.
Kogi fumes over COVID-19 travel warning, alleges NCDC scaring investors
In a related development, the Kogi State Government on Tuesday accused the NCDC of deliberately peddling falsehood to scare investors who had chosen the state as their destination of choice.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo, said this while reacting to a warning by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which included the state among five high-risk states.
The commissioner told one of our correspondents that the state government believed that the intention of the NCDC was to make investors shun the state.
He stated, “Despite their unreliable figures, Kogi emerged as the preferred investment destination of Nigeria in the last quarter of 2020. They felt embarrassed and the best way to hit back is to create a picture of health crisis in the state.”
According to him, Kogi was the first state to procure face masks in thousands and distributed to all the LGAs as well as the first to set up a Squadron Team to combat the spread of the pandemic.
“We set up isolation centres with state-of-the-art equipment. We have done sensitization more than any other state. So if we don’t believe COVID-19 exists, we won’t be doing all we are doing to ensure it doesn’t ravage our state.
“What we said and still saying is that COVID-19 is not worth all the marketing going on just for a few to make billions. That we do not have to suffer innocent Nigerians while a few smile to the banks. That we can’t afford a deeper recession as a country. “ The commissioner said.
He said that the cases reported in Kogi were fraudulent, adding that the NCDC was not working for the people.
He noted that the NCDC data was unreliable and inconsistent.
“We are fine in Kogi and do not accept their scaremongering. It was an attempt to intimidate our state, scare investors away and cause unnecessary panic.”
He described the move as an attack on the good people of Kogi State vowing that the state government would defend the people against the merchants of fear and despair.
“We won’t submit the lives and psychology of our people to those who have turned COVID-19 to business,” he added.
He said that the state Governor, Yahaya Bello, had called for a robust synergy between science and common sense; medicine and governance, in order to combat the pandemic.
He alleged that politicians had hijacked the process for their selfish gains adding that the state government would not sit by and watch the enemies of Nigeria infest Kogi with their fear and marketing.
The commissioner revealed that the state government would not hesitate to seek legal redress against the NCDC.