FG orders schools to conduct weekly COVID-19 assessment

The Federal Government has released more guidelines that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 as more states fully reopen schools on Monday.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which disclosed this to The PUNCH on Thursday,  stated that schools had been directed to conduct COVID-19 risk assessment every week.

The NCDC also disclosed that local governments and states were directed to conduct monthly and quarterly COVID-19 risk assessment in schools respectively.

The NCDC  Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu,  stated these in an electronic mail sent to one of our correspondents in response to enquiries.

According to the NCDC, the assessment will determine schools’ level of compliance with safety protocols including physical distancing, hand-washing and the use of face masks, whose violation can put students at risk of COVID-19.

Also on Thursday, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 said the Federal Government would seize passports of travellers who failed to carry out COVID-19 test. It added that visas of foreign travellers would be cancelled.

Schools across the country were shut in March as part of measures to check the spread of COVID-19.

But the Senior Secondary School 3 students resumed on August 17 to write the West African Senior School Examinations.

At its press conference on September 3, the PTF recommended phased reopening of schools.

Following the PTF’s recommendation, states that have announced dates for reopening  of their schools include Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Delta and Kogi States. States, where schools are resuming on Monday, include Lagos, Ekiti , Osun and Ogun.

On Thursday, the  NCDC DG told The PUNCH that part of its responsibility was to work with all relevant stakeholders to strengthen the country’s capacity for early detection and response to COVID-19 cases.

He stated,  “We have also continued to educate the public on measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

“We know that as the economy and society re-open gradually, we may record a spike in COVID-19 cases. We have reviewed the situation in other countries that have re-opened schools as well as guidance from WHO, UNICEF and other public health authorities.

“There is lesser risk of COVID-19 cases in school settings, if schools carefully coordinate, plan and put the required safety measures in place before reopening.

“We are working closely with the Federal Ministry of Education, PTF-COVID-19, states and our partners to ensure that the required safety measures are in place to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our schools.”

“The PTF-COVID-19 and Federal Ministry of Education have mandated schools to conduct periodic (weekly) risk assessments. This is to review the gaps that may exist in reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools, and tailor interventions to address these gaps. Local governments areas and states are to conduct monthly and quarterly risk assessment respectively.”

“In addition to this, schools are to set up school health teams including teachers and learners that would facilitate implementation of the safety protocols in schools. LGAs and States have been advised to set up multi-sectoral school health committees dedicated to supporting and monitoring the implementation of safety protocols in the school.”

Speaking further on risk assessment, the NCDC spokesman Emeka Oguanuo, said it included,   “the process of identifying and analysing potential gaps, threats that may cause a likelihood of COVID-19 spread.

“Risk assessments in public health are also done to determine severity or degree of an outbreak.  In this case, it is done to determine if school re-opening  is safe  and whenever a bridge in safety is observed, it  can be addressed by relevant stakeholders.”

Meanwhile, the PTF on  Thursday warned international travellers arriving the country to carry out COVID-19 test within 14 days of their arrival.

The National Coordinator of PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said at the task force’s briefing in Abuja that such Nigerian travellers who failed to carry out the PCR COVID-19 test within the stipulated period would have their passports suspended for six months, while foreigners would have their visas on their way out of the country cancelled.

He explained that a passenger must have a negative PCR COVID-19 test, upload it on the prescribed portal and generate a QR Code, before departure and must pay for another test within seven days, and undergo the test within 14 days of arriving Nigeria.

He said, “We are urging passengers coming into the country to make sure they pay for their COVID-19 PCR test by day 7 of arrival. If passengers do not have a test for COVID 19 by day 14,  our system will pick up these passengers and if it is very clear they haven’t had a test for COVID 19 , the passports will be suspended  for a period of six months.

“Therefore it is really essential for non-Nigerians,  their visas on their way out of Nigeria will be cancelled. So, they might have difficulties coming to the country.”

He said although government continued “to have issues with payment” for the PCR test by arriving passengers, it would “not insist on evidence of payment before boarding, but we will be releasing a strong recommendation to airlines  that preferably people come onboard with the QR Code.”

Aliyu said it was unrealistic and unsustainable for the Federal Government to bear the cost of the PCR test for every passenger arriving the country.

He said, “Currently about 5,000 air travellers come in and out of Nigeria, and the PTF wants to ensure that we do not lose the gains made in the response.

By: Tolulope Kadiri

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