BusinessDay

Omicron Virus: Presidency introduces compulsory Covid-19 tests for staff, visitors.

Amidst rising cases of Omicron variant of the coronavirus pandemic, the Presidency on Sunday night said it is introducing compulsory tests for visitors to the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Recall that top Presidency official and some personal Aides of President Muhammadu Buhari had last week tested positive to the virus which swept through the Nigeria seat of power. The development led to the President scaling down on some of the activities officially slated for him.

Following the development, Businessday gathered that all visitors, including Governors and other top personalities to the seat of power, will now be required to take the rapid covid-19 tests, before accessing the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Businessday gathered that the test which will be taken at the entrance gate, along with other protocols, will be administered free of charge for approved visitors.

The presidency has, however, made exceptions for some visiting leaders from other countries, but insists that they must have taken the necessary precautions to observe the global non-pharmaceutical protocols on Covid-19.

The Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu, who confirmed the development, insisted that “all the visitors will be expected to take the test.”

He stated that the policy followed the “discovery of Covid positivity in some of those tested since the last few days of the practice.”

In a swift precautionary move, the President and other top officials at the Presidency were last week, made to take the Covid-19 booster vaccines, in the wake of the coronavirus spike, especially with the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Shehu confirmed that the “new regime of Covid-19 regulation has been put in place for all visitors to the Villa.”

“Every visitor to the Villa, not just those seeing the President, is now required to do a rapid test at the gate.

“The kits are freely issued so no one is required to make payment. This is purely temporary in view of the recent spike in cases and will be removed any moment the situation abates. It’s a growing practice in government offices in many countries.

Read also: COVID-19: UK pledges £105m to help Nigeria, others tackle Omicron

He disclosed that “some exceptions have been made for a few leaders in government coming from outside the Villa, they too are encouraged to do those tests.

Recalled that President Mohammadu Buhari who took his first dose of the vaccine on the 6th of March, 2021 and the 2nd dose on the 29th of May, 2021, had to take the booster in the wake of the Omicron spike

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Chairman of the Presidential steering committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, and Health Minister Osagie Ehanire had earlier taken their own booster dose, giving credence to the safety and efficiency of the vaccines.

The federal government also had earlier begun a policy of compulsory display of evidence of vaccination as a prerequisite for accessing government establishments by staff and visitors.

Businessday was reliably informed that the test followed the discovery of some fake Covid-19 vaccination cards by some individuals who have not taken the vaccines but went ahead to obtain such cards.

The Presidency is said to be alarmed at the discovery that some persons procure fake vaccination cards in violation of the government instructions

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee of Covid-19, Boss Mustapha, had in November declared that the committee had “received intelligence and even detected that some unscrupulous citizens are procuring vaccination cards through the black market.

He warned that “ that the vaccination records/certificates will be verified” adding that “ this should serve as a warning to those criminally minded persons to desist because they will be prosecuted accordingly.”

Presidency noted that despite the warning, many who had refused to take the vaccines have gone ahead to procure the cards.

The Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaibu, said about 8 million Nigerians have so far been vaccinated.

He revealed that 8 million Nigerians have been vaccinated so far without casualties, adding that “ this is another proof that this vaccine is safe, and it’s a clarion call to all Nigerians to make themselves available to get the vaccine.

“They are well, they are going about their normal businesses. And what we’re seeing from the data is that COVID-19 is now mostly a disease of the unvaccinated out of every 10 people that have died, the data shows that eight of them are unvaccinated.

Shuaibu revealed that there’s a greater likelihood of dying from COVID-19 when a person is not unvaccinated.

He noted that government officials from the President, the governors, the legislators were however showing leadership by coming out openly to take the vaccines, adding that “ these vaccines are exactly what we need to be able to protect our health and then begin to build back our economy”