The federal government on Thursday ruled out a third lockdown over the presence of the Delta variant of coronavirus in the country, saying that the current threats are not at a level where another national shutdown will be considered.
Health minister, Osagie Ehanire, while speaking at the 17th edition of the weekly ministerial press briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the presidential villa, Abuja, revealed that apart from the vaccines sourced free of charge, Nigeria has paid for about 30 million doses of Johnson&Johnson doses.
Ehanire who noted that lockdown remains a last resort observed that such lockdown stifle economic activities as well as restrict freedom of movement.
“ Lockdown is a very, very last measure that countries are taken because our lockdown stifles economic activity, restricts your own freedom and your business – both corporate business, government business, private business all are affected.
“So it looks like something you do easily. And of course, when we were compelled to have that lockdown at the beginning we learnt a lot of lessons.
“You know, at that time government provided palliatives to release the impact of it if you couldn’t go to market if you couldn’t do your business. But this is not what the government is aiming to do, no government wants to do a lockdown. In countries where they have had a serious threat, they have had to do what they call a precision lockdown like in the UK.
“In fact, Israel the other day announced that they’re doing some lockdown, but there’s no more generalised lockdown or precision of certain areas.
“So many countries do what they call precision lockdown. So that is not everybody that will be affected only certain areas to avoid too much damage to the economy, to social life. And we are not at the level yet where we are feeling that threat to do any lockdown. But I will tell you that many countries are not in generalised lockdown, precision lockdown.
The Health Minister cited several nations who had imposed one kind of locked or the other, adding that “if my recollection is correct at least six or seven countries that are doing one form of lockdown or the other. We do not have that on the table right”
Ehanire said the 176,000 doses of the Johnson&Johnson doses have already been received while the remainder will come in batches.
He assured that the majority of vaccines used in the country will be bought by the government rather than depending on those gifted to it by other countries.
This is just as he declared that the Moderna vaccines are safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers, as it prepares to take delivery of about 4m doses from the United States
“This is what we know about the vaccines from pieces of literature, but we advise that they must engage their doctors to advise them, before taking the vaccines,” he said
He revealed that only about 2.3% of eligible Nigerians have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccines, adding that “we are targeting 70% of eligible Nigerians, by 2022.
Ehanire who also spoke on the striking Medical doctors appealed to the health workers to reconsider their actions but insisted on a “ no work no pay policy.
“ We have said openly that this is not a good time for doctors to go on strike. We’re having a strike for the third time this year that is not good. You have appealed to them.
“They’ll be having long meetings with young doctors to tell them that look we have a certain responsibility to our country. Every country that has a difficult situation at this time should understand that responsibilities are on all of us if you have any problem, any grudges let’s talk about it. If we can’t solve it now, let’s continue talking about it until we find a solution but don’t drop work.
Ehanire while noting that it is only in Nigeria where doctors are dropping work in the middle of a threat to the whole country, added that “ So that’s why we have advised. There has been no threat. Nobody threatened anything. Just appeal all of us are doctors, all of us went through the same residency. We’re saying this is not the time let’s continue to talk about it. Do not put people’s lives at risk. That’s what the Minister of Labour has been saying, that is what the minister of Health has been saying. Nobody has threatened anybody with anything.
“Yes, we said no work, no pay, but that’s the standard thing. That’s International Labour Organisation, ILO recommendation that if you didn’t work, then why will you take…your salary comes from taxpayers money. So if you did not work, why should you be paid? Because if that is so you can’t be encouraged to stay home for six months and your salary is running from public funds, from taxpayers money, or you have not given the community any service.
“So that no work, no pay is not just the government regulation is recommended, is specifically stated in International Labour Organisation that if you do not work if you have not given any service, you can’t expect regulation. Because you can’t go to market and buy something for nothing. You must put down something, you must put down work.
“You can go to market and take goods without paying. So if you work, you will be paid. And we are strongly in support of the government meeting its obligations to pay what is agreed. We have said that we shall push for that, you know, working with the salaries and wages commission, the head of a service, we are working to support that including pay all the insurance dues.
The director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, noted that the cases of COVID-19 recently sequenced in Nigeria are Delta variant, which he said had made it the dominant variant in the country.
Also speaking, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Faisal Shuaib, said 2.3% of eligible Nigerians have been vaccinated.