Thirty-six states of the federation have faulted the Federal Government’s handling of N36bn international fund meant to combat COVID-19.
The PUNCH learnt that at a meeting of state commissioners of health and federal health officers, which started on Tuesday and ended early on Wednesday, state governments opposed the central government over the sharing of the N36bn international fund.
The World Bank Board of Directors had on August 7, 2020 approved a $114.28 financing to help Nigeria prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 with a specific focus on state level responses.
The global body said, through the COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project, the government of Nigeria would provide grants to 36 and the Federal Capital Territory as immediate support to break the chain of COVID-19 local transmission and limit the spread of coronavirus through containment and mitigation strategies.
Although the source of the current international fund could not be confirmed, it was learnt that each state was supposed to get N1bn.
A source at the meeting said:-
“The amount that should be given to each state was N1bn, but what we were offered was far lesser than N800m. We have told them (the Federal Government) to investigate it and give us what we are entitled to.”
Speaking on the development, the Benue State Commissioner for Health and Human Resources, Ngbea, said states had been informed that N1bn would be given to each of them.
“We just came back from Abuja today (Wednesday) to receive an international fund, but we didn’t get it for some hitches. Once the money is out, we will channel it to appropriate areas like equipping our isolation centres.”
Although the commissioner declined to give the amount offered the states, he stated, “The speculation we heard was that N1bn would be given to each state, but when we got there what we saw was far lesser than that. It is not commensurate with things we want to do. We have resolved that they (the Federal Government) should into that and add to it.”
“We need to make our isolation centres more functional and up our testing capacity. We need to immunise more people because for now only 2.9 percent of our population have been immunised.”
The commissioner said there were two functional isolation centres in Benue State, one at Federal Medical Centre and the other at Benue State University Teaching Hospital both located in Makurdi, the state capital.
He disclosed participants at the just concluded meeting of health commissioners across the country resolved that they should prepare for emergencies.
The commissioner said that states were expecting international funds to tackle COVID-19, especially, to make isolation centres more functional.
On his part, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Akin Omole, said that the COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres in the state were functional.
“The issue of COVID-19 is under the Federal Government. It is the Federal Government that will take some initiatives and the state governments will begin to implement. The state government will have to wait for the Federal Government to take the matter up before we key into it.”
In an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Wednesday, the Plateau State Commissioner for Health, Dr Nimkong Lar, said the two isolation centres in Shendam and Riyom were closed because there were no enough patients but that the government would reopen them immediately if need be.
Also, the Ondo State Government said all its isolation centres were in good condition but there was no patient of COVID- 19 in them.
The state Epidemiologist, Dr Stephen Fagbemi, who spoke on development disclosed that the state had four isolation centres.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, on his part, disclosed that the state did not intend to open more isolation centres.
Omotoso, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said the centre at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba was the only one in operation at the moment.
“The only isolation centre that I know is in operation is the one at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba. For us not to open more isolation centres, that is why we are announcing measures and regulations that all of us will have to adhere to so that the cases will not go out of hand.”
WHO forecasts increased hospitalisation as Omicron variant spreads to 57 countries.
In a related development, the World Health Organisation On Wednesday said there would be increased hospitalization if more people got infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease. The global health body stated that the variant had been identified in 57 countries of the world.
The WHO made this known in its weekly global epidemiological report of the coronavirus.
According to WHO, while all the confirmed cases of the omicron in South Africa were asymptomatic, it stated that the country witnessed an increase in hospitalisation rate.
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