• It’s scary, coronavirus protocols must not be broken, advise virologists

The National Youth Service Corps is expected to mobilize about 49,950 corps members in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory next week, while another group will be mobilized in August.

This was revealed in a virtual meeting with potential members of the body which was also attended by the Director General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu; and NYSC Executive Director Brig. General Shuaibu Ibrahim.

The NCDC revealed that between 1,200 and 1,500 corps members would be deployed to each orientation camp across the country, bringing the total to at least 49,950 if an average of 1,350 corps members are housed in each camp. .

Although virologists, including the chair of the expert review panel on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, who spoke with The punch, were not against the orientation, they warned that there would be problems if COVID-19 protocols were not followed in the camps.

The development came just as the number of infections nearly hit 170,000 on Sunday amid fears of a third wave powered by the highly infectious Delta strain as well as a COVID-19 vaccine shortage across the board. national.

Additionally, less than one percent of the Nigerian population has been vaccinated since the first dose was administered on March 6, 2021.

Nigeria recorded 203 new cases on Sunday, a significant departure from figures last month, when the country averaged less than 50 cases per day.

Last Thursday, the University of Lagos asked its students to leave university residences to check the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

The university Senate made the decision to close the hostels in an emergency meeting held on Wednesday after some students tested positive for COVID-19.

As part of preparations for the NYSC orientation, Deputy Director, International Health Surveillance / Regulation, NCDC, Dr Oyeladun Okunromade, said corps members would be mobilized on July 27, but around 300 to 500 would resume. in each camp per day. .

She said corps members must provide details of their travel and vaccination status along with other information.

Okunromade further stated that the tests will be free but that body members must come to the camp with masks which they must wear at all times.

The NCDC official said: “For this resumption of the Lot B camp, the camps reopen on July 27 according to the schedule we have available from the NYSC and it will last three weeks and we expect around 1,200 to 1,500 corps members per. camp. In the past, we had a lot of body members in each camp, but we don’t have that luxury because of COVID-19. “

She revealed that the next batch would be mobilized in late August, bringing the body’s total membership to around 99,900 within two months.

The Economic Sustainability Committee chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had recommended in June 2020 that even if the NYSC program could continue, the three-week orientation exercise should be suspended for two years to prevent the spread of the virus.

Speaking earlier, NCDC boss Ihekweazu called on potential corps members to comply with COVID-19 protocols or risk camp closures for the next two years.

“As you know, we are starting to see a slight increase in cases, mainly in Lagos and a few other states. So, the mistake we can all make when dealing with the virus is thinking that it is gone. It certainly has not gone away and we must maintain what we have done in order to maintain the fragile successes we have achieved together.

“So at camp there will be limits. If you hear about your story at camp, it might not be the same. There may be limits to what you are able to do and how you can get involved. Please, this is for our success. The alternative is to postpone the camp for the next few years and neither of us want to do it. ”

In his remarks, the NYSC boss asked potential corps members not to bring drugs to the camp because officials from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency would be present.

He also said that potential members of the body who show false results when cleared will be arrested.

The NYSC boss said this will be the fifth orientation exercise amid the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that some members of the body may even meet their future spouses in the camp.

Shuaibu said all NYSC staff have been vaccinated.

When asked if corps members will be receiving vaccines at the camp, Dr Okunromade said all vaccines have run out but more will arrive in late July or early August.

NYSC allays fears, says partnership with NCDC works

Also, NYSC CEO Ibrahim in an interview with THE PUNCH, said, “We have conducted more than five referrals under COVID-19. Our partnership with NCDC is working. NCDC and NYSC hosted a webinar with potential corps members on what is expected of them for a flawless orientation exercise.

“All camp officials and potential corps members will be tested and only those who are negative will be allowed into the camp. We follow the same protocols as in the previous exercise.

Only COVID-19 negative processions will be admitted – NYSC

In addition, NYSC Deputy Director (Press and Public Relations) Emeka Mgbemena told one of our correspondents that “the life of every member of the corps is not only very dear to the National Youth Service Corps, but also to the nation.

“As a precautionary measure, all potential body members, as well as camp officials, should report for COVID-19 testing at all 37 NYSC camps.

“Only those who have tested negative for the COVID-19 test are admitted to the camps. The NCDC takes charge of any positive case.

“It is imperative to note that prior to the above test, PCMs (potential body members) complete the COVID – 19 Rapid Diagnostic Test Self-Reprint Form and print the verification slip to present to camp for the test.

The NYSC works closely with the NCDC for appropriate advice, while the NYSC clinics are managed by consultants.

“As a result, all NYSC camps are free from COVID-19 infection.”

NYSC Lagos State Coordinator Mr. Eddy Megwa said NYSC is working with NCDC to achieve a smooth orientation camp in Lagos.

He said. “NYSC is working hand in hand with the NCDC in the orientation program.

COVID 19 is now an albatross, life must go on – President of AMN

In his response, Nigerian Medical Association National President Professor Innocent Uja said there was nothing wrong with the NYSC planning to mobilize members for orientation camps as long as officials are watching. compliance with protocols established by the NCDC.

Uja, who said COVID 19 has become an albatross, explained that life must go on because no one knew when the dreaded disease would go away.

The boss of the NMA, who is also the vice-chancellor of the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo maintained that COVID 19 is coming with different variants, but said the nation should develop strategies that would allow people to navigate around the disease.

He said, “As long as they (NYSC) obey the protocols, I think the most important thing is that we obey the NCDC protocols; regular wearing of face mask, washing of hands and observing the rule of social distancing, in particular, when (body members) are walking, they should give space according to NCDC protocols.

“If we follow all the protocols, we won’t have any problems because we don’t know how long COVID 19 will be with us.

“We just finished one variation only to find out there is another variation. So it has become an albatross and people have to be alive but we can be alive if we follow the protocols. This is what we need to do because if we stay and hope there won’t be COVID, we need to navigate our strategies around COVID.

He also said mobilizing body members would provide an opportunity for mass vaccination and help the country properly plan the purchase of vaccine doses.

The president of the NMA said, “It’s an opportunity for them (NYSC) when you have so many people in one place at the same time it helps to vaccinate a lot of people. Immune them against COVID. “

Camp accommodation must take into account non-pharmaceutical measures – Tomori

But virologists have advised the federal government to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 prevention protocols at NYSC camps.

Three virologists, who spoke in separate interviews with The punch, Monday, advised the government to make sure there were no half-measures to ensure the safety of corps members as well as NYSC staff, especially during the three-week orientation camp.

The Chairman of the Expert Review Panel on COVID-19, Professor Tomori, said: “If we have nearly 50,000 body members scattered across about 36 states, that means each state receives fewer than 2,000 members. from the body.

“If the accommodation provided takes into consideration non-pharmaceutical measures, then they can cope but if not, there will be a problem. It is also necessary that they do regular tests from time to time.

Associate Professor of Virology at Osun State University, Dr Waidi Sule also agreed with Tomori.

He advised, however, that the camp date should be revised due to the outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus.

He said: “With what we are going through now, I would have advised that the camps be postponed given the problem we are in now, but if public health measures will be put in place then no problem.

“The camps will be overcrowded without a doubt but we have to make sure that there are measures in place, hand washing, use of face masks and all that. This is to avoid problems.

In his contribution, another professor of virology at the University of Ibadan, Professor David Olaleye said: “It sounds scary, but as it is now, we can only hope that the COVID-19 guidelines are well implemented in the camps. This is to prevent an epidemic.

“Body limbs should also be tested regularly from time to time to ensure that cases are detected early enough.”

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