Most Lao students returned to schools on Tuesday as the Lao government further eased its precautionary COVID-19 restrictions.
Final-year classes at technical colleges, pedagogy colleges and universities have also reopened on the same day, while other remaining classes are instructed to reopen on June 15.
Since May 18, the graduating grade students of primary and secondary schools have gone back to their classrooms, to prepare for tests to gain admission into higher education levels, according to an earlier announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office on May 15.
School administrators must implement precautionary measures to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19, which was recommended by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
The measures for reopening schools include school administrators keeping their premises clean by cleaning classrooms and grounds and spraying disinfectant around their facilities to reduce the risk of infections.
Administrative staff, teachers and students must wear face masks at all times at school, and parents must also wear masks while picking up their children.
The Lao government also allows normal transport of goods across international borders from Tuesday. Organizations of all forms of sport competitions with no spectators, night markets and cinemas are also permitted to reopen.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the easing of restrictions was temporary and that if further cases of COVID-19 were found, the rules would be reimposed in the province where the infection was detected. If clusters of infections occur in two or more provinces, the lockdown will be re-introduced nationwide.
Restrictions have been further relaxed given that there have been no new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Laos for 50 consecutive days as of Monday. Sixteen of the 19 patients who contracted the virus have been discharged from hospitals.
Health Minister says 10% of COVID-19 cases are under-19
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire says records show that 10 per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases treated are below the age of 19 years.
According to him, with regard to COVID-19 and growing complacency, it is important to stress that, even though adults, especially those 60 years and above are more vulnerable, complications do occur in all age groups.
“Records show that 10 percent of all positive cases we have treated are below the age of 19 years.
” They are also the same mobile group that can be without symptoms, but can easily spread the disease.
“Therefore, as schools begin to reopen in some areas, I urge caution and adherence to the protocols and advisories for reopening schools, to prevent COVID-19 surge,” he said.
Speaking on the need for testing, the minister noted that it was important for the country to generate national and international confidence in the nation’s data by conducting more targeted testing before conclusions were drawn.
“It means that all States and local government areas must cooperate with NCDC by raising sample collection rate, using criteria listed, to increase testing to a desired rate and to report promptly; as we are still far from the target of two million tests.
“In this regard, we can support States with community volunteers for contact tracing, case finding and investigation.
“While stepping up surveillance and case finding, states can also ensure that suspected symptomatic COVID cases are sent for treatment in time or supported before then with medical oxygen, to save lives and reduce fatalities.
“The recommended criteria for testing are: persons who have been in contact with a COVID positive patient or are associated with a cluster of persons of interest, those who have any of the four classical symptoms of fever, persistent cough, loss of sense of taste or smell and breathlessness; anyone facing surgery, as well as for any other compelling reason. Testing for travel is assigned to private laboratories.”
He also stated that the distribution of oxygen concentrators and ventilators to various health institutions commenced with training of about 176 intensive care specialists, and biomedical engineers, who would use or maintain them in the hospitals.
Ehanire disclosed that the ventilators and training were courtesy of the United States government and it shall complement what they have at the ICUs.
The minister also commended health workers in JOHESU, for putting an end to their industrial action, adding that it was his desire to work with them to resolve issues of concern.
Edited By: Felix Ajide
COVID-19: PTF warns against neglect of protocols
He said that there were increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven to be very successful.
He said face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era.
Mustapha, however, called for vigilance in order to forestall any danger of second wave of the pandemic as the countries in Europe were currently facing.
According to him, the call for greater vigilance is underscored by the fact that our economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic and we are pushing through our home-grown economic recovery strategies to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
” Also, our health systems, in spite of its fragility, have been able to withstand and contain cases resulting from COVID-19 infection, where those of more advanced countries have been overwhelmed.
“This call is made more pertinent in view of the noticeably increasing disregard for basic non-pharmaceutical measures that have proven very successful.
“Face masks have now been turned into chin masks, social distancing and gatherings are returning to the pre-COVID era,” he said.
Speaking on the second wave of the virus across the world, the PTF chairman said, “Israel has re-introduced a three-week lockdown, the United Kingdom was considering another lockdown phase, Spain was enforcing a partial lockdown in Madrid and France – amidst protests by its citizens.
“They have also introduced stricter measures to contain the virus. Similar stories are coming from South Korea, Iran and the number of fatalities is approaching 200,000 in the USA.
“The World Health Organisation(WHO), has advised that everybody should learn from lessons of the first wave, especially as ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’.
“Let me share with you a global picture to buttress the foregoing. Over the last three days, the global cases passed the 31 million mark and it took only four days to get there from the 30th million.
“The USA crossed 7 million cases and continues to report a high daily caseload of over 30, 000 daily. We continue to see highest daily numbers from India.
“More specifically, the lesson for us in Nigeria, is that in spite of appreciable progress recorded, we should be vigilant more than ever before, because we have opened our air spaces to international travels, we have relaxed a number of restrictions in opening up more sectors of the economy and schools are beginning to open in varying degrees.”
On the reopening of airports for international travels, Mustapha noted that the PTF would continue to work with partners from the private sector to fine tune the protocols for international travellers, especially those arriving in Nigeria.
He, however, urged all travellers to ensure that they complete all pre-boarding and post-arrival processes, especially on the portal to facilitate seamless arrivals at the airports.
“We cannot afford the importation of the virus.
“We appeal strongly to all Nigerians to persuade their relations arriving Nigeria to self-isolate upon arrival, as required and test on day seven as prescribed,”
Edited By: Felix Ajide
NAF trains 435 specialists to man its platforms
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, on Monday said that 435 specialits have been trained by the Nigerian Air Force to man its platforms.
The personnel were trained at the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Kaduna.
He said that it was time for the institution to reflect on how well it has delivered on its mandate while the students reflect on the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead in building a successful professional career in the NAF.
He noted that for over 40 years, AFIT has consistently trained officers and airmen/airwomen who have performed creditably in supporting NAF operations as specialists in aircraft and armament engineering.
Also in works and services, supply management, communication as well as Information and Communication Technology.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the 435 students where trained on engineering, armament maintenance, logistics and procurement management.
Others include, electrical/electronics/radar/Information technology, aircraft maintenance, Air Frame and Power Plant Option and avionics.
NAN also reports that among the 435 graduating students, 75 are officers and 360 are airmen and airwomen.
Abubakar said the vision of the current NAF administration was anchored on human capacity development for enhanced professional performance.
“Ensuring NAF personnel have the requisite knowledge and skills to effectively support Nigerian Air Force operations which remains the prime focus of my administration
“In the area of pilots training, two officers including the first female fighter pilot have concluded their tactical training on the A-Jet aircraft.
“Only last week, we witnessed the graduation of 29 officers of Super Mushk Pcourse and 46 who have successfully completed their ab initio pilot training on the Supermushak and the DA-40 aircraft.
”Similarly, last Friday, 24 special forces personnel passed out as instructors at the RTC Annex in Bauchi and the unit also commenced the training of 219 SF personnel.
“Later in the week, we shall witness the graduation of four student pilots that have completed their Basic Fighter Training course in Kano.”
According to Abubakar, these courses that have been concluded successfully despite enormous challenges including the COVID–19 pandemic.
”It will no doubt have positive impact not only on our operations but will go a long way towards ensuring that the Service is positioned into a highly professional and disciplined force.”
He also noted that the technical and logistics management courses conducted by the Air Force Institute have helped tremendously to reduce dependence on foreign expatriates and save huge foreign exchange for the nation.
“The execution of air operations in theatres across Nigeria using solely Nigerian crews, engineers, technicians, and controllers is a testament of the success story of our capacity building initiative.
”I congratulate the students for their steadfastness, tenacity of purpose and grit to complete your course work.
”However, let me remind you that the initial and basic courses you have just completed is the beginning of your journey as professionals in the NAF.
“You still have a lot to learn particularly from your superiors in the field.
“It is my sincere expectation that as you go to the field, you will be good and worthy ambassador of AFIT as you join a long line of outstanding graduates of this prestigious citadel who through excellence, hard work and commitment have continue to contribute to the success of the Nigerian Air Force.”
Abubakar expressed NAF appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari, for his continuous support.
“The invaluable support the NAF has enjoyed over the years has placed us in a position to tackle the challenges of insurgency and myriad of other forms of insecurity across the nation.
“We hereby reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all Nigerians and indeed all the people who reside in our great country,” he said.
Earlier, the Commandant of AFIT, AVM Abdulganiyyu Olabisi, said that the basic courses were aimed at introducing the officers and men to their various trades in preparation for deployment to the field.
Olabisi said having recognized that the officers and men of the NAF can only give as good as they are equipped to, reiterated the need to train and re-train them to handle all the operational needs of the Nigerian Air Force.
This he said will deemphasize dependence on foreign nationals and non-military actors.
The Commandant appealed to NAF Headquarters to assist in the funding of the training initiatives.
Edited By: Modupe Adeloye/ Maharazu Ahmed
Edo poll voter turnout decline worrisome in spite of credible conduct — CDD
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a pro democracy civil society organisation, has said that in spite of the general peaceful and credible conduct of the Edo election, it was worried over the decline in voters turnout for the election.
The group in its final observation report signed by CDD Director, Ms Idayat Hassan, and Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Adele Jinadu, said that the credible conduct of the election was a refreshing development.
“The decline in voter turnout is pointed out as a trend, which would not augur well for the robust participation of the electorate, including marginalised groups.
“Backing this assertions with figures, CDD noted that in 2003, voter turnout stood at 78 per cent of 1,432,891 registered voters; In 2020 however, only 25.2 per cent of voters turned out to cast their ballot out of a registered number of 2,210,534.
“ CDD figures similarly showed a consistent decline in voter turnout from 78 per cent in 2003 to 40.5per cent in 2012, and further down to 32.3 per cent in 2016.
“CDD, therefore, expressed worries that the further decline in voter turnout in 2020, which came down to a low of 25.2 per cent could be read as a steady loss of faith in the electoral process, as well the entire democratic system of governance.”
Hassan said that CDD rated the conduct and outcome of the Sept. 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo as relatively credible, in spite of the challenges and infractions, which dogged the process.
She said that CDD deployed 250 stationary and roving observers to keep a close eye on key processes in the election and handed down its verdict in a final observation briefing.
She said that the Centre noted that the election was relatively peaceful when compared to other polls recently conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in spite of high vote buying .
“The peaceful conduct points the way away from the “degeneration” that has historically been the country’s sad experience with electoral outcomes, and towards outcomes that significantly reflect the mandate of the electorate.
“In this respect, the election potentially augurs well for the future of democracy and development in the country.
“This is particularly in view of the determination shown by the electorate to protect their mandate and ensure that it counted in the critical penultimate months to the election day. ‘’
Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Adele Jinadu noted that the credible outcome of the election was due to the activities of various strategic stakeholders, particularly INEC and the peace-keeping efforts, the Oba of Benin and the Abdulsalam Abubakar-led National Peace Committee.
Jinadu said CDD, however, warned that there remained certain anomalies in the process, which if left unaddressed could turn the current euphoria into a mirage that would precipitate a reversal to the status quo ante.
He listed some of the issues as the controversial modality used for selecting the governorship candidates and the abuse of the power of incumbency for partisan party political advantage.
He added the general poverty in the state and the high unemployment rate that resulted in vote selling among others.
He said that although the group pointed out some malfunctioning of smart card readers, however, it acknowledged that the overall performance of INEC was smooth across the state.
He said that the group commend INEC for the introduction of the result viewing portal in improving transparency and accountability of the collation and declaration of results.
This, he said, enhanced citizens’ trust in the electoral process.
Jinadu said that CDD urged INEC to concentrate on the dual purpose of implementing its protocol on conducting elections during COVID 19 and improved voter education programme especially for other elections.
He said that there was need to reform the country’s party system to strengthen internal party democracy.
“This measure will ensure that political parties pay more attention to the nomination of women and the youth as candidates and have equal access to leadership opportunities within party organisations.
CDD further called on government and citizens to push to encourage compliance with Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in order to curb poverty in the country.
Edited By: Donald Ugwu