COVID-19: China controversy, unhelpful – Aremu

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As  controversy trails the offer of support from China, in the current fight against the rampaging COVID-19 a member of National Institute Kuru, Jos, Comrade Issa Aremu has said the nation needs  unity of purpose against the pandemic and not what he called  “unhelpful controversy” at this critical time. He made this observation in a statement in Kaduna on Thursday. 

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had reportedly kicked against the coming of Chinese doctors and experts to Nigeria, stressing that  bringing Chinese doctors into the country at this time of the global pandemic would dampen the morale of the frontline health workforce. 

Comrade Aremu said COVID-19 which has recorded  over 1,513,243 cases  in over 148 countries with over 88,403 Deaths,  329,731 recoveries   can only be confronted with “global solidarity”, not what he called “China-phobia”  even as he agreed that each  country bears  the “singular responsibility to independently act fast and efficiently  ” to contain the Covid: 19  menace. The confirmed cases in Nigeria had risen to 272 with additional new reported death in Lagos. 

Aremu  who is also the  Vice President industriall Global Union  hailed the decision of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and NCDC to subject the Chinese medical experts to national control measures such as 14 days isolation period. 

The former Vice President of the NLC said while the concern of the NMA was “legitimate”, questioning  the support of China was at this time “unhelpful” to deal with the COVID-19 challenge which he described as a matter of “life and death” for all countries . According to him, as the Coronavirus curve climbs in Nigeria, the Chinese support with 256 equipment and items in different quantities among which are 1.3 million medical masks, over 150,000 pieces of personal protective equipment as well as 50 medical ventilators was “timely and commendable.” 

Comrade Aremu backed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha adding that the  support from the Chinese firms in Nigeria within the framework of their respective Corporate Social Responsibilities would further compliment  on going massive national responses.  

He said there is a huge deficit on the supply-side of the necessary Health protection and economic materials such that additional support from the private sector, NNPC, multilateral institutions and China are “timely and necessary”. 

“The point cannot be overstated that China has  successful contained  the Virus which first broke  out in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December last year, Nigeria would benefit from the their effective methods and advice on the use of relevant medical equipment” he wrote. 

Comrade Aremu who was also the Labour Party (LP) Governorship candidate in Kwara State said the controversy about China called for “an inclusive and consultative” Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 such that the concerns of critical Stakeholders like NMA and organized labour can be proactively addressed through collective engagement. 

He said apart from their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), all multinational and national companies as well employers with billion dollar investment in Nigeria have the responsibility to protect their workers and their families from the health risks of COVID-19. 

“Protective measures at the workplace and across communities should be introduced and strengthened, requiring large-scale public support and investment.”he  said. 

Comrade Aremu commended  NMA for  mobilizing   Nigerian doctors to support the national responses against COVID 19 urging the Federal  and states governments to adequately protect and compensate frontline health workers and deliberately include them in decision making process. He called on the PTF to honour Dr  Amarachukwu Allison, whose vigilance and commitment  “led to the early diagnosis and rapid containment of the Italian first Covid-19 infection in Ogun state”. He said Allison’s vigilance  timely slowed down the pandemics which had since risen, due to subsequent complacency.

However Comrade Aremu said sustainable fight against the pandemic lies in domestic production of necessary medical materials such as face masks and sanitizers adding that many states should follow the example of Cross Rivers state that has set up state led garment factories to produce critical health materials. He said it was time for economic diversification, self reliance and import substitution as well as “large-scale and coordinated policy efforts to provide employment and income support and to stimulate the economy” after the pandemic.


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