The Central Bank says it is developing a framework to offer grants and credit to researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.
Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele spoke at the opening of a “testing, tracing and treatment” centre at This Day Dome in Abuja’s Central Business District, donated by This Day Media and Sahara Group.
The centre accommodates 500 patients and is equipped with a mobile 5gene laboratory.
Emefiele, speaking on the need to develop a home grown solution to tackling the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic, said it is needless to state that if Nigeria is to wait for foreign countries to develop their own vaccines, the nation should be the last in the queue to receive curative remedies for the teeming population.
He said that Nigeria is currently faced with a public health and economic crisis of unprecedented proportions, driven primarily by the 55 percent drop in crude oil prices between January and May 2020.
“The unparalleled shock, requires that the Federal and State governments along with the organized private sector, work together to address these challenges in order to preserve lives and restore economic activity and reset the economy of our dear country,” Emefiele said.
He said that in a bid to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy, the CBN had recently implemented several initiatives, including the N50bn intervention facility for small and medium scale enterprises affected by COVID-19; in addition to the N1trn facility for firms operating in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
He disclosed that the apex bank is also working with financial institutions to enable the continuous flow of credit to viable businesses, while putting in place provisions such as moratoriums and restructuring of existing loans under CBN intervention funds, that have been provided to businesses.
“It is in realization of this fact that the CBN recently launched a N100bn healthcare intervention fund. Practitioners in the Pharmaceutical and health care sectors will be able to access finance at single digit rate through this fund.
“Our objective is to improve the capacity of our health system to address emerging public health challenges.
“Furthermore, in order to encourage greater research and development in Nigeria of drugs and vaccines that would help prevent the spread of the virus, the CBN is developing a framework under which grants and long term facilities will be provided to researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms to develop the Nigerian Vaccine,” he added.
The CBN Governor challenged Nigerian scientists at home and in the diaspora to go back to their laboratories and develop a vaccine.
He said, “Once validated by the Health Authorities, the CBN will step in and do the needful for the sake of over 200 million Nigerians now confronted by COVID-19. Our inability to accurately predict the extent to which the Coronavirus could spread, and how long it would last, requires that we build sufficient capacity within our health system in order to contain the spread of the virus, state by state, city by city and preserve the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.
“This requires that we all come together to support the ‘work of the Presidential Task Force in its determination to save lives and stem the pandemic.
“So far, the CA-COVlD-19 has raised up to N27 Billion to fund these initiatives. These donations are being used to build well equipped isolation centres across the 36 states of the federation.”
He said the THISDAY Dome Testing, Tracing and Treatment Centre being launched represents a part of the support being provided by the CA COVID alliance. These measures, he said, will result in the addition of close to 4,000 hospital beds across the country and will serve as a significant boost towards our efforts at containing the spread of COVID-19. So, CACOVID has equipped and handed over Isolation Centres in Rivers, Enugu, Kwara, Ondo, and Borno States.
On his part, the Executive Director, Sahara Group, Temitope Shonubi, said after COVID-19, equipment donated for the centres will be moved to public hospitals to equip them after the pandemic has been surmounted.
He said: “All of the equipment Sahara Group has provided to the isoalation centre through the Sahara Foundation will be donated to the federal ministry of health when the pandemic is over. We believe this will shore up availability of these equipment in some of our tertiary medical institutions.
“This for us is in line with the sustainability principle that guides all our interventions in our locations across the globe. Even beyond here we have some extra equipment which will be sent to other centres that are being developed to ensure the virus is contained in Nigeria.
“It is great to see how collaboration between the private and public sector is advancing our response to the pandemic robustly. All the stakeholders have worked collectively to make the process of bringing in medical equipment and establishing more centers seamless. Sahara Group is delighted and honoured to be part of such positive partnerships that can only enhance the wellbeing of all Nigerians,” Shonubi said.
Also, the Chairman, This Day Media and Technology Group, Nduka Obaigbena, in his remark said: “As citizens we believe we should join hands with our government to solve this existential crisis. THISDAY Dome has been here for many years so we thought we should make it available to fight this pandemic and we partnered with Sahara Group to put together a coalition which was led by CACOVID, NNPC, CCECC, CBN, and others.
“We put together a collective to join hands with the federal government to deal with crisis at hand. This facility has four branches, over there is a facility where you can test, treat and fix. So we have a 54-gene testing laboratory, with state of art molecular laboratory equipment which is ready to go. It can handle 200 tests per day scalable and it does about 50 tests at the same time. Because of paper work and other documentation, it produces result within 24 hours.”
In his remarks, the MD of CCECC, Micheal Jiang, said that the CCECC is committed to helping the federal government of Nigeria wipe out the scourge of the coronavirus in the country.
According to him, since the outbreak of COVID-19 the CCECC has made several donations to the FG, and that on Monday the company made a donation of a 500 bed isolation facility to government in the Idu area of the FCT.
The SGF, Mustapha Boss, in his remarks, said, “The COVID-19 has totally overwhelmed even the best of health systems in the world and that serves all developing nations a powerful notice to wake up. Today, we are witnessing the realization of the synergy with the commissioning of this facility, which is designed to accommodate 300 beds and is scalable to 500.
“The speed and commitment demonstrated by the partners that developed this infrastructure is a call to other private sector entities to also get involved in the development of public interest facilities.
“The PTF advocates strongly that lessons to be drawn from COVID-19 should therefore revolve around development, future planning, consensus building, collaboration and partnerships. Government cannot always do it alone. We must all be involved.
“I have been informed that this facility also has an intensive care unit for the treatment of the most severe cases of COVID-19. This would go a long way in providing care for the growing number of cases especially for levels 1 and 2 categories. I am also happy to note that this is one of the facilities into which care for persons living with disabilities who might get infected, has been incorporated.”