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COVID-19 vaccines: CBN to support Nigerian researchers with grants — Emefiele



…SGF says virus has reawaken collaboration among critical partners



In realization of the Nigerian vaccine for COVID-19, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says it is developing a framework to support researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms with grants on the project.



The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, gave the promise on Tuesday at the inauguration of Thisday Dome COVID-19 Testing, Tracing and Treatment Centre in Abuja.


Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele


The 300-bed facility with a 54gene laboratory is a private sector driven initiative donated by a consortium of like-minded partners powered by the Sahara Energy Group and the ThisDay Media and Technology Group.


Other key players include the CA-COVID, the AFC, CCECC, NNPC and the CBN.


Persecondnews reports that the facility was unveiled by the Secretary t the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha.


Emefiele said the intervention of the apex bank was to encourage greater research and development in Nigeria of drugs and vaccines that could help prevent the spread of the virus and others.


He said: “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.”

The CBN governor challenged Nigerian scientists both at home and abroad to go back to their laboratories and develop a Nigerian vaccine.


“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,’’ Emefiele said.


Noting that Nigeria’s ability to restore the growth of the economy is dependent on how well it  addresses the public health crisis triggered by COVID-19, he added: “It is in realization of this fact that the CBN recently launched a N100 billion 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.”


He commended the Nigerian private sector under the Coalition against COVID-19 (CA-COVID) for supporting the government by raising funds to provide isolation centres, medical equipment, among others.


“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.

“The THISDAY Dome Testing, Tracing and Treatment Centre being launched today represents a part of the support being provided by the CA COVID alliance. These measures 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 COVlD-19.


“So, CACOVID has equipped and handed over Isolation Centres in Rivers, Enugu, Kwara, Undo, and Borno States.


“In a bid to compliment the efforts of the government in providing palliatives to those affected by the containment measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, CACOVID is also providing in-kind assistance in the form of food items to indigent Nigerians across the 36 states of the federation.


“These efforts are noteworthy as members of the Nigerian private sector have stood up to be counted when it mattered most to our dear country, the CBN boss said.


In his remarks, the SGF, Mr Mustapha, said the COVID 19 pandemic had brought a reawakening to both government and the private sector to collaborate and inject the much-needed investment into the nation’s healthcare system.


He 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 can not 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.”


The Executive Director, Sahara Group, Mr Temitope Shonubi, said in post-COVID-19, the equipment donated for the centres will be moved to public hospitals to equip them.


“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 the 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 centers that are being developed to ensure the virus is effevi 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 venrres seamless.


“Sahara Group is delighted and honoured to be part of such positive partnerships that can only enhance the well being of all Nigerians.”


The Chairman of ThisDay Media and Technology Group, Mr 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.


“We have the tracing App which have been developed by our technology team, as you know THISDAY is not just a newspaper outfit, it is now a technology company; so we have developers in Europe and Nigeria who have out this tracing App together.


“When you are tested, we can trace all your contacts with App and if you have requirements for isolation and treatment, there is Sahara ward and intensive care unit for you there. We have ICU beds, ventilators, medical waste incinerators, it has everything you need.


“So in this one facility, you can solve all the problems of Covid19 and we thought that we should work with the federal government by making it available at no charge.


“The Dome has been there, it was the seat of the Editorial Board of THISDAY, and in between events and I remember one of our members who attended THISDAY board meeting from 2011 to 2015, coming here every Wednesday to debate on something that will make Nigeria better passed on. (At this stage, he called for a minute silence in memory of late former Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kayari). We remember today and we remember him always “.


In his remarks, the MD of CCECC, Micheal Jiang said the corporation was committed to assisting the federal government wipe out the scourge of the coronavirus.


He recalled that since the outbreak of Covid-19, CCECC had made several donations to the government, noting that on May 11 the company made a donation of a 500-bed isolation facility to the government at Idu area of the Federal Capital Territory.


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