COVID-19: Experts caution FG as NYSC begins camping for 49,950 corps members

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PIC.11. CROSS SECTION OF BAUCHI AND YOBE STATE NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE CORPS MEMBERS AT THE 2013 NYSC BATCH “C’ ORIENTATION CLOSING CEREMONY IN GANJUWA LGA OF BAUCHI STATE ON TUESDAY (26/11/13).

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

This was revealed during a virtual meeting with prospective corps members which was also attended by the Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu; and the Director-General of the NYSC, Brig. Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim.

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

The development comes just as the number of infections almost hit 170,000 on Sunday amid fears of a third wave propelled by the highly infectious Delta strain. Also, less than one per cent of the country’s population has been vaccinated.

Experts have now warned that this could have a catastrophic effect on the country’s efforts to stave off the virus if COVID-19 protocols were not obeyed in the orientation camps.

Chairman of the Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, speaking with reporters from PUNCH, said that the camp would not be a problem provided proper health measures are taken.

“If we are having close to 50,000 corps members being dispersed to about 36 states that means that each state gets less than 2,000 corps members.

“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 go on regular testing from time to time,” he said.

An Associate Professor of Virology at the Osun State University, Dr Waidi Sule, said the camp resumption date should be reviewed because of the arrival of the Delta variant in the country.

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

“The camps will be crowded no doubt but we must make sure that there are measures put in place, washing of hands, using face masks and all of that. This is to avoid problems.”

Another professor of Virology at the University of Ibadan, David Olaleye, said, “It sounds scary but as it is now, we can only hope that COVID-19 guidelines are well implemented in the camps. This is to avoid an outbreak.

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“The corps members should also be subjected to regular testing from time to time, this is to make sure that cases are detected early enough.”

On Thursday last week, the University of Lagos asked its students to vacate halls of residence to check the spread of the COVID-19 on the campus.

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

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

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

NCDC boss Ihekweazu asked prospective corps members to abide by COVID-19 protocols or risk camps being shut for the next two years.

“So, in camp, there will be some limitations. If you hear about your story in camp, it might not be the same. There might be some limitations in what you are able to do and how you are able to engage. Please it is for our success. The alternative is to postpone camp for the next few years and none of us wants to do that,” he said.

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