The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has explained why it organised a virtual colloquium on COVID 19.
The colloquium was organised last week by JAMB, the Nigerian Defense Academy and PREMIUM TIMES and discussed the various measures adopted by the authorities to reduce the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.
The registrar of the board, Ishaq Oloyede, said JAMB’s desire not to do the wrong thing led it to organise the colloquium that was held on the theme: “Appropriateness or Inappropriateness of some Pharmaceutical and non-Pharmaceutical Measures and Protocols Against COVID-19.”
“What brought JAMB into this was that we wanted to buy disinfectant tunnels for all our offices and when there were doubts, we needed to bring intellectuals together to find the right path,” he said.
Mr Oloyede explained that the Disinfectant Booths or Tunnels, whereby chemicals are sprayed on individuals, has become a common sight in public buildings.
“As well much as the use of these devices has been canvassed by several agencies, there have been vociferous arguments against their deployment by other individuals and bodies,” he noted.
“Recently, while the Federal Ministry of Education was persuading educational institutions to install body disinfectant tunnels as the government looks at the possibility of the full resumption of schools, the Ministry of Aviation, following the resumption of flights, on the other hand, was dissuading the use of the same Disinfectant Tunnels at the nation’s airports,” he said.
According to Mr Oloyede, the contentious issues discussed by experts at the colloquium ranged from recommended duration for hand washing, the effect of alcohol-based hands sanitisers, the use of face masks and face screens, among others.
He said these necessitated the assemblage of experts to educate Nigerians on the appropriateness or otherwise of the measures.
Issues JAMB tabled
Mr Oloyede said another issue was the advisory issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending 40-60 seconds of handwashing for effective cleaning while the NCDC, on its part, recommended 20 seconds of handwashing.
“Some professionals have also argued that handwashing with soap alone is not completely effective without the additional use of alcohol-based sanitisers, while some experts have argued that one can serve in place of the other,” he said.
The registrar said the questions agitating the minds are: “Is it harmful to use too much sanitisers on the hand? What is the effect of face/nose masks on breathing? This is especially true for those with respiratory issues or those who are advanced in age,” he said.
He said all those were some of the contentious issues addressed by the colloquium.
The board said experts such as the Director-General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Obi Adigwe; the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu; the Executive Vice Chairman, National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Mohammed Haruna; and other respected intellectuals in related fields drawn from the various tertiary institutions in the country spoke at the event.
“During the colloquium, presenters underscored the need to adopt necessary safety measures in view of the deadly nature of the virus. They all posited that in trying to safeguard the lives of the people, it is important that appropriate measures are clearly defined and implemented so as not to compound the situation by further endangering the lives of the public,” the weekly bulletin reads in parts.
The bulletin also showed that Mr Sani Aliyu, who delivered a paper at the colloquium, commended the Board, National Defense Academy and Premium Times for the thoughtful and intellectual engagement.
In his presentation, Mr Aliyu took participants through the activities of PTF since its inauguration as well as measures it had put in place to protect Nigerians.
In his submission on Disinfectant Sprayers/Tunnels, Mr Aliyu argued against their use, saying there is no scientific basis for the deployment of the devices in public places as a preventive measure against the pandemic.
Mr Aliyu also said the views that the use of face masks reduces oxygen in the body has not been validated scientifically.
The PTF Coordinator’s view was corroborated by many of the participants who asserted that spraying of chemicals on the human body through the chemical disinfectants employed will do more harm than good.
Other views at the JAMB forum
The Executive Vice Chairman, NASENI, Mohammed Haruna, however, offered a contrary opinion on the potency and efficacy of disinfectant sprayers especially with regard to food-grade disinfectants.
He said the arguments by Mr Aliyu were also not backed by clinical evidence.
NASENI is the manufacturer of disinfectant sprayers.
Mr Haruna said many countries, including China, the birthplace of the virus, India, Saudi Arabia and Russia had adopted Disinfectant Tunnels to reduce the spread of the virus.
He also said the position of WHO as canvassed in its advisory on the product could be reviewed in the future as the body had been on record reversing some of its decisions.
Similarly, the Deputy Managing Director, Consultancy Services, Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, Labaran Salihu, in his presentation on the nature and chemical composition of disinfectants, said spraying individuals with disinfectants is not recommended under any circumstance.
He said doing so could be physically and psychologically harmful “and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through mucous droplets, saliva or body contact.”
He said the installation of walk-through decontamination chambers featuring UV, chemicals or a combination of both, should be discouraged to avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful radiation and chemicals.
He said frequent exposure of the skin and eyes to disinfectants over a long period of time would certainly cause unpleasant consequences on the health of an individual, depending on their age and health condition.
“The only preventive measure, for now, to prevent and slow down the transmission of the virus, in the absence of a certified vaccine, is to be fully aware of the virus and how it spreads. Use of face mask, social distancing, washing of hands with soap or surfactants and disinfecting them with alcohol-based items regularly and avoid touching one’s face as currently employed, offer the best safeguards. Disinfecting suspected surfaces and materials could also prove useful,” the weekly bulletin quoted Mr Salihu as saying.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The above article was first published by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board in its weekly newsletter edition of Monday, August 17, 2020.