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COVID-19: Another lockdown possible, if… ― FG tells Nigerians

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COVID-19: Another lockdown possible, if... ― FG tells Nigerians

.Warns against complacency as case fatality reduces to 2.2 per cent
.Urges Nigerians not to repeat the mistakes of 1918
.Issues guidelines for elections
.Charges VIPs on obedience to protocols
.WAEC to good exams between Aug. 4 and Sept. 5

By Omeiza Ajayi

The Federal Government has advised Nigerians against repeating the mistakes of 1918 when people let down their guards following the ease of the lockdown that was imposed during the Spanish Flu.

It warned that the attitude of Nigerians in the coming days would determine whether there should be a need for another round of lockdown to be imposed in Nigeria.

Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha stated this Monday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Taskforce.

The PTF also issued COVID-19 guidelines for the conduct of off-season elections in Edo and Ondo as well as by-elections in some states of the Federation.

While it warned against complacency, the government added that case fatality has now reduced to 2.2 per cent.

It warned highly-placed individuals against thinking that the virus is a respecter of status, urging them to take responsibility and provide leadership at this time.

The federal government reminded Nigerians that the nation’s airspace would be reopened for domestic flights as from Wednesday, assuring that the filtration mechanism inside the aircraft is topnotch but that passengers would at all time have to be on their facemasks.

Second Lockdown

Boss Mustapha said the Taskforce will not shy away from recommending another lockdown to be imposed on the country should the need arises.

He said; “As to whether we would advise Mr President to consider another lockdown, I have said it here that lockdowns might not be popular but what will happen in the preceding weeks will determine. Madagascar has imposed a lockdown in spite of its herbal cure. About 39 states in the US because of the Thanksgiving Holiday and their National Day celebration on the 4th of June have begun to see spikes in their figures and the speed with which they were considering the ease of lockdown, a lot of states have slowed down.

“We have now isolated 11 local governments. We started with 20 but the dynamics of figures that keep jumping every week, there are now about 11 local governments that we have advised the sub-nationalities to consider precision lockdowns in these areas. I believe as the days and weeks ahead would present,

“I will not be speculative as to what would happen in the future, but we will do everything within our mandate to ensure the safety and the protection of the well-being of the people of Nigeria. If that would require a recommendation of a lockdown, this Taskforce will not shy away from its responsibilities.

“We will take that decision. We will make our recommendations to Mr President who will finally decide but we would first take a decision on our side as members of this Taskforce within the context of the mandate that has been given to us and make that recommendation. But such a decision or advice being taken now would be speculative. What would happen in the next two to three weeks would determine what would eventually be our recommendation.”

Spanish mistake

Mustapha told Nigerians that the easing of the lockdown must not be misunderstood to mean that the pandemic was over, explaining that the decision to ease restrictions was necessitated by the need to strike a delicate balance between the safety of lives and livelihoods.

The SGF added that capacity and opportunities for testing have been expanded, with the opening of 40 laboratories and the creation of more testing centres including some certified private sector medical facilities.

He said: “The national response continues to escalate its level of vigilance and monitoring, especially as we ease restrictions in more sectors, including those with potentials for large gatherings and/or interactions between groups of people. We are conscious of the fact that this could be misinterpreted to mean that the war against COVID-19 is over.

“Let me emphasise that the decision for further relaxation was cautiously taken by the government to balance lives and livelihood. Rising global and domestic statistics of cases and fatalities have shown that COVID-19 has not given any relaxation.

“Therefore, we cannot afford to slow down and we must never compromise. Let us continue to learn from the history of pandemics by avoiding the mistakes of 1918 when the lockdown was eased and people came out jubilating and romancing the Spanish Flu.

“Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on the governance and security of our nation. We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitization messaging”.

According to the SGF, the PTF would on Thursday and Friday, be carrying out its mid-term review having crossed the three months or half time threshold of its life span.

“This will involve a comprehensive examination of the steps taken, the challenges and charting the way forward”.

Reduced fatality

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire in his remarks noted that case fatality has now reduced to 2.2 per cent. Before now, case fatality was about three per cent.

With 28, 711 confirmed cases and 11, 665 discharged, Nigeria’s case-fatality stands at 645 deaths.

“Taking the statistics of the month of June alone, a total of 15, 532 cases were confirmed from 74,580 tests, with 303 deaths on record. This means that just under half of the total fatalities so far recorded, occurred in the single month of June; while we more than doubled the tests done and the number of cases detected.

“The reduction in case fatality rate is down to about 2.2 per cent, in line with our plan, going forward. But it also draws our attention to the speed with which COVID-19 is growing, the time it took to double itself, and the reminder that we need to improve on our responses, to continue to strive for the best and prepare for the worse,” Ehanire stated.

According to him, the ministry is working to establish an emergency ambulance system to take patients to relevant isolation and treatment centres.

Military, Politicians greatest violators of aviation protocols

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika urged Nigerians to respect all COVID-19 safety protocols when the airports are reopened, lamenting that those who are likely to breach the protocols are senior government officials.

He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved, and this is a very serious matter for us, and hitherto, big men, especially military men and ministers, members of the National Assembly and the Judiciary are culprits. They have all these their Personal Assistants and retinue of people who are not travelling and they insist that they must take them inside and up to the aircraft. By protocol, this will not be allowed. They will not be permitted, they will be stopped.

“I believe that not because I am the highest guy in the protocol, but within the purview of civil aviation, I should be first to enjoy those services and protocols, but for the last five years, everybody that has seen me at the airports has seen me alone. I do not travel with Personal Assistants, Special Assistants or anybody.

“I travel by myself. I carry my box by myself because when I go out of the country I carry it by myself. So, I do it here as well. For those who are challenged physically, they can go to a certain limit but they will have to cede it and allow portals to assist them and services would also be rendered to diplomats.

“The culprits, I insist are ministers, military men, National Assembly and the Judiciary. We have only one encounter in recent history with the police and almost none with the DSS let alone the NIA. So, these are the culprits. Big men and governors. So, governors please, we will not allow your aides to be in our airports talk more of being in our aircraft.”

WAEC begins Aug. 4

Minister of State, Education, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba on his part announced that the West African Examination Council WAEC would be conducting its examinations in Nigeria as from August 4 to 5th September.

“WAEC exams will hold from the 4th of August to the 5th of September. Parents, please take note. Last week, the Chairman of the PTF announced that school facilities will be available for those who want to go into revision classes.

“As soon as we conclude WAEC, we will take up the NABTEB and NECO exams. The idea here is that we have a month from now till then, and those who can and the states who are willing should make their states available for children to revise.

“We have done the most we can with our representative at WAEC and we have this afternoon confirmed that the dates allotted for the exams would be from the 4th of August to the 5th of September. Local timings will be published. Those who are not prepared yet should please go and prepare. We are continuing with registration for NECO and this is the time to update and get your registration done”.

Election guidelines

Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu announced that the agency has come up with a safety guideline for the conduct of elections within the era of the pandemic.

He said; “We have announced and launched a new guideline for the conduct of elections during the Covid-19 outbreak in Nigeria. As you are all aware, some states would be holding state and local government elections this year.

“This is the first time we are holding elections of this significance within a pandemic. Therefore, we have developed these guidelines to support everyone involved, political parties, INEC and most critically, Nigerians that would be going to vote in these difficult times.

“Voting still remains a civic responsibility and even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, we have to find a way of doing this safely. We have to adapt to the new normal. As we know, the virus thrives in mass gatherings. In these guidelines, we have strongly advised on how to do this safely. We strongly advise the use of television and radio, mobile vans, social media and other forms of communication as our politicians solicit for votes.”

Iheakwazu added that the NCDC has not given up on Kogi State or any state, as that would be against the mandate of the Centre. “Our responsibility is to continue supporting every state in Nigerian, protect the health of every Nigerian,” he said.

While the Minister of Environment, Mohammad Mahmoud said public schools would be decontaminated before students in exit classes are allowed to sit for their terminal examinations, National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu said extra measures would be taken to control the spread of the virus in 11 out of the 20 high burden local government areas.

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