…To test 100, 000 Corps members
By Omeiza Ajayi
The federal government has again relaxed the Covid-19 Restrictions, saying it would however not fail to recommend stricter measures should there be gross violation of the safety protocol and an attendant spike in infections.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja during a briefing of the taskforce.
The PTF has consequently approved the reopening of orientation camps of the National Youth Service Corps NYSC as well as the lifting of the ban on football and other outdoor sports.
With the NYSC camp now reopened, the PTF said an additional 100, 000 people would be tested before they are admitted for orientation.
He said after a very careful review of the national response, the PTF believes that while recent numbers point to a likely flattening of the curve consistent with emerging epidemic control, Nigeria is not yet ready for a full-reopening of the economy.
“It has accordingly recommended and Mr President has approved that Nigeria further relaxes the restrictions in this third phase of the response, while maintaining key limitations to curb the risk of a spike in cases.
“The major changes proposed by the PTF are as gradual and safe re-opening of schools and NYSC camps; re-commencement of sporting leagues, in particular all outdoor activities such as football; sustaining the midnight-4am curfew on movement nationwide; and removal of the limitation on civil servants allowed to come to work.
“Other measures approved by Mr. President include maintaining the third Phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for a period of four weeks with effect from 00.01am on Monday, 19th October, 2020 in line with amendments to address economic, socio-political and health considerations”, he added.
Giving details of the relaxed protocol, National Coordinator of the taskforce, Dr Sani Aliyu said mass gatherings at sporting events is still banned, saying “only the ban on the actual sport itself has been lifted”.
According to him, the PTF also believes that it is now time to allow civil servants on all grades to resume work, saying chief executives of all agencies are expected to enforce the safety protocol, while workers must only go to work on alternate days, rather than have all staff resume at work daily.
He said; “All officers are requested to ensure they are ready to receive their staff by Monday. For communal commercial spaces, the PTF will continue to push for the institutional ownership of the response. In other words, store owners must take responsibility for compliance with non-pharmaceutical measures and facility owners and managers must ensure that physical distancing is maintained as well as the provision of hand sanitizers and hand washing facilities including the mandatory use of face masks.
“For the hospitality and entertainment facilities, hotels are to remain open but observe all non-pharmaceutical measures. Amusement parks, gyms and cinemas to continue to operate at half capacity. Event centres with outdoor spaces to remain open. Eateries and restaurants to open only for outdoor sitting services. Bars, lounges and nightclubs to remain closed until further notice”.
Asked whether the federal government would enforce another lockdown should there be a second wave of the pandemic, Aliyu said the PTF will not shy away from taking difficult decisions should the need arises.
On the continued ban on bars, lounges and nightclubs, he explained that the PTF has nothing against them but that because of the nature of the environment which violates physical distancing measure and the use of face masks, there is need to be cautious in reopening such facilities.
The SGF noted that though statistics show that the pandemic is not slowing down globally, the number of recorded cases in Nigeria have remained between 100-200 daily for the last four weeks with a progressive fall in the case fatality rate to 1.9%.
He said; “The reduction in the test positivity ratio to less than 5% further corroborates the belief that the epidemic curve is flattening, despite the unsatisfactory testing rate in the country attributable to general apathy among the populace”.
The PTF however noted the huge challenge posed to the national response by States as a result of poor engagement which manifests strongly in the form of low sample collection across the country.
“As of today, only the FCT and Lagos have achieved the target of testing one percent of its population followed by three States that have crossed 50% (Plateau, Gombe & Rivers). Twenty-Six others are yet to measure up to 25%. This is considered a serious problem which is further compounded by the increasing general apathy and disbelief about the risk of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“At Present, there is a molecular laboratory for COVID-19 testing in every state of the country and the additional funding provided by the Federal Government, should help to scale up testing for COVID-19.
“The PTF has concluded arrangements to test additional 100,000 at the various NYSC orientation camps nationwide, when they re-open soon. The PTF has also concluded arrangements to execute the National Testing Week as part of the arrangements to ramp up testing; and
“Over twenty-seven thousand international passengers have arrived Nigeria since the resumption of international flights”, the SGF added.