National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, has urged schools to send pupils with respiratory symptoms consistent with Coronavirus (COVID-19) back home to reduce the risk of transmission.
Aliyu gave the advice on Monday at the COVID-19 National briefing in Abuja.
Speaking on school reopening, he said that PTF would like to re-emphasize adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions by schools, particularly screening and heightening awareness with regards to COVID-19, following issues it had with Lagos State over outbreaks in some schools.
“Any student presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, particularly respiratory symptoms or fever should not be allowed to come to school.
”When teachers noticed a child with respiratory symptoms, the child should be sent back home, so that we can reduce the risk of transmission.
”Just as it is important to communicate effectively with parents, staff, school health teams should be creating protocols and providing regular updates on any change to the school procedures as it relates to COVID.
“We encourage schools to continue to consider creative solutions to abide by our COVID guidelines including staggered learning to avoid overcrowding, platooning, daily attendance, and adjusting teachings among others,” he said.
The Coordinator said that 60 percent of inbound travelers who paid for the compulsory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test but failed to turn up for the test seven days after arriving in the country would be restricted from traveling for six months.
According to him, on the issue of international travels, as we are aware we are approaching a very busy season, where we see a surge in passenger travel.
”The aim of the PTF over the next few weeks is to discourage travelling, especially non-essential travelling.
”We want to flatten that surge in passenger travel that we see every year around December. Why? Because of COVID-19.
”COVID-19 has changed the world, the way we interact, the way we deliver our services and it has to change the way we travel as well,” he said.
Aliyu said that PTF was actively discouraging non-essential travels, adding that essential travels were travelling for study, work purposes, humanitarian services, to support critical infrastructure, economic services, and maintaining supply chain arrangements.
He said that outside this, people should stay at their base over this period, adding that at the moment, there were a lot of travel restrictions going on in Europe and other places.
Aliyu said that if the number of COVID-19 continues to increase and PTF noticed the importation of infections, it would review the policy.
”I am not saying we will ban flights but I am also saying that we will do everything necessary to protect ourselves from a surge.
“So, if you don’t want to be stranded whether in Nigeria or outside the country, think again about traveling over this period.
”If it is not essential stay put. There will be other seasons, there will be other celebrations, especially with vaccines now being available across the board it is very likely that travels will be sorted, so all the testing and monitoring will go away.
”Once we have effective vaccines, I am sure the traveling community will soon be imposing rules on the need for vaccination, so once you are vaccinated it is very unlikely that there will be restrictions. So all these inconveniences are for a period of time,” he said.
Aliyu said that Nigeria had one of the most strict systems in terms of double testing, adding that prospective travellers have to do a PCR test not more than five days before boarding and repeat the test on day seven.
According to him, when it comes to the COVID-19 test, not more than five days before boarding for Nigeria and you have to repeat the test after seven days.
“We have been doing this for a number of passengers as explained by the chairman earlier, but 60 percent of those that paid did not even turn up on day seven.
”You give out your money, pay for a service but you don’t even show up. So, we are not interested in the money because nothing comes to PTF, NCDC, or any federal parastatal if you pay for the test.
”The money goes to the laboratories and a small percentage goes to the state governments as well as banks that run the portal.
”So, we are not interested in your money what we are interested in is the status of your COVID-19 when you come into the country.
“Do you have COVID-19? If you do, we have to take measures to isolate you and we have to protect our population. If you do not have COVID-19, you exit from quarantine at day seven,” he said.
The Coordinator said that PTF would enforce this over the coming days, adding that it had a list of the first 300 passengers that had not done the test up today 14.
He said that it would streamline the results and create a COVID-19 restriction list for passengers that had not abided by its protocols and that the passengers would not be allowed to fly for six months.
Aliyu said the task force hoped it would not have to continue doing this and that people would continue to comply with its protocol.
“As I said, this is a short time measure, even the testing itself is a short time measure. Eventually, all this testing for travel purposes will stop as soon as we have an alternative that is safe such as vaccines.
“So, the message is to stay at home. It is the best way to protect yourselves and others and please do not play Russian roulette with your family members,” he said.