By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
The Federal Government has issued fresh guidelines to stem the rising tide of COVID-19, lamenting that the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Lagos, and Kaduna states have become the new epicentres of the virus.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed this on Monday during a briefing.
Represented by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the SGF said recent epidemiology records confirm to the PTF that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide, which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.
“Particularly, Lagos, Kaduna, and the FCT have emerged as the new epicentres during this period, with over 70% of all confirmed cases.
“Two major indicators highlight the current increase in cases and transmission across Nigeria. These are:
“Notwithstanding the fact that our testing numbers were fast approaching the peak recorded in July, the number of cases being reported is disproportionately higher.
“For example, in the FCT, despite recording an increase of 85% in tests conducted over the last week, the number of confirmed cases increased by 285% during the same time period; and
“These trends point to a higher Test Positivity Rate (TPR- the number of positive cases detected as a proportion of all tests). The TPR was below 5% through September and October and we recorded a low point of 3% nationally in late October 2020. However, recent trends in cases has seen this number increase to 10% in the second week of December.
“These high numbers are further reflected in the increase of admissions to COVID-19 treatment centres and fatalities, particularly in the three epicentre states”, he stated.
According to the PTF, the result of the analysis it carried out further indicates that the current pattern of spread and the surge is likely to be driven by the lack of compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions – particularly the disregard for mask use in public, large gatherings as a result of events linked to the yuletide season and recent civil demonstrations.
“Further disregard for other public health preventive measures, such as hand hygiene and physical distance requirements;
“The activities and assumptions of our youthful population which has resulted in an increase in the infection rate among young people, who are subsequently infecting older and more vulnerable family members.
“From our assessment, the current situation are clearly the consequences of certain occurrences and events of the last few weeks. These include
“Sudden increase in social gatherings involving large congregations from different parts of the country, and the world, at events such as weddings, religious activities, political rallies, conferences and end of year celebrations;
“These events, classified globally as ‘supers-spreader events’, make the risk of a single infection causing a large outbreak among attendees significantly higher;
“Furthermore, as we reopened the economy, we experienced increased economic, social and religious gatherings and activities all of which have combined to play a part in viral transmissions. These include:
- a) The opening of the international airspace in September 2020 – While the average number of daily imported infections into the country in the last 90 days is estimated to be about 7 cases, compared to 100-150 reported new infections in the community since the beginning of community transmission, the test positivity rate in travellers arriving Lagos has recently doubled to 6.3%;
- b) The resumption of schools – outbreaks have been reported in schools following the resumption of physical classes;
- c) The resumption of NYSC orientation camps – this risk has been mitigated by ensuring that all NYSC members were screened for COVID-19 prior to admission to camp, but confirmed cases have still been identified through tests carried out;
- d) The full opening of offices with the return to work of government workers from GL. 12 and below – outbreaks have also been reported in public offices, most likely linked to overcrowding, poor ventilation, and the lack of compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions; and
- e) The opening of the economy with progressive relaxation of restrictions in congregational areas such as places of worship, restaurants, bars, lounges, shopping and event centres”, he stated.
The PTF also issued a fresh advisory to state governments, urging them to close all bars, night clubs, pubs and event centres, and recreational venues.
Other advisories are! “Close all restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents; takeaways, home deliveries, and drive-ins shall remain closed;
“Restrict all informal and formal festivity events including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events shall be restricted to not more than 50 persons;
“Limit All gatherings linked to religious events to less than 50% capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing; mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced.
“Where more than 50 persons are attending, any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only;
“Public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50% of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules.
“Enforce compliance with NPI protocols especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces;
“To reduce overcrowding in public spaces, markets, shopping centres, offices, and schools States are advised to implement the following:
“Encourage virtual meetings in government offices. The leadership of such offices is to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated offices, and encourage staff to work from home where possible;
“All government staff on GL.12 and below are to stay at home for the next 5 weeks; Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executives are to be held accountable for enforcing NPI rules in their domains with frequent spot checks;
“The PTF on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Education expects that schools would have vacated from the 18th December 2020 and remain closed till at least the 18th of January, 2021 to enable the measures introduced to take effect;
“All persons above the age of 60yrs and/or with comorbidities are to be encouraged to stay at home and avoid crowds;
“All non-essential travels – both domestic and international during the holiday season are seriously discouraged;
“To strengthen risk communication and community engagement activities over the next five weeks, states are encouraged to engage community and religious leaders, arrange town hall meetings (ideally set outdoors) to address concerns;
“Intensify public messaging activities, leveraging on existing government and partner assets; reach out to youths and younger adults with health promotion activities, and invest in local face mask purchase and distribution to the general public to encourage use.”
The PTF added that a lot of discussions is still going on around the calls for the restriction of international travels due to the discovery of new strains of the virus in certain countries.
“The PTF, Aviation, and health authorities including the WHO, are assessing the situation closely and would take a position as soon as a cogent scientific basis is established.
“The protection of Nigerians remains our primary concern and we reassure Nigerians of our resolve not to relent,” Mustapha added.