The federal government yesterday warned state governments against reopening of schools, saying it was still not safe to do so.
Secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, gave the warning yesterday during the daily briefing of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Mustapha who is also the chairman of the PTF appealed to state governments to embark on wider community testing, enforce rules on social distancing, step up community engagement and risk communication and pay attention to places of large gatherings.
He said, “We have received reports that some states are contemplating the reopening of schools, television viewing centres, sports stadium and other places where large gatherings could take place.
“The PTF re-emphasises that it is not yet safe to do so and that utmost caution should be exercised. The PTF guideline should still be complied with while considering decision of this nature”.
In the course of its monitoring and surveillance of compliance across the nation, Mustapha said the PTF observed an escalation of the level of non-compliance with simple measure to keep social distancing, wearing of masks in public places, sanitation and hygiene.
According to him, this is more prevalent in markets, motor parks and some places of worship.
He stated: “I wish to remind you that the PTF has already issued guidelines for mode of operations at places of worship and urge state Governments to ensure strict compliance with PTF guidelines.
“We wish to re-emphasise that all relaxed measures are still subject to review and advisories issued are for personal and public safety purposes. The breach of the ban on inter-state travels is also a point of concern”.
The SGF attributed the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country to the conduct of more tests across the country.
He explained: “Over the last couple of days, you must have observed that the daily figures of confirmed cases have been on the rise. This is an indication that we are conducting more tests across the country and that we are fully in the community spread phase”.
He however urged Nigerians not to panic but to cooperate with public health officials, especially where community testing is ongoing.
He also urged Nigerians to take responsibility, saying lifted restrictions do not mean carelessness and that life is back to “normal”.
He added: “Since the beginning of our multi-sectoral national response, we have described medical personnel as our frontline workers.
“We also continuously pleaded with Nigerians to take responsibility. The reality today is that the table has turned and the community spread phase has suddenly made the health workers our last line of defense”.
He also charged the security agencies to enforce the ban on inter-state travels very strictly.
In line with the revised protocols, the SGF also said the evacuation of Nigerians stranded abroad has resumed.
He noted: “Over the last weekend, we received 269 from India while another 102 arrived from Egypt. All the evacuees tested negative before boarding the plane and would be re-tested within 72-hours of arrival in Nigeria.
Mustapha said a lot has been published regarding the studies carried out on asymptomatic individuals and their contacts, to how many developed COVID-19 and the finding that such transmission was very rare.
He said, “While we note the clarification of the WHO that the interpretation raised a number of questions on the implications of current preventive recommendations, the PTF shares the WHO’s position that Comprehensive studies on transmission from asymptomatic people are difficult to conduct but are needed to draw wider conclusions.
“Some modelling has tried to estimate the proportion of asymptomatic patients that may transmit and there is a big range depending on the models used, but some estimates are that 40% of transmission may be due to asymptomatic cases.
“The PTF shall remain cautious and shall adhere to already recommended measures (particularly, physical distancing, wearing of masks/coverings in public places, hand hygiene and cough etiquette), until we have more evidence to propose otherwise”.
FG Bans Airline For Flying Naira Marley To Abuja
Meanwhile, operations of ExecuJet flight have been suspended by the federal government for flying a hip-hop artiste, Azeez Fashola, aka Naira Marley, from Lagos to Abuja for a musical concert.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika announced the suspension yesterday at the daily briefing of the presidential task force on COVID-19.
According to Sirika, the aircraft which flew Naira Marley to Abuja was arranged to fly an Appeal Court Judge, Justice Adefope Okogie, from Lagos to Abuja.
He said, “The operation is a clear violation of our approval which we take very seriously. It seems this is becoming a norm. This is the second time. So, ExecuJet services are hereby suspended indefinitely and they will face the law.
“The captain will also be sanctioned for giving wrong information to the control tower. It seems also that people are not tired of trying our resolve and we are not tired of living up to our responsibilities. Governance is a serious matter.”
NHF Announces $22.4m Funding For COVID-19 Containment
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund (NHF) has announced a US$22.4 million funding allocation for 2020 to help address the increased vulnerability of people affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the existing humanitarian crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.
In an official statement issued yesterday from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the international body pointed out that the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund (NHF) launched in February 2017 is managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The statement which was made available to LEADERSHIP noted that the Fund has received contributions from Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Sweden and Switzerland for urgent actions in 2020.
It further stated that the allocation is the fund’s largest since the NHF’s launch in February 2017 and comes at a critical time as North-east Nigeria enters its 11th year of a protracted crisis while grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his remarkt, Mr Edward Kallon, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria said, “Before and during the COVID-19 response, the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund has proven to be a rapid and flexible funding tool enabling aid actors to adapt to fast-changing humanitarian emergencies.
“With the new coronavirus now spreading across the country, the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund swiftly provided emergency funds to procure essential personal protective equipment for frontline aid workers when the pandemic reached Nigeria. This allocation will further support urgent efforts in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.”