*Extends closure of airports by 4 weeks
*Says Nigerians underrating deadliness of virus
*Journalists, Essential Workers exempted from Curfew
The Federal Government on Wednesday painted a gloomy picture of what lies ahead for Nigerians following the general non-adherence to the safety protocols it has put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.
While it said Nigerians were yet to come to terms with the deadly nature of the virus, the federal government said there is danger ahead.
The government also lamented the continued infection of medical doctors managing the pandemic, urging them to adhere to all the standard Infection, Prevention and Control IPC measures.
The Federal Government also expressed shock at the revelation that security operatives were harassing journalists and other essential workers during night curfews, explaining that those category of workers are clearly exempted.
These disclosures were made on Wednesday in Abuja at the daily briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19.
Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha said the overall assessment of the compliance measures put in place by the government points in the direction of danger.
Mustapha said; “Early assessment of the ease of lockdown phase indicates that Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the deadliness and the virulent nature of the COVID-19 and this gives us concerns on the high possibility of increased seeding of the virus to hitherto un-affected persons and populations. Some of these areas of worries include the following:
“Non-compliance with social/physical distancing guidelines evidenced by higher than advised congregation of people in banks, traffic gridlocks especially at entry points to metropolitan areas and disregard of guidelines on carrying capacity of motor vehicles;
“Increased level of inter-state movements worsened by the dubious concealment of people in food carrying vehicles;
“Unhygienic and ill-advised use and sharing of masks especially multiple fittings before buying from vendors. Once again, we appeal to the Governors to please align their plan for the movement of Almajiris with the ban imposed by the President. We shall intensify our dialogue on this matter.
“The overall assessment of compliance with the measures and outcomes of modelling we have developed, point in the direction of danger ahead. We, therefore, need personal discipline, increased awareness and enforcement.
“The PTF calls on community, religious and traditional leaders to take up this challenge. Similarly, we call on, trade associations, professional bodies and organizations to complement the efforts of the federal government. The PTF appreciates your current efforts, but it has become undeniable that more needs to be done, together.
“While we continue to advocate strict compliance with the prescribed measures, the PTF urges Nigerians to also use this period of the pandemic to build social solidarity by eschewing stigmatisation, support the mental well being of our compatriots that are infected, continue to provide for the poor, sick, aged and vulnerable and to provide support in whatever manner.
“As we continue to push the frontiers of risk communication, I wish to appeal to all Nigerians to be vigilant and desist from taking undue risks. The PTF recognises the challenges earlier encountered at the bank. We however assure you that the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as the Bankers’ Committee have put in place strategies that would reduce such re-occurrence.
“I, therefore plead with Nigerians to be patient and schedule their physical appearances at banks. On the other hand, I wish to repeat my call to the Banks to also quickly address issues related to difficulty with using their on-line platforms, especially re-validating expired ATM cards amongst others.
Airport Closure extension
“Tomorrow (Thursday) marks the last day for the enforcement of the closure of Nigeria’s airspace to flights. We have assessed the situation in the aviation industry and have come to the conclusion that given the facts available to us and based on the advice of experts, the ban on all flights will be extended for an additional four weeks.
Infection of Health personnel
“The PTF and indeed Mr. President is deeply worried about reports on the increasing rate of infection of medical doctors and personnel. While we renew our efforts at training these frontline workers about the infectious nature of this virus, we urge that utmost care be taken in managing COVID related cases.”
Mustapha disclosed that the NCDC will be visiting Kogi and Cross Rivers States to provide support to the State Emergency Operation Centres EOCs.
According to him, the PTF has received reports about the emerging situation in Isolation Centres in Gombe circulating in a viral video clip. “We have investigated and I wish to assure you that the NCDC team is on ground in Gombe to support the State EOC. Similarly, I can confirm that the testing laboratory in Gombe will be activated soon”, he stated.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire faulted the ongoing repatriation of Almajiris by some states, saying it does not indicate a good understanding of the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said; “Large crowds reported at certain events and the movement and repatriation of persons from one State to the other, do contribute to the problem and do not indicate a good understanding of the urgency of the situation. Therefore, I again appeal for considerate and responsible social adjustment to the challenges Nigeria faces”.
Journalists exempted from the curfew
The federal government also told security agencies to stop harassing journalists and other essential duty workers, saying they belong to the class of those exempted from the curfew imposed on the country.
“On whether Journalists and vendors are not considered as essential services, I believe that they are because whatever we do here, if you do not report it, then the news item will not get out there; adverts we carried on newspapers, radio and televisions that are supposed to enhance and equip our people with knowledge and information so that they can take informed decisions would not go out there.
“So, I believe that anything related to the Press is considered as essential services for the purpose of allowing you free passage. We will look at the issue that happened in Lagos because if we expect the networks to remain in operation throughout the night, then when it comes to movement, our security agencies should be adaptive enough to know that these people are coming from their places of work and grant them access to get home”, the SGF declared.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed specifically lamented the reported harassment of journalists in Lagos, saying he would take up the matter with the Police Command.
He said; “On the issue of journalists being prevented from doing their work in Lagos, I will take up the issue with the Commissioner of Police in Lagos because my understanding and which has worked so far, is that anybody with a valid identification as a journalist is allowed to move about unmolested”.
Also speaking on the issue, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, Dr Sani Aliyu expressed shock at the development.
“In terms of clarification of the curfew, yes, journalists are exempted but I am surprised that you (journalists) are having issues, but we will release a specific clarification and we will be meeting with our security agencies by Friday and we will make it very clear to them that people on essential duties are exempted from the curfew”, Aliyu stated.
FCT apprehends 75 motorcyclists
The Enforcement Team of the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA has apprehended 75 commercial motorcyclists who had breached the ban on interstate movement to enter into the territory.
Chairman of the team, Ikharo Attah said the 75 persons and 63 motorcycles were being conveyed in a large truck when they were intercepted at the entrance of the city.
According to him, a breakdown of the 75 motorcyclists showed that 53 were coming from Katsina, nine from Zamfara, six from Kaduna, four from Lagos and three from Kano.
He said those who were coming in from Lagos had been on the road for about four days.