The Federal Government has announced an extension of the current partial lock-down of the country, saying the time was not ripe for it to relax its containment protocols against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, government announced another two-week extension of the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in the wake of the ease of four-week lock-down of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, and inter-state lock-down of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
The extension announced by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja yesterday, came on a day President Muhammadu Buhari said the ravaging coronavirus pandemic was beyond technology, power and resources as countries with all these have recorded the highest casualties, asking governors to work in collaboration with the PTF in efforts to contain further spread of the disease in Nigeria.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, also said during the daily briefing in Abuja yesterday that the existing lock-down in Kano had been extended for an additional two weeks, while there would be imposition of what he described as "precision lock-down" in states, or in metropolitan/high-burden local government areas reporting a rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises.
He said: "The reality is that in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority. Any relaxation will only portend grave danger for our populace.
"Advisedly, the current phase of eased restriction will be maintained for another two weeks during which stricter enforcement and persuasion measures will be pursued.
"The two weeks extension of Phase One of the eased restriction is also to enable other segments of the economy prepare adequately for compliance with the guidelines, preparatory to reopening in the coming weeks. For the PTF, we share your pains but our future is in the hands of every Nigerian and future decisions will depend greatly on our compliance."
Reasons for extension
Mustapha also advanced reasons for continued extension of the eased lock-down, saying: "To arrive at our final recommendations to Mr. President, we objectively and frankly interrogated certain critical factors and wish to inform you as follows:
"Is the transmission of the virus under control?
Measures put in place have collectively slowed down the transmission of the virus e.g. elongating the doubling time which has changed from 7 to 11 days.
"Is the health care system equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every person who came in contact with a positive case?
"Health care system has been better equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat every case, and trace every person who came into contact with a positive case with the increase in the number of laboratories from 15 to 26; ramping up of testing to a cumulative total of 35,098.
"Are outbreaks minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes?
Though we have recorded infection of a number of medical personnel in our facilities, which is not peculiar to Nigeria, we have increased their training in care management and provided additional Personnel Protective Equipment, PPE.
"Are there measures in workplaces and schools to prevent the spread of the virus?
With the gradual reopening of workplaces, markets, schools, etc, prescriptions have been made for the prevention of infection and spread of the virus.
"Are the risks of importing more cases from outside the country being managed?
The risks associated with importation has been seriously minimized with the ban of flights, closure of borders and the mandatory 14-day quarantine for any one arriving Nigeria.
"Are local communities educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the 'new norm?
Engagement with communities and other stakeholders has now become the new focus of our strategy.
"The inevitable conclusion of the PTF is that the fight against COVID-19 is long-term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon. This is further underscored by the fact that no vaccine is expected till around the end of 2021.
"Nigeria is not where we wish to be in terms of control, ownership, infrastructure and change of behaviour. We must do more."
Community health workers to be mobilized -- Mamora
Minister of State for Heath, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, on his part announced that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, was collaborating with development partners to engage influential religious leaders in Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Sokoto and Zamfara states to complement the community mobilization activities of community health workers.
"They will also facilitate awareness creation on COVID-19 in the rural communities as well as support our efforts to ramp up community testing. In addition, we have commenced Infection Prevention and Control, IPC, training, specifically for the Almajirai in Kano
"A ministerial team of experts has been dispatched to Calabar on a scoping mission to engage with state authorities and determine material and technical needs. The mission to Sokoto was successful and the team is currently in Maiduguri to support the state.
"A curious finding in Sokoto is the cluster of COVID-19 cases in only one local government area," he said.
Fake news a major problem -- Aliyu
In his presentation, the National Coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, decried the spate of fake news in the country, saying it was eroding the credibility and efficiency of the national response.
Aliyu stated: "There is growing incidence of fake news and this is particularly associated with the government's response of COVID-19 Emergency response.
"There is no doubt that this kind of incorrect and manufactured news distracts and misinforms the public as well as discredits the national response effort.
"Examples of fake news around the activities of the task force include fake statements about the lock-down guidelines as well as fake statements about funds released or spent by the PTF.
"There is no doubt that the impact of fake news can be quite considerable. It damages the credibility of the nation's public response, particularly when these stories are circulated as unconfirmed facts.
"It also harms the fragile trust between the government and the public, resulting in people acting on wrong information."
Technology, power, resources mean nothing to COVID-19, says Buhari
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari said in Abuja yesterday that the ravaging coronavirus pandemic was beyond technology, power and resource, noting that countries with all these have recorded the highest casualties.
Consequently, President Buhari has told governors to work closely with the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 to engender better harmony in the daunting task of checking the pandemic
Speaking during an online meeting with the Nigerian Governors' Forum, NGF, the President said the PTF had briefed him on next steps in the national response to the pandemic, "and I have directed that they work very closely with the governors."
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, President Buhari admonished: "We have to be very careful. We need to continue to educate and persuade the people to accept the reality of the situation, and do all that is necessary to stay safe."
The meeting also discussed economic and security issues, among others, with the governors commending the President on the "leadership and direction" he had given the country in combating COVID-19.
The meeting was also attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Godwin Emefiele were also present.
Yar'Adua Family supports FCTA
Also yesterday, the family of the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, donated food and personal protective gear to the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, to support its response against the COVID-19 pandemic in the territory.
Representative of the family under the aegis of Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, Malam Abdullahi Umaru Yar'Adua, while presenting the items to the administration, commended the doggedness of all health workers, stressing that their dedication to service in these challenging times should serve as an example to other professional bodies.
Yar'Adua, also commended the efforts of the Federal Government, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, FCT Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control for their diligence in service.
"My family, NGO (Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation) and I extend our deepest respect and gratitude to the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Presidential Task Force on Control of COVID-19, FCT Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and to all those working in the healthcare profession for their selfless commitment and diligence as they undertake vitally important roles in our country's fight against the ongoing pandemic.
"In difficult times, we often discover the best in ourselves, the dedication to service of doctors, nurses, lab technicians and other health workers, in these challenging times, is an example to us all," Yar'Adua stated.
While receiving the items on behalf of the Administration, FCT Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, commended the Yar'Adua family for the gesture.
She said: "We are happy to receive our former first family eminently represented by three eminent sons. This donation will no doubt go a long way to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on the residents of the territory and by extension entire Nigerians.
"To me it is special because it is exemplary. This is a way to tell others that you can move out of your comfort zone to touch lives. In touching lives, you will not know that the little gesture might go a long way also to assist other people. This is telling us that they do care in the performance of their corporate social responsibility."
Items donated include 1,000 pieces of N-95 face masks, 13,000 pieces of surgical masks, 1,800 bars of soap, 23,100 sachets of detergent, 100 cartons of macaroni, 100 bags of Semovita and 100 bags of rice.
NNPC, CBN to bear cost of feeding, accommodation of returnees
The Federal Government has said the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation have agreed to bear the cost of accommodating and feeding evacuees during their 14-day compulsory quarantine.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made this known on Monday during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He said the gesture was made possible by the co-operation of the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the NNPC GMD, Mele Kyari.
The minister explained that the MFA had imposed advance payment of feeding and hotel bills on evacuees because the FG had no source of funding.
He said, "After getting all the barrage from all around the world including that we were somehow conspiring with hotels to fleece Nigerians and make money for ourselves and other kinds of accusations, we continue to find a way through.
"They say two heads are better than one. The Honourable Minister of Environment, Dr Mahmoud Abubakar, called me on Friday and suggested trying NNPC and CBN. They have corporate social responsibility funding and I told him I will do that immediately.
"I got in touch with the governor of the CBN and he generously agreed. He said the amount I was talking about is over a billion naira because we have over 4,000 Nigerians out there and if over 3,000 of them are back, the cost of feeding and accommodation is over a billion naira that we don't have. He said he was ready to share the cost with the NNPC.
"I spoke with the GMD of NNPC and he said he was going to consult and thanks be to God today (Monday), he got back to me and he said he was going to meet with the governor of CBN and together, they will fund this portion, a very important one, the feeding and accommodation of the evacuees."