PRESIDENT BUHARI DEPARTS TO DAURA TOWN FOR SALLAH 0A. R-L; President Muhammadu Buhari chats with SGF Mr Boss Mustapha as President departs Abuja to Home town Daura for Sallah celebration PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE. AUG 20 2018.

COVID-19: Nigeria not ready for full opening of economy, says SGF Mustapha



Flags off two-week second phase of eased restriction


urges governors to enforce COVID-19 guidelines

allow farmers, market women to do their business, SGF tells security agents

In spite of the modest progress made in the COVID-19 fight, the Federal Government says Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy just as it flagged off the second phase of eased restriction for another two weeks.

It said tough decisions had to be taken for the good of the greater majority and urged states to ensure effective and stricter implementation of COVID-19 guidelines.

Mr Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19  said this at the national media briefing on Monday in Abuja.

“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,’’ Persecondnews quotes the SGF as saying.

He stressed that the collaboration and cooperation of the state and local governments with the federal government would help to consolidate the gains made so far in the COVID-19 fight and position the country to effectively overcome the pandemic.

Mustapha said: “In the interest of our nation, the role of the States and Local Governments remain critical to success. The PTF shall engage with the States on the effective implementation of these guidelines.

`This morning, I participated in a virtual conference between the President and the Nigeria Governors Forum and the subject of collaboration was robustly discussed.

Describing COVID-19 pandemic as the greatest public health challenge of our generation, the PTF chairman said a multi-sectoral national response had been developed bearing in mind the fact that the nation was “traversing uncharted territories and that there was no cure for the virus’’.

According to him, some of these measures introduced in phases and modified as we progressed include lockdown of specified high burden areas, travel ban, nationwide curfew as well as advisories aimed at deescalating infection, prevention and control strategies.

Mustapha said while maintaining a delicate balance between safety and economic survival in a precarious situation, the government focused on ensuring that socio-economic difficulties experienced during the total lockdown were alleviated without compromising safety.

He added that it would allow the  healthcare sector to continue to prepare the identified metrics needed to manage the response and any potential future outbreak nationwide and increasing the sensitization of the populace and empowering communities to start driving the response through taking personal responsibility by adhering to stated guidelines.

“Achieving the foregoing objectives was predicated on adherence to the guidelines issued by the PTF COVID-19, adaptation and cooperation by the States, ownership by communities as well businesses, professional bodies, labour leaders, faith-based organisations, traditional rulers and particularly, individuals taking responsibility.

“The PTF continued to assess the level of compliance with the guidelines which came into effect on 4th May, 2020.  While emphasising ownership, we consistently shared some aspects of the assessment during our daily national briefings pointing in the general direction of non-compliance.

“Nevertheless, we are pleased to inform you that measures put in place yielded sufficient progress that requires consolidation to ensure that the health system and economy are in a position to adequately respond to any potential outcomes in the future – including a secondary outbreak.

“The gradual re-opening of the economy has been sign-posted by the controlled opening, and increased access to markets and supermarkets, Banks and other income yielding activities for the vulnerable population. Similarly, corporations and government offices partially opened their operations and services so as to facilitate the activities of other sectors.

“Some manufacturing, construction and allied sectors also resumed. All these sectors ensured that adequate infection mitigation measures were put in place,’’ the SGF explained.

In recognition of the global impact of COVID-19 on economies and the need to stimulate and positively turn around our economy, Mustapha said the Federal Government has been implementing various stimulus packages offered to businesses and state governments through the CBN.

The measures include reduction of interest rates from 9 percent to 5 percent for all CBN intervention facilities, restructuring of loans to longer tenors for all companies whose businesses are adversely impacted by COVID-19,  N50 billion facilities to household and businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19 through NIRSAL Micro Finance Bank.

Others he said include a N100 billion facility to pharmaceutical and health sectors companies to retool their businesses, N1 trillion facility to Agric and Manufacturing companies to expand and set up new factories and suspension of repayment of all state government loans for one year to give states ample financing room to pay salaries.

On the gains of the two weeks of Phase One of the eased lockdown, Mustapha disclosed that an increase in the number of laboratories in the COVID-19 network from 15 to 26 was recorded while additional 15,558 tests were conducted in the country (with a cumulative total of 35,098 tests and the number of tests per million increasing from 50 to 154.

He also mentioned  increase in the number of trained personnel to 11,409 health workers thereby boosting capacity for case management, procurement and distribution of additional personal protective equipment and ventilators across the country and the doubling time of the virus has slowed down from 7 days to 11 days.

He equally said the number of beds available for isolation and case management increased from 3500 to 5000 beds nationwide, adding that the efficiency of the identification, testing, evacuation, and isolation process for confirmed cases had increased with progressive improvement in capacity of the health system to respond to the outbreak.

In mobilising all sectors and communities to take individual and collective responsibility in the fight against the pandemic in our National Response, the PTF-COVID-19 chairman acknowledged the efforts of the private sector, public spirited Nigerians, corporate organizations, the armed forces, intelligence and security community, the media, as well as the International Community for their unquantifiable support in the battle against the COVID-19.

“The response has been overwhelming and encouraging.’’

On the donations received so far, Mustapha said the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation had introduced the transparency dimensions in the management of certain components of financial donations by publishing the receipts in the newspapers.

“I, in addition, explained the processes for other components so that Nigerians can be assured that accountability remains the hallmark of this administration and the PTF. All monies donated are safe and secure and would be judiciously utilised and accounted for.’’

According to the SGF, the PTF has relied largely on science, statistics, lessons learnt from other parts of the world and an evaluation of our peculiar circumstances to draw its conclusions on the outcome of the last two weeks.

“For example, our surveillance, infection prevention and control activities identified nine high burden local government areas in the federation reporting high number of cases and accounting for 51% of the total number of infections in the country. All the nine are densely populated local government areas nationwide.

“We have also seen that though Nigeria’s caseload still lags behind several other countries, our large population and relatively high degree of mobility and urbanisation (50%) places us at an increased risk for high transmissibility. Therefore, our consideration of ease of restrictions has to balance lives and livelihoods and the slow and gradually phased approach should be science and data driven.

“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.

“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 behavior. We must do more,’’ Mustapha pointed out.

He said the measures, exemptions, advisories and scope of entities allowed to reopen under phase one of the eased locked down would be maintained across the federation for another two weeks effective from midnight of today (18th May, 2020 to 1st June, 2020).

`The level of compliance has been reviewed and a specific directive has been issued to the security agencies to carry out strict enforcement of all measures. These include the nationwide curfew from 8.00pm to 6.00pm; the ban on interstate travels and the wearing of facemasks/coverings in public.

“The security agents are however urged to be mindful of the human rights of citizens, while citizens are equally urged to recognize the dangers posed to self, their loved ones and the entire community if they fail to take responsibility.

“Let me state categorically, that the exemptions allowed under the phase one are still in place. Particularly, government remains conscious of the fact that we are in the rainy season and farming activities is critical to food and national security.

“It should, therefore, not be hindered,’’ he said, urging states and security agencies to support, encourage and allow our farmers to carry out their activities.

“We wish to appeal to all Nigerians to show understanding, demonstrate patriotism and take responsibility. Humanity is in great peril and we are all in danger.

“Most importantly, we repeat our call on all Nigerians to please STAY HOME and STAY SAFE,’’ he said.

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