• Buhari okays full reopening of banks, hotels, others • Curfew now to last from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., media exempted
• Ministry plans safe reopening of schools • Domestic flights to resume June 21 • PTF suspends evacuation of Nigerians
Places of worship such as churches and mosques are now free to reopen. But this comes with some conditions. Worshippers should wear masks, properly sanitise their hands, among other health guidelines to tackle the spread of COVID-19.
This follows President Muhammadu Buhari relaxation of the restriction on places of worship based on guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force PTF on Covid-19 and the protocols agreed by state governments.
Consequently, the restricted opening of places of worship would henceforth be based on state government protocols and strict adherence to the PTF guidelines on physical distancing which will apply only to regular church and mosque services.
Also, the president approved the full reopening of the financial sector with banks now allowed to operate five days a week. He also approved the easing of the total lockdown of Kano State.
Also, the aviation industry has requested to be allowed to develop protocols in order for domestic flights to resume from June 21, 2020.
The Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha who disclosed these at the daily press briefing yesterday in Abuja said that Buhari retained the ban on the gathering of more than 20 people outside of a workplace; a managed access to markets and locations of economic activity to limit the risk of transmission; and ban on inter-state travels except for the movement of agricultural produce, petroleum products, manufactured goods and essential services providers over the next four weeks spanning 2nd to 29th June 2020 and subject to review.
The SGF said that there should be mandatory use of non-medical face masks in public places, mandatory provision of handwashing facilities/sanitisers in all public places, extensive temperature checks in public places, maintenance of two metres between people in public places, strengthening infection prevention and control at healthcare facilities, and isolation of vulnerable populations (elderly and those with underlying health conditions.)
Mustapha said that during the two weeks extension, the PTF evaluated the COVID-19 situation in the country after which it submitted a report to the president.
“COVID-19 is still a fight for life and our advancement to phase two does not mean that COVID-19 has ended as Nigeria has not reached the peak of confirmed cases,” he said.
He explained that the PTF took into consideration the advisory of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the need to balance lives and livelihoods; follow a slow and phased approach that is data-driven; apply public health measures in every community and at every phase of the response (i.e. surveillance, case finding, testing, isolation, tracing and quarantining contacts.); and evaluating the economic and social aspects of the society, which will play a role in progressing or hindering any efforts for the response when planning to ease a lockdown.
The SGF said: “The PTF, in reaching its conclusions and making recommendations for next steps of the response, remained mindful of the following important socio-economic issues: impact of COVID-19 on the global economy and all national economies; pain and hardship brought upon the poor and vulnerable, the aged, the sick, people living with disabilities, and particularly those whose survival depends on their daily earnings; the impact of the closure of schools and tertiary institutions; avoidable death of citizens occasioned by the decline in the level of availability of medical services to citizens due to the closure of medical facilities, rejection of patients by hospitals and fear of stigmatization; and the level of infection of frontline workers and its implications for the national response. The battle against COVID-19 is a long-term one. Nigeria should pursue a strategy that will aid the sustainable control of the spread of the disease.”
According to him, President Buhari also approved for implementation cautious advance into the second phase of the national response to COVID-19, application of science and data to guide the targeting of areas of on-going high transmission of the virus in the country; the mobilisation of all resources at state and local government levels to create public awareness on COVID- 19 and improve compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions within communities; and the sustenance of key non-pharmaceutical interventions that would apply nationwide.
The interventions include: massive information and education campaigns; deepening of collaborative efforts with the community leaders, civil society, faith-based organisations, traditional institutions; continuous mobilisation of state governments to take up a greater role in the implementation of the guidelines, advisories provided by the PTF; and continued provision of support by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to states through guidelines to shape decision-making in responding to high- burdened local government areas and wards.
Mustapha said that based on the overall assessment, including available data on the public health considerations and resultant economic impacts, the PTF was of the opinion that Nigeria was ready to allow science and data determine her cautious advancement into the second phase of the eased lockdown for a period of four weeks.
The SGF said it was the consideration of the PTF that while Nigeria’s confirmed cases had increased in the period under review, the following factors should inspire confidence in the response:
• Majority of the confirmed cases are in a handful of local governments in the country;
• 20 out of the 774 LGAs nationwide account for 60% of the cases ;
• There is an opportunity to concentrate efforts in these high-burden areas;
• Federal agencies and state governments are working together on the promotion and utilisation of guidelines on case management (e.g. home care for relatively well patients);
• There is increased capacity to detect, test and trace those infected with the virus;
• 29 testing laboratories have been activated, with Bauchi being the latest addition while the test count nationwide has exceeded 60,000.
The PTF said the Federal Ministry of Education was developing guidelines and protocols for the safe reopening of schools when the security agencies would ensure the enforcement of guidelines and protection of lives and property.
The Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu announced that any prior arrangement to evacuate Nigerians from different parts of the world had been suspended until a new policy being developed with the private sector was put in place.
He said that the nationwide curfew would remain in place but would last from 10:00 p.m.-4:00 a.m. effective from today, while people on essential services, including the media, were exempted.
Aliyu said that schools would remain closed while movement within local governments was discouraged except for critical reasons
“Artisans, auto mechanics can now operate their businesses. Hotels may re-open but restaurants to continue with the take-away system. Parks, bars and gardens remain closed.”
At the briefing, Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika disclosed that domestic flight would resume June 21st and would be purely premised on the implementation of the approved protocols for safe operations of the airlines.
Domestic flights have been suspended since March as one of the measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Sirika explained that the three weeks period before the resumption date was to enable the operators to adhere to all the necessary industry regulations, without which they would not be allowed to take to the skies after being dormant for some time. “This is because aviation, unlike other sectors, is a highly regulated one,” he said.
The minister said consultations had been on and would continue between the ministry and industry stakeholders on the best ways to operate profitably while at the same time ensuring the safety of travellers.