By Abujah Racheal
Ahead of the Eid-el-Kabir celebration by Muslims, the Federal Government (FG) urges Nigerians to continue observing the COVID-19 health protocols.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this on Thursday in Abuja at the 52nd Joint National Briefing of the task force.
According to Mustapha, it is important to advise Nigerians on the upcoming Eid-el-Kabir festival.
“This naturally comes with lots of mass gatherings but we must not forget that the guidelines are still in existence and the virus is very potent.
“We urge all state governments to ensure that guidelines are adhered to and citizens should not indulge in activities that would allow for the spread of the virus and lives are endangered,” he said.
The SGF said that the FG was encouraged by state governments that had announced ban on Sallah festivities and hoped it would be upheld and replicated by other states.
He said that the PTF had to postpone the briefing for Monday, July 20, as the dangers faced by the nation’s frontline workers on a daily basis was forcefully brought to public consciousness when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is a member of the PTF, tested positive to COVID-19.
Mustapha said that the singular piece of information in the public space was sufficient proof to Nigerians that the virus was real and does not discriminate.
He said that sequel to that development, the PTF and its Secretariat immediately carried out a risk assessment and tested all members to determine their status, out of an abundance of caution.
“Fortunately, as a precautionary measure, the PTF had earlier arranged that all journalists covering its activities should be tested by the NCDC,” he said.
The SGF said that testing of members for COVID-19 had been a regular exercise for the PTF and that policy would be sustained.
Mustapha said that having successfully taken all precautionary measures regarding safety, the normal business of the PTF had resumed.
He, however, said that the government would not lower its guards for any reason because the nation could not afford to shut down its response.
“As we progress, however, the PTF might consider restructuring the mode of delivering some of its activities, relying more on technology, to minimise the risks associated with avoidable physical contacts,” he said.
He said that the WHO statistics showed that India had joined the U.S. and Brazil in the category of countries that have recorded over one million cases, and that cumulatively, 15,403,120 cases have been recorded from 215 countries and territories.
“On the African continent, the cumulative total for Africa has risen to 773, 804 including 16,448 fatalities.
“Nigeria, with 38,344 cases account for about five per cent of the Africa’s numbers. Similarly, Nigeria, with 813 deaths accounts for five per cent of fatalities in the continent.
“The message of hope is that the world continues to close its ranks in the search for a vaccine in a manner designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access worldwide,” he said.
Mustapha also said that to demonstrate the commitment of government to research, on Monday, July 20, 2020, it inaugurated the Body of Experts for Health Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme (HSRDIS), established by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under the Chairmanship of the Director- General of NAFDAC.
The SGF said that the body is expected to address the challenges that limit Research and Development Investment in the healthcare sector.
He added that as the nation approach the last five days to the end of the eased lock down phase, the PTF shall rigorously evaluate the developments on the basis of emerging data, evolving science, strengthened best practices and improvements in the Risk Communication Strategy.
According to him, all these will help the taskforce to form an opinion upon which the next set of recommendations to President Muhammadu Buhari, would be based.
He also commended ‘friendly nations’ and corporate organisations for their continuing support through donation of medicines and equipment.
Mustapha thanked India for the donation of seven-tonnes of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of patients and others who donated Oxygen Concentrators, ambulance and phones respectively, assuring that the resources would be judiciously utilised.
The SGF noted that the sub-national entities have also escalated the levels of their ownership and urged them to continue as that was the most practicable means of dealing with the community transmission phase of the virus.
He also called for the proper disposal of face mask and any other used item properly and safely to save others, including street cleaners from being exposed to dangers.