Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has extended the ban on all flights into the country for an additional four weeks.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, announced this at Wednesday’s daily of the Task Force.
Recalled the federal government had in March 18th announced the restrictions of entry into the country for travelers from 13 countries including the US and UK.
The restriction was extended to travelers from countries with more than 1,000 cases. They include China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the United States, Norway, UK, Netherlands and Switzerland, according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
On March 23rd, the NCAA confirmed essential flights to include aircraft in state of emergency, over flights, operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights, alternate aerodrome identified in the flight plan, technical stop where passengers do not disembark, cargo flights and other safety related operations.
Mustapha said: “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.“
The PTF chairman also expressed concerned that Nigerians were not complying with the ease of lockdown guidelines.
He said from the Taskforce observation Nigerians have abandoned the various protective measures to curb the spread of the various, noting that all indications pointed at dangers ahead.
He called on all stakeholders, especially community and religious leaders to help government in changing the tides.
The SGF reiterated his call for all Nigerians to take responsibility for their individual safety, as well as those of their loved ones, warning that COVID-19 was a deadly outbreak, which should be taken seriously.
“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 compliment the efforts of government. The PTF appreciates your current efforts but it has become very obvious that more needs to be done, together.
“Early assessment of the ease of lockdown phase indicate 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.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to reiterate the fact that our individual and collective safety is in our hands and I re-echo my call and appeal to Nigerians to demonstrate our duty to ourselves and loved ones by minimizing the risk of getting infected by the virus”, he warned.
Mustapha also observed that indeed people had faced challenges in the last few weeks, but warned “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”, he said.
The SGF also raised the concerns of President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the PTF, of increasing cases of infection of medical doctors and other health sector frontline workers, adding that the government would continue to renew efforts at training frontline personnel.
He specifically spoke about the situation at the isolation centres in Gombe State, where concerns of lack of care had been raised in viral online videos.
He said “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 called on transportation managers, as well as leaders of various transport unions of across the country to enlighten drivers of commercial vehicles on managing crowds, especially as it had become clear that public transportation had become a major clustering points.
He further said the PTF had continued to interface with state governments and other sub-national entities on various effective strategies to manage the health crisis.
“We have continued to interface with the Governors and I am pleased to inform you that the NCDC will be visiting the Kogi and Cross Rivers States to provide support to the State EOCs. This is a giant leap in the dialogue and collaboration process. We are also retooling all Federal Medical Institutions as part of the overall support to the States.
“We have received a boost in the isolation facilities available in Abuja with the completion of the Abuja Thisday Dome. This facility will be inaugurated on Tuesday 12th May, 2020”, he said.