Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Coordinator of the Presidential Tasks Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, announced on Monday that only pupils in Primary 6 and students in JSS 3 and SS3 are allowed to resume school in preparation of their examinations.
He added that all schools including primary schools and daycare centres across the country remain closed until further evaluation while arrangements will be made for students taking NECO, WAEC and other exams.
He further added that the use of face masks remains mandatory in government and commercial premises, saying ‘no mask, no entry’
The PTF Coordinator said: ‘For educational activities, all daycares and primary schools are to remain closed until further evaluation. Schools are encouraged to continue with e-learning and visual teaching but pupils may proceed to take the national common entrance as soon as is feasible, provided there is compliance with issued non-pharmaceutical interventions.
‘For secondary and tertiary institutions, all schools remain closed till further evaluation. Arrangements are to be made for exiting graduating students in JSS3 and SS3 to resume at both boarding and day schools as soon as possible for intensive revision exercises.
‘All educational establishments are to conduct exhaustive reviews to ensure compliance with the issued guidelines on COVID-19 before they open up for this purpose and just to clarify they will open up only for the purpose of exiting students.
‘Arrangements are to be made for students taking part in the Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program (NAPTEP), Business and English Certification (BEC) exams, West African Examinations Council (WAEC) examinations, National Examinations Council (NECO) and sub-exams respectively.
‘All schools must comply with the six recommended steps and required measures to be issued by the Federal Ministry of Education before an institution is reopened in the timeline to be provided.’
The Chairman of the Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, explained why some categories of schools had to be reopened.
He said: ‘It is not an easy decision but we are mindful of the fact that even prior to COVID-19, we have 15 million children out of school.
‘So, what do we do with those that are in school, do they constitute part of this now or do we do something? We measured the risk and see how best we can help the graduating ones. We are not talking about everybody going back to school, we are talking about the graduating classes, the primary six, if we don’t do something about them, they can’t proceed to secondary school. So, they would not lose a year.
‘The same thing with JSS3, if you don’t do anything, because they can only qualify to move if they pass a certain examination. So, if you stop them, it means we would not have the prospect of people graduating.
‘The same with SS3, there is a certain examination that qualifies you to go into the university, that is WAEC, in addition to JAMB or whatever qualifying examination that you have.
‘WAEC is not under our exclusive control. The five Anglophone West African countries constitute WAEC. If the other four are ready and we start the examination say in the month of August, Nigeria cannot isolate itself. It means that those that are to graduate to the universities next year would not be able to graduate.
‘So, we say these classes that would be graduating, can we do something to accommodate them in such a way that they would just show up for the purposes of the examination.’
Funerals, weddings reduced to 20 people
The National Coordinator also said the attendance of funerals and weddings have been reduced to 20 people including family members.
‘So, I’ll be taking you through some of the changes. As the chairman said we are extending Phase 2 of the response with slight modifications,’ Dr Aliyu said.
‘The PTF has identified certain areas of concern that require attention and which will undergo a further revision.
‘These are particular areas involved with international air travel, entertainment activities, educational sector, services and public and private sector services.
‘The PTF in the past has stated that the aim of phase two was to sustain the gains from earlier steps and faces in terms of the pandemic control.
‘It’s also important to state that we relaxed the response partly to enable additional sectors of the economy restart activities.
‘In this regard, we seek to consolidate the gains in the areas of the economy while trying to ensure better compliance with the health-based response.
‘Specifically, therefore, the following areas will be sustained and modified under the extended phase of the eased locked down as approved by Mr President:
‘The current nationwide curfew would remain. We will maintain restrictions on mass gatherings and sporting activities.
‘Domestic Aviation Services will recommence. Movement across state boundaries will be allowed but only outside curfew hours.
‘Federal and state government offices will maintain their current timing with only essential staff allowed at the same level of grade level 14 and above resume work.
‘The use of face masks remains mandatory and we will be enforcing this at all levels including linking up with state governments.
‘Access to government and Commercial premises will not be allowed if you are not wearing a face mask, in other words, “no mask, no entry”, “no mask, no services” will be provided in government premises and Commercial premises.’
The Coordinator also explained in details some of the areas that not much has changed.
He said: ‘So, the curfew, for instance, remains at 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. nationwide. People are allowed to go out for work and to buy food and exercise as well as continue to move between local governments, especially in areas that are not high burden local governments, but we still strongly recommend avoiding unnecessary contact with people.
‘For the aviation industry, the aviation industry is allowed to resume domestic operations as soon as practicable in line with existing international and local guidelines on COVID-19.
‘For Interstate travel, movement across state borders will be allowed only outside curfew times effective from the 1st of July to allow the industry to prepare over the next 24 hours.
‘In particular, we expect the transport industry to adhere to the Federal Ministry of Transportation safety protocol and guidelines that will be released, specifically in relation to parks and terminals that will be restricted access with disinfection and sanitization. Waiting area for passengers must have social distance in measures, there has to be posters and notices on the conduct of persons, temperature checks, if you are not wearing a mask, you will not be allowed entry into the parks and terminals.
‘We also expect transporters to arrange for crowd control, buses should have a maximum of 50 per cent capacity each bus trips.
‘We strongly urge windows to be kept open particularly for short trips and face mask is mandatory.
‘State governments through their commissioners of transport shall undertake an inspection of facilities and confirm compliance as a precondition to resumption of interstate travel and non-compliance with the guidelines would result in withdrawal of permission to operate Interstate mass transit. The PTF expects this to be enforced at the state level.
‘For Interstate travel, we will maintain the occupancy level for buses to 50 per cent and two passengers for taxes, but we will restrict movement in high burden-local government areas to essential travel only. This will be part of the hotspot strategy that will be introduced.
‘For industry and labour, they will maintain normal working hours based on the curfew arrangements apart from government offices that will have a separate working hour schedule and offices must maintain working at 75 per cent capacity.
‘For banks and financial institutions, they will operate normal working hours with no change. For government offices there is no specific change, working hours remain 9 a.m. To 2 p.m. from grade level 14 and above.
‘But personalised services, mechanics, artisans, hair salons etc who own their workshops, workstations and can clearly adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions will be permitted to operate as normal.
‘For markets, there is no specific change to what we already have in Phase 2 and this will be driven by local authority arrangements.
‘For hotels, restaurants and eateries there is no specific change. Hotels must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions, restaurants to remain closed for eating with strict cleanliness guidelines except for restaurants that are serving Hotel residents.
‘Bars, gyms, cinemas, event centres and nightclubs remain closed and this will be enforced.
‘For churches and mosques, no specific change phase 2 remains.
‘For recreational parks /communal Sports, restriction on communal Sports remains as well as the restriction on recreational parks until further evaluation.
‘For funerals and weddings no particular change, funerals and weddings to be limited to 20 people including close family members.
‘In summary, the PTF has recommended to Mr President and Mr President has approved the extension of phase 2 of the response with minor modifications.
‘We are requesting for full compliance by the general public. We have to get this right and this time around we really need to stop playing Russian roulette with our life because if we continue to expose ourselves to COVID there’s no doubt that people will die.
‘We also call on all the political leaders, community and religious leaders to continue to support us, the PTF, to make sure that the communities are aware of the risks and compliance is improved.’