From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government, announcing new restrictions in regards to the second wave of the novel coronavirus, has directed all staff on GL 12 and below to stay at home for the next five weeks. Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executives are to be held accountable for enforcing Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI) rules in their domains with frequent spot checks.
Among the re-introduced restrictions and regulations are the closure of most public places and social events, including religious, occupational and recreational activities.
The Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, told the media on Monday that President Muhammadu Buhari has authorised the decisions.
He explained that Buhari had directed state governments, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to immediately assume responsibility for the enforcement of the re-introduced restrictions and measures.
This is even as he disclosed that one of his family members that tested positive to COVID-19 is a one-year-old including his four of his children.
The SGF, who had last week Sunday announced that he and his wife had gone into isolation as some members of his family tested positive for COVID-19, said although he and his wife did not test positive, his four children and a one-year-old child were among those infected.
The SGF, who described the past one week as being traumatic, reiterated earlier warnings that young people are not immune from being infected with the virus.
The PTF chairman said recent epidemiology records confirm that ‘Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world. Particularly, Lagos, Kaduna and the FCT have emerged as the new epicentres during this period, with over 70% of all confirmed cases.’
He also said that of the 163,818 inbound international travellers captured on the Nigeria International Travel Portal for the control of possible importation of the virus, 20,216 (31 per cent), have not shown up for the post-arrival test.
According to him, as at date, 163,818 inbound travellers have been captured on the portal; and that out of this number, 77,025 (47 per cent) made payment for post-arrival testing.
He said that 64,405 (84 per cent) of the number are due for the post-arrival test; and that out of 44,189 (69 per cent) that were due for a post-arrival test, 44,189 representing (59 per cent) of those tested.
‘20,216 (31percent) have not shown up for post-arrival test thereby endangering members of the community and breaching the protocols they signed up to,’ Mustapha said.
The SGF said that the PTF has concluded arrangements with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to impose sanctions on these defaulters for breaching the public health protocols, within the ambit of the law.
He said President Buhari has authorised the PTF ‘to engage with the States and the FCT to assume full ownership of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions:
‘In line with the authorisation, the PTF wishes to issue the following advisories to sub-national entities for implementation over the next five weeks because these activities are considered super spreader events: Close All bars, night clubs, pubs and event centres, and recreational venues; Close all restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents; takeaways, home deliveries and drive-ins shall remain closed; Restrict all informal and formal festivity events including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events shall be restricted to not more than 50 persons; Limit All gatherings linked to religious events to less than 50% capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing; mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced; Where more than 50 persons are attending, any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only; Public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50 percent of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules and to enforce compliance with NPI protocols especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces.’
Mustapha said to reduce overcrowding in public spaces, markets, shopping centres, offices and schools are advised to implement the following:
‘Encourage virtual meetings in government offices. The leadership of such offices are to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated offices, and encourage staff to work from home where possible;
‘All government staff on GL.12 and below are to stay at home for the next 5 weeks; Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executives are to be held accountable for enforcing NPI rules in their domains with frequent spot checks;
‘The PTF on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Education expects that schools would have vacated from the 18th December 2020 and remain closed till at least the 18th of January, 2021 to enable the measures introduced to take effect;
‘All persons above the age of 60yrs and/or with comorbidities are to be encouraged to stay at home and avoid crowds;
‘All non-essential travels – both domestic and international during the holiday season are seriously discouraged.’
To strengthen risk communication and community engagement activities over the next 5 weeks, he said states are encouraged to; Engage community and religious leaders, arrange town hall meetings (ideally set outdoors) to address concerns; Intensify public messaging activities, leveraging on existing government and partner assets; Reach out to youths and younger adults with health promotion activities; Invest in local face mask purchase and distribution to the general public to encourage use.
‘Where applicable, the PTF shall also implement these authorisations. For example, it shall work with the Nigeria Immigration Service to impose sanctions on all in-bound travellers who violated the travel protocols and endangered the lives of their loved ones and other citizens by refusing to take the post-arrival test.’
He said the PTF will similarly work with the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to implement aspects related to the Public Service.
He said: ‘A lot of discussions are still going on around the calls for the restriction of international travels due to the discovery of new strains of the virus in certain countries. The PTF, Aviation and health authorities including the WHO, are assessing the situation closely and would take a position as soon as a cogent scientific basis is established. The protection of Nigerians remains our primary concern and we reassure Nigerians of our resolve not to relent.’
He said the PTF will submit its end of year report to the President on Tuesday and Nigerians would be kept abreast of the latest developments.