Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, has assured Nigerians that the extension of the eased lockdown by two weeks, is not punitive but a bid to further contain and control the spread of the disease.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, gave the assurance Tuesday at the daily briefing of the taskforce in Abuja.
He stated that Nigeria must delicately balance between safety and economic considerations before reopening the economy fully.
The SGF said: “This well considered decision was taken out of an abundance of caution, current experiences from different countries and expert advice. I must add also that we were persuaded by the history of global pandemics because it is replete with evidence of exponential rise in pandemic upon early lifting of restrictions, for which the 1918–1920 influenza remains the most recent example in human history.
“Nigeria, judging from these historical perspectives, must in our present approach, delicately balance between safety and economic considerations before we reopen the economy, fully.”
Mustapha while assuring that the decision is not punitive, as government shares in the citizens pains and their concerns.
The SGF said, “However, our future remains in our hands and compliance is one of the keys to opening that future. As we go into the first week of the extension of Phase One under the eased lockdown regime, we appeal once more to everyone, to diligently comply with measures put in place.
“Of particular importance is the need to obey the curfew, obey the ban on interstate travels, observe physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, observe personal and respiratory hygiene and align with the policy on use of masks/covering.”
The PTF chairman said that the two additional weeks should be utilized by businesses, offices, professional bodies, places of worship and educational institutions, among others awaiting reopening to plan and adopt new strategies under a COVID-19 era in line with the guidelines.
He said that behavioral change is a must for every citizen because COVID 19 has changed the world completely.
Mustapha added, “The PTF COVID-19 is committed and determined to continue to provide the required leadership for this national response. In the coming days, intense consultations will be deepened with different segments of the society including the state governments, security agencies, religious and community leaders to ensure a coordinated implementation of the measures.
“As I mentioned yesterday, specific directives have been issued to security agencies to strictly enforce the measures. I therefore admonish Nigerians to please observe the restrictions in full. I however wish to assure our essential workers such as the frontline medical personnel, the media, the environmental health workers, farmers and agro-related service providers, oil and gas services, aviation, the power sector and a host of others that they will be adequately protected. Your obligation is to always carry a valid means of identification.”
Mustapha said that as part of government engagement strategy, the PTF met with the Joint Health Committees of the National Assembly, on Tuesday, to seek further collaboration and support for the battle.
He said the interactive session was very useful and the PTF COVID-19 received a re-assurance of the support from the llegislature.
He said that consistent with government community engagement strategy, it will leverage on existing community structures and assets right down to the ward level to push through a massive public awareness campaign aimed at ensuring voluntary community engagement and ownership of the fight.
He reminded Nigerians that the the virus ravaging the world does not discriminate on the basis of status, creed, political persuasion, profession or where you come from.
“Now is the time to avoid any distraction from whatever quarters and all hands must be and remain on deck. On our part, we assure Nigerians of our commitment to accountability, diligence and probity.
“For those who are struggling with the disease, help is available. Do not go underground. It’s important to talk about it and to seek help. Every effort spares humanity the agony of the spread of the virus,” he said.
Mustapha urged all Nigerians to remain their brothers’ keeper, saying that their response so far has been tremendous and urged them to do more.