Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) has joined the ranks of those appealing to #EndSARS protesters to embrace dialogue, reminding them that the pandemic ‘virus remains very virulent, deadly and dangerous.’
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha, made the appeal Monday at the media briefing by the Task Force.
‘It will not be out of place for the PTF to, in consideration of the foregoing, remind all Nigerians that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. The virus remains very virulent, deadly and dangerous. It is an unseen enemy which thrives when people lower their guard. While we use this medium to join other voices of reason to appeal to the youths to harken to the invitation to dialogue, we also emphasise that non-compliance with the non-pharmaceutical measures are very risky adventures that must be avoided. We cannot afford to lose momentum and risk a second wave that might overwhelm our health systems,’ Mr Mustapha cautioned.
‘The PTF has on account of these developments, accelerated its plans for the National Testing Week and shall continue to monitor developments in all areas of the economy that have reopened and where new mass gathering events are taking place over the next three weeks for signs of a spike in numbers. We urge everyone who has been exposed unduly to a large gathering to get tested and/or report any signs of the symptoms of COVID-19.’
The PTF chair described the protesters as super-spreaders of the virus and that the result of their action will be seen two weeks from now.
He said: ‘Truth be told, two weeks from today, if you get all the people that congregated at Lekki Toll Plaza for COVID-19 year, you will for sure establish several infections. Any mass gatherings that do not adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions that have been put in place – wearing of mask, social distancing, keeping personal hygiene and avoiding mass gatherings become super spreader events, whether you like it or not. So, I can say with a definitive voice that two weeks from today, get everyone that congregated at those places, not only at the Lekki Toll Gate area but at Unity Foundation in Abuja and several other places in different parts of this country. We will definitely be contending with infections two weeks from now.
‘That is why we must be extremely careful when we congregate. When you gather in such places, you are providing carrier vehicles to convey this virus back to wherever you are going to. So, for each person that has attended but has not put on any form of protection and return to their families, it means if they caught the virus, they are potential carriers to their destination. Their families will innocently receive them and that will become a scourge for further transmission. We are at the stage of community transmission, all these mass gatherings will reinforce that transmission in our communities. And this is what we must avoid.’
Mustapha reiterated the call to Nigerians to avoid travelling to nor receiving visitors from countries with a high rate of infections cases.
He said: ‘The number of global infections, have crossed the 40 million mark while the United States of America has also crossed the 8 million mark. The global cases rose by a record 400,000 cases on October 16 with 43% of all the cases occurring in Europe (UK & France especially). The top five countries in new cases reported in the last 24 hours are India (55,511); USA (44,941); France (29,837); UK (16,982) and Russia (15,099). It is important to take precaution when planning to travel or receive travellers from these countries.’
Speaking on the implementation of the next phase of the National Response with effect from Monday, October 19, 2020, the SGF stressed the need for caution as Civil Servants on all grade levels have been allowed to return to work for the first time since March.
‘This also calls for caution, vigilance and effective preparation and leadership by Permanent Secretaries and CEOs of Agencies of Government. It is strongly advised that alternate days of attendance are worked out to avoid overcrowding in the various offices,’ he said.