Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has kicked against plans by the Cross River State Government to reopen schools on June 16 and the reopening of viewing centres in Kano State, warning that it was not yet safe to do so.
The Chairman of the PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, gave the warning at the Monday briefing of the Task Force.
The Cross River State Government had announced plans to commence a trial resumption of schools on June 16.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Cross River had, however, cautioned the state government against the move.
The Ben Ayade administration had planned to open three public schools in each of the state’s three senatorial districts on June 16.
But the association had stated that the medical community saw no evidence to ascertain the actual COVID-19 status and disease burden in the state due to the unacceptable low level of tests.
The NMA maintained that the quick resumption of schools, in spite of genuine reasons, has the potential to trigger a significant disease outbreak among students.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State had, on his part, directed the reopening of all viewing centres as one of the first steps toward reopening the state economy.
He gave the directive when members of Viewing Centre Owners Association (VCOA) paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, Kano, on Friday.
The governor had, however, said the state government had prepared guidelines that must be followed to forestall the possible spread of the virus as a result of the reopening of the centres.
Speaking on the issue, Mustapha said: ‘We have received reports that some states are contemplating the reopening of schools, television viewing centres, sports stadium and other places where large gatherings could take place. The PTF re-emphasises that it is not yet safe to do so and that utmost caution should be exercised. The PTF guideline should still be complied with while considering a decision of this nature.’
The PTF chairman again appealed to state governments to embark on wider community testing, enforce rules on social distancing, step up community engagement and risk communication and pay attention to places of large gatherings.
He reiterated the call to security agencies to strictly enforce the ban on interstate travel.
Mustapha said the PTF was concerned about the level of non-compliance with simple measures to keep social distancing, wearing of masks in public places, sanitation and hygiene.
‘This is more prevalent in markets, motor parks and some places of worship. I wish to remind you that the PTF has already issued guidelines for the mode of operations at places of worship and urge state governments to ensure strict compliance with PTF guidelines,’ the PTF chairman said.
‘We wish to re-emphasise that all relaxed measures are still subject to review and advisories issued are for personal and public safety purposes. The breach of the ban on interstate travel is also a point of concern.’
On the rising figures of confirmed cases, Mustapha said: ‘Over the last couple of days, you must have observed that the daily figures of confirmed cases have been on the rise. This is an indication that we are conducting more tests across the country and that we are fully in the community spread phase. We, however, urge Nigerians not to panic but to cooperate with public health officials especially where community testing is on-going.’