Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday lifted ban on sporting activities, directed all categories of civil servants to resume work, even as it said night clubs and bars remain closed.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, made the disclosure while reeling out the guidelines for the next phase of eased lockdown at the task force press briefing in Abuja.
He said: “It is therefore the informed recommendation of the PTF that Nigeria maintains Phase 3 of the response with further changes to address economic, socio-political and healthcare.
“In this regard, and effective from Monday, October 19, 2020 at a minute past midnight, the following guidelines will come into place.
“The lifting of restriction on outdoor sporting activities including football is in line with earlier consultations with the Federal Ministry of Youth Sport Development and NCDC. However, this is limited to the actual sport itself not with mass gatherings.
“In this regard mass gathering including at sport events is still restricted as this represent an opportunity for the virus to spread with an increased rate of a second wave.
“For gatherings in enclosed places, this will continue to be limited to only 50 persons with physical distancing and compulsory wearing of face masks except for workplaces.
“The PTF also believes that it is now time to allow civil servants of all grades to resume work safely. Additional guidelines will be provided for heads of MDAs.
“Chief executives and heads of MDAs are responsible for ensuring the strict enforcement of non-pharmaceutical interventions and making sure that their work environment is safe for the staff. Face masks are expected to be worn in every public building including govt offices.”
He said, “We have developed guidelines with NCDC and the NYSC for the reopening of the orientation camps on November 10, 2020.
“The PTF has also arranged for additional safe bags to include the testing of all corps members and staff in the camps for COVID 19 prior to commencement of the orientation programmes.
“It is also time for schools to open but to open safely, and in this regard we have continued with providing guidelines and engagement with states to ensure close supervision and guidelines and oversight as schools open.”
Asked why night clubs and bars should remain closed, Aliyu said, “I have nothing against night clubs, not that I drink but don’t see anything wrong with people going to bars and night clubs. However, the nature of the environment is an enclosed space, there are no windows, people are standing very close to each other. We are yet to have a mask that people can drink without taking mask off. So you are at a great risk of transmission. Globally, when the number starts surging look at the news, the first thing they say is that bars are closed. So that is why we are being careful, the national response that we have had in this country has been very calibrated. We have looked at every single risk and then take a decision. For every decision we take are not easy, there are negotiations, arguments etc. But bars and night clubs remain closed for very good reasons. At a point in time that we are very confident that we are at the right time to relax further, we will open up.
“So, for those who love night clubs please be a bit patient with us eventually hopefully, things will get back to normal.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha, also speaking to the same issue said: “We have nothing against night clubs, bars, lounges but you know the nature of those places. For obvious reasons, they are constructed in such a manner for effectiveness of either the lighting or the music. So it is always very compact. And the beauty about it is that you must be dancing and jumping shoulder to shoulder.
“That is the most dangerous place to be without a face mask. Like Dr. Sani said, we have not gotten to a point where you have created mask with false enclosure so that you can drink without taking off your mask or you can share in entertainment without making noise. So what’s the point of opening a night club and people are sitting with mask.
“So we are not opposed to the leisure and entertainment industry, we want to get to this new normal as quickly as possible so that we can return to our ordinary ways of life.”
He quoted the former US CDC director, who said vaccines is important and effective thing that we desire to have as soon as possible but the other complimentary measures if not combined with vaccines the effectiveness of vaccine will not be there. And the measures are observing the COVID-19 protocols – wearing of mask, washing of hands and using hand sanitizers.
He said the likelihood of vaccine coming in the next six months is becoming questionable and hence the need to take steps to ensure the processes of the community transmission stage is limited.”