Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has expressed concern that states that were hitherto adhering to the protocols of guidelines on the pandemic are now letting their guard down.
It has also expressed concern about some states denying the existence of the virus, saying they were putting their citizens at risk.
The task force has encouraged Nigerians to challenge those not wearing face masks in public.
Dr Sani Aliyu, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said this Monday during the daily pandemic briefing.
According to him, ‘in the cities where adherence to these protocols was high in the initial two weeks of the eased lockdown, progressively over time citizens are letting down their guards and this remains of grave concern.
‘There’s partial to total non-compliance with face Mask and physical distance in protocols by the public as earlier mentioned by the DG NCDC.
‘Many Nigerians only use their face mask either to avoid security agents, that is where enforcement exist or where they are told to do so.
‘There’s also significant disbelief in the danger and impact of COVID-19, in parts of the southeast where we did a recent survey, 60% did not believe that COVID-19 was an issue at all. We clearly are not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
‘There are also many myths that continue to exist within the social media platforms ranging from conspiracy theories to get rich quick gains, the claims of treatments by herbal concoctions, etc. All of which appear to be really putting sensitization efforts at risk.
‘There are of course ways that we can mitigate this and this includes a sensitization and awareness creation through a collaborative effort with the other levels of government, a collaboration between the PTF and the state task forces in strengthening continuous engagement training and distribution of sensitisation materials and this is only one way by which we can continue to try and flatten the curve.
‘It’s important that Nigerians continue to observe strictly the hygiene and safety measures approved by Health authorities to avoid Contracting the virus, especially as Community transmission is on the rise as I said last week, today, now, you’re more likely to contract COVID if you go out and do not observe the strict measures that we recommend far more than when this problem started three months ago, simply because of the numbers that we are currently having.
‘We must all join hands to adhere and spread the message of wearing face masks, learn to challenge those that are in public and are not wearing these masks.
‘We will continue to enforce and introduce measures for enforcing some of these measures particularly for organisations that are responsible such as shopping malls, etc that do not take these seriously.
‘We are also working very closely with security agencies as well as the state governments to try and introduce edicts and acts that will enable us to make the use of face mask mandatory in the public space.
‘In terms of the states governments, we do have a message for the state governments. First of all to recognise those states that continue to support the programme that continues to work very closely with the PTF and the rest of the response and to make sure that our citizens are kept safe.
‘We would like to thank them for supporting the state emergency operating centres, thank them for providing operational budgets and also pushing for more testing because there is no shame in having a positive result in your state.
‘It’s much better for you to know the level of COVID infection you have in your state, denial will only make the issue more difficult because we cannot run away from the fact that this is a pandemic.
‘If we do not know the true state of the pandemic in your state, not only are you putting your citizens at risk, but you are also putting your own health care workers at risk and if your healthcare workers are at risk and become infected your entire health system could collapse and you’re going to have a lot more deaths from people that don’t even have COVID presenting to these hospitals.
‘So in the long run, it is in the best interest of all of us to make sure that we know the true extent of the pandemic by continuing to push for more tests rather than by trying to avoid testing citizens.
‘Let us accept that COVID is here with us, we need to address it, we need to fight it and the first step in fighting it is the knowing the extent of the problem you have and I hope we’ll continue to work with state governments, all of them, to make sure that we take all the necessary measures to protect our citizens. Thank you.’