Federal Government (FG) on Monday warned state governments that were planning to reopen schools to drop the plan.
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, gave the warning during the PTF press briefing in Abuja.
Mustapha said it was not yet safe to reopen schools, television viewing centres, stadiums and other places where large gatherings could take place.
Last week, Kano State reopened football viewing centres. There were reports on Monday that Cross River State, which had yet to record any COVID-19 case, was planning to reopen schools.
On Monday, Mustapha appealed to state governments to embark on wider community testing and enforce rules on social distancing.
He stated, “We have received reports that some states are contemplating the reopening of schools, television viewing centres, sports stadiums 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 guidelines should still be complied with while considering decision of this nature.”
Mustapha added that the PTF, through its monitoring, had observed that Nigerians were not observing social distancing, wearing of masks in public places, sanitation and hygiene in markets, motor parks and places of worship
He 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 inter-state travels is also a point of concern.”
The SGF attributed the increase in the number of COVID-19 to the increasing number of tests being conducted across the country.
He said the battle against COVID-19 had reached the level of individual and collective responsibility.
“The fact that restrictions have been lifted is not a license for carelessness. We may have returned to a new normal but not normal of the past. My appeal as I conclude is that where we are now is about individual and collective responsibility that will determine where we are heading to,” he added.
He said COVID-19 cases in the country would continue to rise in the country. The SGF, however, said the rate would depend on Nigerians’ adherence to protocols.
On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, expressed concern that COVID-19 patients who were not seeking treatment on time were dying of the virus.
He said COVID-19 symptoms could start mildly with slight fever, cough, loss of sense of smell or taste, but suddenly escalate to shortness of breath.
The minister added, “Lagos State reports that people who delay going to hospital and treating themselves first at home are the majority of victims, some barely making it to the doorstep of the hospital.”
He also disclosed that the ministry of health had developed three years response to COVID-19 because the virus would not end soon.
Ehanirestated, “COVID-19, will be with us for a long time. We shall keep learning as we go along. Accordingly, the Ministry of Health has developed a Health Sector Response Plan to cover the next 3 years divided into near, medium and long term. This plan therefore should be able to project into the future for at least three years. No doubt, it will require modification.”
Nigerians sending samples with fictitious names, addresses, NCDC laments
Also, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that the centre was receiving samples with fictitious names and addresses making it difficult for the states to track down the positive cases for isolation and treatment.
He expressed concern over what he described as the increase in high-risk behaviour by Nigerians which was leading to more transmission of COVID-19 in the country.
Ihekweazu admonished Nigerians to learn from what was happening in Brazil which had the second-highest COVID-19 deaths in the world.
Commenting on the challenges facing the agency and the standard of COVID-19 tests at its labs, Ihekweazu stated, “Samples come to us with fictitious names and we get samples with fictitious addresses, so if the state now has a positive result, they go to look for the person, but can’t find the person.
“So, there are many challenges we have to deal with every day in our country which is reflective of other things but we keep trying to improve this, but in terms of the testing, we are doing the same standard across every lab. There is a very stringent quality assurance process.”
As of Saturday, the NCDC has carried out 92,924 tests across the country.
The NCDC boss observed that there were many undetected positive cases in the country, warning Nigerians to take responsibility for their safety by adhering strictly to the coronavirus prevention guidelines.
He added, “We have seen many people pass away. Prominent people have been infected, including four governors who announced they have been infected; so what else is there for people to doubt about the numbers we release.
“For all intents and purposes, we don’t think we are finding all the cases in Nigeria, so there are many more cases out there that we are unable to find.
“I really urge everyone to take those numbers very seriously; behind each of those numbers are people. Each time we announce those results, the next morning, somebody is going to get a result across the country. Every one of them would get a call to tell them about their status.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the PTF was targeting the evacuation of 1,000 persons per week, adding that the committee hoped to conclude the exercise within four weeks.
The PTF Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, P disclosed that the donations by Nigerians, which constituted one of the stream of funds for the nation’s response to the pandemic, had reached N850m.
Aliyu also said that of the N22bn set aside by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), as the COVID-19 intervention fund, only 0.02 per cent of it had been spent.