President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the extension of the current phase of the national response to COVID-19 by another four weeks.
The implication is that all the guidelines put in place to curtail further spread of the virus under the second phase of the eased lockdown which started on June 1 will remain in force with slight modifications to address the economic, socio-political and health concerns as contained in the latest report by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
The Chairman of the task force, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this at the briefing of the task force in Abuja on Thursday.
Within the next four weeks, Mustapha said state governments and authorities of the Federal Capital Territory would be mandated to enforce non-pharmaceutical measures and intensify measures such as contract tracing.
The SGF said, “After due consideration of the recommendations, Mr President approved the following: maintaining the current phase of the national response to COVID-19 for another four weeks in line with the modifications reflected in the report.
“He approved the partnering states and local governments to improve community sensitisation and engagement to the COVID-19 response; and mandating state authorities and the FCT to enforce non-pharmaceutical guidelines, primarily the use of face masks in public appearance and places.
“The President approved that state governments should be encouraged to collaborate with local government authorities to intensify necessary measures such as contact tracing, grass-roots mobilisation and risk communication; and strengthening of collaboration with other mandate groups at federal/state levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response, on the short, medium and long-term basis.”
He said the recommendations made to the President had been borne out of diligent evaluation of the situation in Nigeria as well as regional and global experiences.
Mustapha said the major changes being proposed were aimed at achieving the gradual re-opening of international air flights within established parameters; re-opening of rail transport within established parameters; granting permission to exit classes to resume ahead of examinations; allowing civil servants from Grade Level 12 to resume work; and opening recreational parks for supervised exercises.
Giving further details on the modified guidelines, the PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the 10pm to 4am curfew would remain in place nationwide as bars, gyms and cinemas would remain closed.
He said the guidelines issued for worship centres also remained the same.
“Visiting of hospitalised patients remain limited to immediate family. And we continue to recommend a maximum of 20 people including family members when it comes to attendance of funerals and other essential gatherings such as gatherings that cannot be changed,” he said.
He also said schools would remain closed except for graduating classes.
Aliyu said, “However, schools must comply with the six recommended steps and required measures issued by the Federal Ministry of Education and which is available online.
“For government and other corporate offices, we are now extending work hours to the normal official hours from Monday to Friday with the mandatory use of non-medical face masks.
“We encourage work at home policy for civil/public servants below the Grade Level 12.”
The national coordinator said the National Youth Service Corps had been advised “to start planning ahead of resumption in future phases but not within the current phase of the response”.
He noted that while banks had been advised to begin full operations, they were advised to reduce banking hall occupancy by customers to 50 per cent and occupancy of their offices to 75 per cent.
Aliyu said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control was also working towards deploying technology to make results of COVID-19 tests available online.
He said, “The NCDC will continue to work, I am sure, with NCC (the Nigeria Communications Commission) and other parts of the IT industry. A very good example is working towards people accessing their results online. You have a COVID test done, you no longer have to rely on being phoned. It will allow persons to just log on and you will be given a number through your phone and you can access your own results.”
Aliyu again ruled out COVID-19 testing for students and schoolchildren as preconditions to resume classes.
Meanwhile, Mustapha said 8,000 Nigerians have so far been evacuated from abroad since the outbreak of coronavirus.