COVID-19: Reopening of air travels, rising global cases endanger Nigeria – PTF


Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has again expressed concerns over the possible resurgence of the virus in the country, citing rising cases globally and the recent reopening of the nation to the rest of the world.

Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha, who raised this concern on Tuesday during the task force’s media briefing in Abuja, also warned that the federal government would start the application of sanctions on arriving passengers who have been violating travel guidelines put in place by the PTF.

Mustapha said the PTF’s concern of a relapse into another wave of the pandemic had been informed by a number of reasons, citing the arrival of persons from other countries where the disease had recently resurged, adding that about 65% of such arrivals had violated guidelines.

He also noted the combination of recent crowd gatherings where recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions were disregarded across the country as well as the rising complacency on account of the low number of daily infection, which he said is responsible for low-risk perception.

“The reasons for concern include the fact that as of Monday, 2/11/2020, global statistics showed the following:
✓ Global cumulative cases: – 47,387,837;
✓ Global number of deaths: – 1,212,479;
✓ The UK and France have continued to struggle with record increases in numbers and have reintroduced total lockdown to control the spread;

“The United States continues to witness record daily increase in a number of confirmed cases especially given the fact that it is in the middle of a Presidential contest; the African Continent has, as at the same date, recorded a cumulative total case count of 1,813,800 (including 43,461 deaths); and; the head of the WHO is reported to have gone into isolation out of an abundance of caution and the need to underscore the importance of contact tracing.

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“The PTF at the last briefing cautioned on the need to avoid complacency on account of the low number of infections published daily and the possibility of a second wave. That advice was premised on the fact that risk perception remains very low and sample collection has been on the decline.

“In the midst of all these, the nation has experienced several large gathering events during which the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions were not really observed. The situation in Europe and the reports from the USA showing the consequences of non-adherence are quite vivid.

“The PTF is highlighting these issues repeatedly because we remain at risk of importation, having opened our airspace and massive spread as a result of the protests. The next week or two remain critical,” he said.

On observed continued violation of COVID-19 flight protocols, the SGF said the federal government would henceforth start imposing sanctions on violators of the protocols, which would include the seizing of the international passports of defaulters.

“The PTF has noted with sadness the failure of Nigerians who arrived from abroad to present themselves for the in-country PCR test which they signed up to and paid before arrival. Statistics emerging from our records show that only one out of three passengers have shown up for the in-country test.

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“As you may recall, the PTF announced the guidelines on the reopening of the airspace and the obligations of arriving passengers. The PTF similarly announced sanctions as a consequence of any infraction.

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“Having observed serious non-compliance to the level of 65%, the need has arisen to activate the sanctions which include the suspension of the passports of such defaulting individuals for a period of six months minimum,” he said.

He, however, informed of his meeting with the leadership of the National Council of Traditional Rulers (NCTR) on Tuesday, being part of the PTF’s strategy to deepen community engagement and risk communication, commending the traditional rulers for their role so far in national response efforts.

“As part of the strategy of the PTF to deepen community engagement, I addressed an emergency session of the National Executive Committee of the National Council of Traditional Rulers this morning.

“The contributions of our traditional rulers to the successes so far recorded in the National Response can not be overemphasized. Accordingly, I acknowledged and thanked all our traditional rulers for their support and urged them to continue to do more especially in the areas of risk communication and community engagement.

“Adherence to the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions measures and the need for people to come out for testing were emphasized,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PTF has cut down on its weekly activities, including meetings and national media briefing.

According to the SGF, the meetings and briefings will hold just once in the week from next Thursday, adding however that there could be off-schedule activities. He explained that this is as a result of the need for members of the task force to devote attention to other pressing issues, especially now that more public activities had been reactivated.

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“Finally, I wish to inform you that the PTF has revised its meeting and briefing frequency to once a week, to allow members to carry out other functions and activities.

“This does not preclude the need to call for emergency meetings and briefings when the need arises. With effect from Thursday, 5th November 2020 therefore, the national briefing will only hold once, weekly,” he said.



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