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COVID-19: FG lifts ban on inter-state travels, local flights

The Federal Government has lifted the ban hitherto placed on inter-state travels across the country.


Persons who wish to travel from one state to another can now do so, beginning from July 1 (tomorrow), provided that such journeys were not made during the curfew hours of 10p.m. and 4a.m.


Similarly, plans have been set in motion for the reawakening of the aviation sector through the resumption of local flights.


Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID- 19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this yesterday at a news conference in Abuja, also announced that government had approved a partial reopening of schools for pupils and students in graduating classes.


By implication, only students in JSS3 and SSS3 who would be sitting for their final examinations conducted by the National Examinations Council (NECO) and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) respectively would be allowed to resume studies.


Also, pupils in primary six who are expected to sit for the Common Entrance Examinations have also been given the nod to return to school as soon as possible.


However, the ban on international travels, entertainment and recreational activities, including bars, cinemas and night clubs, would remain in force until further notice.


These new measures, Mustapha said, followed President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval for the extension of the Phase Two of the eased lockdown by another four weeks beginning from July 1, 2020. About three months ago, a total lockdown was imposed across Nigeria as part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the country.


Mustapha lamented that despite the lockdown and other measures taken to tame the virus, Nigeria had continued to witness a spike in the number of cases of infections.


He attributed the phenomenon to the low level of compliance by Nigerians to the various precautionary guidelines and personal hygiene tips released to members of the public in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols.


Mustapha said that the PTF had the option of recommending another total lockdown because of the growing evidence that the virus had entered the community transmission stage, but it chose further ease of the lockdown for the sake of students whose educational career could be in jeopardy if they remained at home much longer.


According to him, the extension of the second phase of the ease of lockdown had become necessary to consolidate on the gains already made in the previous months in the areas of reviving the economy.


He said that it was important that certain economic activities were restarted, while citizens were advised to ensure better compliance with the health-based responses as that was the only way to achieve the delicate balance between saving lives and protecting the wellbeing and livelihood of the citizenry.



Mustapha acknowledged that though the new guidelines could expose more people to the risk of contracting the virus, it was being done with the hope that citizens would act more responsibly by taking the necessary precautions seriously.


“Given the challenges and the visible danger ahead, occasioned by scepticism, poor public perception both leading to lack of compliance, it (PTF) has come to the inevitable conclusion that the extension of phase two of the eased lockdown will be needed to: consolidate the gains in the areas of the economy that have restarted; ensure better compliance with the health-based response,” he said.



Mustapha said that go ing forward, the Federal Government will continue to support the states and local government areas in enforcing guidelines and protocols, as well as strengthening them in building community level structures for ownership and effective risk communication.



“As we are all aware, the PTF, in conjunction with sub-national entities, the organised private sector, put in place a number of measures.



The PTF also escalated its activities around risk communication to Nigeri    ans but we have observed with growing concern the non-compliance with these measures designed to prevent transmission and protect vulnerable segments of the population.


“We hold the strong view that if such actions do not abate, experiences of resurgence of the virus from other jurisdictions, including China, the United States of America, Brazil and across Europe, may emerge in Nigeria and we run the risk of erasing the gains made in the last three months.


“By way of a reminder, there is presently no known vaccine for the virus and that all over the world nonpharmaceutical measures still remain the most effective fighting opportunity we have for overcoming this pandemic,” he said.


He also hinted on the possibility of precision lockdown in 18 of the 774 local governments in the country, which have been identified as responsible for 60% of the confirmed cases of COVID- 19 in Nigeria.



“We have identified 18 local governments out of the 774 local governments that are considered to be high-burdened with this infection, they account for 60 per cent of the 24,077 infections,” he added. The SGF, who did not disclose the names of the LGAs with high prevalence of the disease, said that government may introduce the precision lockdown on these coronavirus hotspots.



This might entail state governments putting specific measures in places to enable aggressive testing for the disease and management of cases in such places. He disclosed that mortality rate was low in the country due to the age bracket of most of those infected by the virus.


According to him, 80 per cent of the infections were in the age bracket of 31 to 40 years, which he described as a very active part of the population. He noted that even when they have the infection, they were able to surmount it because of their level of energy.



However, he expressed worries about the remaining 20 per cent of those infected, but said everything was being done to protect the vulnerable such as the elderly and those with underlying illnesses. National Coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, reiterated the need for schools to remain shut, except for those in graduating classes, to enable students participate physically for revision classes and subsequently sit for their certificate examinations.


Aliyu noted that schools must remain closed to all other classes both in the pre- primary, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.


“All day care and primary schools to remain closed, but pupils sitting for common entrance examinations can proceed with the examinations.


“Secondary, tertiary and all other schools are to remain closed till further guidance are released, but students in JSS3 and SSS3 can resume as soon as possible. “All education institutions must carry out an exhaustive review to ensure guidelines are adhered to before they open up, only for the purpose of exiting students,” he said.

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