Amidst the daily toll of COVID-19 in the country, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 hinted on Thursday that government might soon relax some of the measures put in place to curtail the spread of the disease despite increasing risks of transmission.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said this at a briefing by the task force in Abuja, just as the chairman of the task force, Boss Mustapha, said 21 local governments in the country accounted for over 60 per cent of confirmed cases.
Decrying the attitude of many Nigerians who were jettisoning the guidelines released to curtail the spread of the virus, Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said he would have locked down the country again if it was within his power.
Aliyu, who expressed PTF’s worry that many Nigerians still did not believe that COVID-19 existed, warned that the risk of contracting the disease as of Thursday was higher than it was previously.
He said, “We may be relaxing some of the measures we took earlier on. But the relaxation does not mean that we are at a lower risk of catching the virus.
“If you do not need to go out, stay at home. That is still the best advice we can give. Let us not wait for the virus to reach disastrous proportion before we being to believe. We are already seeing this happen in many other countries. We must learn from their experiences to mitigate preventable fatalities.”
He said government was going take the enforcement of the guidelines, especially the use of facemasks, seriously in the next phase of response to the disease.
He said, “At a meeting with some of the governors, we urged them to put in place local laws and edicts that will allow authorities to fine people who violate these guidelines.”
Aliyu warned Nigerians who were yet to believe in the existence of the virus to “start believing in COVID if we are to protect ourselves from this infection.”
He said, “The truth everyone must know is that COVID-19 is real. People are dying from COVID-19. There are people that are currently not with us at the moment because of COVID 19.
“Over nine million people have tested positive for the disease, At least 22,000 of them are in Nigeria.”
He said Nigeria nationally had 53 per cent bed space for COVID-19 cases as of Thursday.
He said, “We still do have states that have less than 300 beds which is the standard that we requested. But there are also states that, due to their high numbers, like Lagos, for instance; there is no way they can cater for all positive cases of COVID-19 infection, it is impossible.
“Overall, nationally, we know that our bed capacity is about 53 per cent. It varies. Some states have extra capacity while some don’t.
“Home isolation is really our last resort. We are also working with some of our partners to introduce the concept of community isolation, community support centres as part of hotspot strategy for intervention that are more precision based.”
Mustapha on his part said if it was within his power, Nigeria was in a stage where a fresh lockdown should be introduced.
“This is the time to lock down if it were within my power. With the daily increase in confirmed cases, the Federal Government feels a sense of frustration because we can see glaring the danger ahead and you can see the level of recklessness on the part of people who should know better.
“You would have noticed that the number of confirmed cases and fatalities released in the last few days have been on the high side.
“While we attribute this to increased testing, it also goes to confirm the extent of the spread within our communities, especially the 21 high burden LGAs identified as accounting for over 60 per cent of infections nationwide,” he said.
He disclosed that the task force would be presenting its report to the President Muhammadu Buhari. this weekend
“I wish to inform you that by the end of this week, the PTF would be submitting a report containing our assessment and recommendations to Mr President. We therefore urge Nigerians to await next steps,” he said.
He said the PTF continued to assess the developments nationwide and found that non-compliance had been largely fuelled by scepticism and ignorance about the disease.
The SGF said the PTF had continued to receive reports about hospitals rejecting patients thus resulting in needless death of patients suffering from other ailments.
“We continue to plead with these hospitals not to reject patients but to follow the protocols for managing COVID-19 while receiving them and most importantly, to seek necessary accreditation from the Ministry of Health and NCDC to manage COVID-19 cases,” he said.
Answering a question, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said since vaccines might not be ready till 2021, the government would be relying on the remedies by traditional, complementary and alternative medicines.
The minister also said there was a robust engagement where all these who had remedies were asked to come forward.
“19 of them participated and came up with the remedies which we have since transferred on to NAFDAC,” he stated.
The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Uwajiuba, said his ministry now has sufficient information to make a decision on school reopening.
He said the decision would be presented to the PTF.