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Nigeria extends ‘gradual ease of lockdown’ by two weeks

The Federal Government of Nigeria has extended the gradual easing of the lockdown by two weeks across the nation from May 18 to June 1, 2020.

Boss Mustapha
Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF)

This was disclosed by the Chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, during the daily briefing in Abuja on Monday, May 18.

According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari took the decision based on the recommendations of the PTF.

President Buhari had on April 27, announced a “phased and gradual easing” of the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states, while declaring a nationwide curfew with effect from May 4.

The President also ordered a ban on all inter-state movements..The Chairman said: “While some objectives were met, the PTF assessment showed that non-compliance was rampant but the PTF nevertheless continued to persuade the populace through its messaging and daily briefing, on the need to take responsibility/”

Mustapha said that this would be accompanied by a corresponding development of infrastructure and other public health measures to be undertaken in every community and at every phase of the response.

According to him, these include: surveillance, case finding, testing, isolation, tracing and quarantining contacts.

“The measures, exemptions, advisories and scope of entities allowed to reopen under phase one of the eased locked down, shall be maintained across the federation for another two weeks effective from midnight today May 18 to June 1, 2020.

“Intensifying efforts to tell (communicate), trace (identify) and treat (manage)’ cases; elevating the level of community ownership of non-pharmaceutical interventions and maintain the existing lockdown order in Kano for an additional two weeks.

“Imposition of precision lockdown in states, or in metropolitan/high-burden LGAs, that are reporting a rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises.

“This would be complemented with the provision of palliatives and continued re-evaluation of the impact of the interventions.

“Aggressive scale up of efforts to ensure that communities are informed, engaged and participating in the response with enhanced public awareness in high risk states,” he stated.

He said that the PTF considered it important to let Nigerians know that it relied largely on science, statistics, lessons learnt from other parts of the world and an evaluation of the peculiar circumstances to draw its conclusions on the outcome of the last two weeks.

“For example, our surveillance, infection prevention and control activities identified nine high burden local government areas in the federation reporting high number of cases and accounting for 51 per cent of the total number of infections in the country.

“All the nine are densely populated local government areas nationwide.

“We have also seen that though Nigeria’s caseload still lags behind several other countries, our large population and relatively high degree of mobility and urbanisation, 50 per cent, places us at an increased risk for high transmissibility.

“Therefore, our consideration of ease of restrictions has to balance lives and livelihoods and the slow and gradually phased approach should be science and data driven,” he noted.

He said that in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria was still not ready for a full reopening of its economy.

“Gradual easing of lockdown is extended by additional two weeks,” he stated.

“Achieving the foregoing objectives was predicated on adherence to the guidelines issued by the PTF COVID-19, adaptation and cooperation by the States, ownership by communities as well businesses, professional bodies, labour leaders, faith-based organisations, traditional rulers and particularly, individuals taking responsibility.

“The PTF continued to assess the level of compliance with the guidelines which came into effect on May 4, 2020.

“While emphasising ownership, we consistently shared some aspects of the assessment during our daily national briefings pointing in the general direction of non-compliance,” he said.

The SGF said that, nevertheless, the task force was pleased that the measures put in place yielded sufficient progress that requires consolidation to ensure that the health system and economy were in a position to adequately respond to any potential outcomes in the future; including a secondary outbreak.

He said that the gradual re-opening of the economy has been sign-posted by the controlled opening, and increased access to markets and supermarkets, banks and other income yielding activities for the vulnerable population.

Mustapha said that, similarly, corporations and government offices partially opened their operations and services so as to facilitate the activities of other sectors.

He noted that some manufacturing, construction and allied sectors also resumed.

“All these sectors ensured that adequate infection mitigation measures were put in place,” he said.

Mustapha said that, in recognition of the global impact of COVID-19 on economies and the need to stimulate and positively turn around the Nigerian’s economy, the Federal Government has been implementing various stimulus packages offered to businesses and state Governments through the CBN.

“Reduction of interest rates from nine percent to five percent for all CBN intervention facilities.

“Restructuring of loans to longer tenors for all companies whose businesses are adversely impacted by COVID-19.

“N50 billion facilities to household and businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19 through NIRSAL Micro Finance Bank.

“N100 billion facility to Pharmaceutical and health sectors companies to retool their businesses.

“N1 trillion facility to Agric and Manufacturing companies to expand and set up new factories.

“Suspension of repayment of all state governments’ loans for one year to give states ample financing room to pay salaries,” he stated.

The SGF said that within the two weeks of phase one of the eased lockdown, the following accomplishments were also recorded:

  • Increase in the number of laboratories in the COVID-19 network from 15 to 26.
  • Additional 15,558 tests were conducted in the country (with a cumulative total of 35,098 tests and the number of tests per million increasing from 50 to 154.
  • Increase in the number of trained personnel to 11,409 health workers thereby boosting capacity for case management.
  • Procurement and distribution of additional personal protective equipment and ventilators across the country.
  • The doubling time of the virus has slowed down from seven days to 11 days.
  • The number of beds available for isolation and case management increased from 3,500 to 5,000 beds nationwide.
  • The efficiency of the identification, testing, evacuation, and isolation process for confirmed cases has increased; and progressive improvement in capacity of the health system to respond to the outbreak.

The SGF said that arriving at the final recommendations to Mr President, the PTF objectively and frankly interrogated certain critical factors and wish to inform Nigerians as follows:

  • The transmission of the virus under control: Measures put in place have collectively slowed down the transmission of the Virus e.g. elongating the doubling time which has changed from seven to 11 days.
  • The healthcare system equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every person who encountered a positive case.
  • Health care system has been better equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat every case, and trace every person who came into contact with a positive case with the increase in the number of laboratories from 15 to 26; ramping up of testing to a cumulative total of 35,098.
  • Are outbreaks minimised in special settings like health facilities and Nursing homes?
  • Though we have recorded infection of several medical personnel in our facilities, which is not peculiar to Nigeria, we have increased their training in care management and provided additional Personnel Protective Equipment.
  • Are there measures in workplaces and schools to prevent the spread of the virus?
  • With the gradual reopening of workplaces, markets, schools, etc, prescriptions have been made for the prevention of infection and spread of the virus.
  • Are the risks of importing more cases from outside the country being managed?
  • The risks associated with importation has been seriously minimized with the ban on flights, closure of borders and the mandatory 14 days quarantine for any one arriving Nigeria.
  • Are local communities educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the ‘new norm’?

“Engagement with communities and other stakeholders has now become the new focus of our strategy,” he stated.

Mustapha added that the inevitable conclusion of the PTF, was that the fight against COVID-19 is long term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon.

He noted that this was further underscored by the fact that no vaccine is expected till around the end of 2021.

“Nigeria is not where we wish to be in terms of control, ownership, infrastructure and change of behavior. We must do more.

“We hinted about the refocusing of our policy on community ownership. Going forward, we shall intensify the mobilisation of individuals, especially the communities to take ownership of this fight,” he said.

By Abujah Racheal

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