COVID-19: PTF issues guidelines for gradual reopening of nation’s economy

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has issued guidelines for the gradual reopening of the nation’s economy, in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive in his broadcast to the nation.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who is also the Chairman of the task force, issued the guidelines at the PTF’s daily briefing in Abuja on Wednesday.

Mustapha said that the gradual reopening of the economy would span six weeks, broken into three tranches of two weeks each.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that this is coming after four weeks of lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Mustapha said that the phased strategy was designed to reduce the pains of socio-economic disruptions while strengthening public health response.

This, he said, would ultimately reduce the recovery of the nation’s economy and provide succour to the poor and vulnerable groups.

He said that to underscore the collaborative efforts with sub-national levels of government, they task force was encouraged to provide leadership in engaging relevant associations responsible for various sectors.

“For example, the market associations and transport unions for orderly and effective implementation,” he said.

According to him, following the pronouncement of the President, it has become necessary to provide initial clarifications for Nigerians on some of the new measures such as the overnight curfew, inter-state travels, and related matters.

He said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the following clarifications are provided:

“The overnight curfew is applicable nationwide from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, effective on Monday, May 4, 2020.

“Inter-state travels are banned except for the movement of goods, agro-products, petroleum products, essential services, etc such as directed by Mr. President.’’

He added: “The management of various offices, premises, and businesses that will be gradually re-opened are mandated to ensure that the following preparatory steps are taken:

“Fumigation and decontamination arrangement made for physical distancing.

“Provision of hand sanitisers and hand washing facilities, application of the policy on mandatory use of face masks, provision of thermometers for temperature checks.

“Consideration must be given to persons living with disabilities while making all these arrangements and increased communication with staff on COVID-19 and measures put in place and any other measure that may be peculiar for the organisations and/or sector.

“Mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of a workplace is strictly prohibited.

“Controlled access to neighborhood markets and locations of economic activities will be enforced while mandatory temperature checks will be conducted in public places.

“Social distancing of two metres to be maintained between people in workplaces and other public places.

“All passenger flights remain under ban and mandatory supervised isolation of persons arriving from outside the country for at least 14 days.”

The SGF said that the state governments in collaboration with security agencies and relevant trade associations had been advised to ensure that the aforementioned measures were strictly enforced.

He emphasised that the easing of restrictions and introduction of revised measures did not amount to the end of the battle against the virus.

“Indeed, it signifies the need for more vigilance and stringent compliance so that we are not lulled into complacence capable of diminishing the progress we have made so far,” he emphasised.

On the situation in Kano, he said that the technical team of public health experts sent by the PTF had begun evaluation of the situation there.

He said that the experts were working in close collaboration with a team constituted by the state government.

“I am pleased to also inform you that the operationalisation of the laboratories in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and Bayero University Kano, will considerably improve our response to the pandemic in Kano state.

“Additionally, fifty trucks of assorted grains have been sent to Kano and are due for delivery within the next 48 hours,” he disclosed.

Mustapha said that the role of research in quelling the pandemic could not be over-emphasised.

“We must encourage our local scientists and deepen our capacity for research.

“There is a huge role for all relevant research institutes to play at this time.

“The Federal Ministry of Health is coordinating the process in conjunction with the National Institute for Medical Research, and the Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development,” he noted.

The SGF added that information on domestic and international claims about emerging inventions on COVID-19 had been received.

“These are most welcome, but scientific validation process and protocols will have to be followed.

“We are open to all options for the good of humanity,” he said.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, underscored the need for each state authority to give first line attention to the preparation of more Isolation and Testing Centres.

Ehanire called on legislators to get involved in the fight against the coronavirus and to also support the drive to increase bed spaces as well community surveillance in their states.

The minister said that the delegation to Kano was received by Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje.

“They have conducted an appraisal of the situation, and are now working on a framework for providing support to Kano state COVID-19 Task Force,” he said.

He said that government had ordered 100,000 cartridges for the GeneXpert machines, using the Global Fund Facility.

NAN reports that the GeneXpert is a small machine, about the size of a microwave oven, that can fit easily on a small table.

It has been developed in the U.S. by a company called Cepheid and an organisation called the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), and supported by the American National Institutes of Health.

A sputum sample is collected from the patient with suspected disease.

The sputum is mixed with the reagent that is provided with the assay, and a cartridge containing this mixture is placed in the GeneXpert machine.

All processing from this point on is fully automated.

“The advantage of the machines is that test results will come out much faster within an hour,’’ the PTF chairman said.

NAN further reports that as at 11:50 p.m. on Tuesday, 1,532 confirmed cases of the coronavirus were reported in the country, with 255 cases treated and discharged.

So far, 44 deaths have been recorded. (NAN)