Buhari To Address The Nation Today On Further Easing Of Lockdown

LAGOS MAY 18TH (NEWSRANGERS)-President Muhammadu Buhari will again address the nation on Monday, May 18, 2020, following the end of the first phase of the gradual easing of the lockdown.

The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force in COVID-19, made this disclosure when he appeared on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

According to him, the president is to decide on whether or not the country should go ahead with the second phase of the easing of the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Presidential Task Force in COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, has warned those flouting the guidelines on the relaxed lockdown, that the virus is going nowhere at least for the next two months.

This is even as he said the next phase of the taskforce responsibility had moved to the community level for them to take ownership, reduce transmission if the country was to flatten the curve.

He spoke after he led members of the team to submit a report to President Buhari at the State House, Abuja.

Mustapha who reiterated that COVID-19 is a marathon race and not 100 meters dashed, added that no vaccine was on the horizon, adding that even the ones being developed would take about 18 months to two years before they would be confirmed for human use.

Mustapha was responding to a question on whether the PTF was still worried about the response of Nigerians to the pandemic.

According to him, “that is one of the setbacks that I can say. There was a poll that was conducted over the last two weeks covering all facets of segments and demography of people; 99 percent of Nigerians said they were aware of COVID-19, they had listened to publicity materials, jingles and the information that had been put out there by the Ministry of Information and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

But different percentages had a different perspective; some 26 percent said that they were immuned, with that kind of a mindset, when someone said he is immune, it means that he will not use the face mask, he will not observe social distancing, he will not stay at home when he is supposed to stay at home. And different percentages had ascribed different levels of understanding of what COVID-19 is.

But the most important thing is for us to drive home community ownership; let the community understand that there is a COVID-19 that is deadly, that can ravage their health and their wealth and the most important thing for them to do is for them to take personal responsibility in dealing with it. And how do they take responsibility?

All of them should be overseers of their communities, watch out for people who have symptoms and urged them to report at the nearest health facility and get tested and if they are confirmed positive, their contacts can be traced and they will be taken into care, that is the most important thing to do.

“COVID-19 is not going to go away in the next one or two months, whoever tells you that is not being realistic. No vaccine is on the horizon, we are talking about 18 months to two years before vaccines would be confirmed for human use as far as COVID-19. And unless we get there, it means that it will remain.

“It might have cycles, after the first cycle of pandemic, they might be a relief, there can be a resurgence and that is evidenced all over the world. It has happened before as is the nature of infections. So, I believe that what we are going to do now as a task force is to come down to the level of having the communities take ownership of the response.

“We have developed a national response which has been cascaded to the states but the communities must plug into the national response. Where we have primary health care centres all over the country, they can be used as stations of reporting of surveillance within a particular community, of tracing, of tracking so that we can take out those that we suspect have exhibited symptoms or have come in contact with people who have exhibited symptoms for testing and isolation. That way you plug them out of the community and reduce the risk of transmission. That is basically what we are working on.”

The SGF added: “We have been preaching that in the last week. All our press conferences we emphasized that there must be a change and there must be a paradigm shift to community responsibility because we believe we have gotten to the stage of community transmission and the only way you can deal with community transmission is when you give the responsibility back to the community, not in terms of treating people, no. In terms of being conscious and aware of the fact that this thing is in our community and we have the collective resolve to ensure that we protect our people, particularly the aged, the sick, the ones that have underlying health conditions that are easily susceptible to the fatalities of COVID-19. And that is why as a task force we have stood very strong against congregations.

“Congregations are the easiest places where you can get infected in terms of transmission and that is why we try as much as possible to discourage congregations in all that we do. Because, the aged, the sick and the vulnerable will turn up in congregations, and once they get infected it becomes another ball game altogether. And so the zeal now and the drive will be geared towards community ownership.”

On the president‘s response, Mustapha said he was satisfied with what Nigeria, in spite of her poor health care system had been able to do while tackling the pandemic.

He said: “Well, the president expressed his satisfaction that in spite of the difficulties and the fact that as a nation, we lack the capable infrastructure looking at what is happening to the developed world, where countries that have traditionally established health institutions with all the palliatives, with all the privileges, with all the schemes that guide its people have crumble as a result of COVID-19, we are still standing and doing our best under the circumstances to ensure that we provide the necessary direction. So he expressed his satisfaction with the PTF, the minister of health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which are an integral part of the task force and all the multi-sectoral ministries and are involved in this work – the armed forces, the police, the kind of cooperation we have received from them, without them we wouldn’t have recorded the modest successes that we have achieved. So, he expressed his appreciation that have contributed to where we are today.

“Our numbers are going up but you have to consider that our mortality too is not as drastic as it’s being expected.”

The PTF chair said the visit was a routine excise to submit an interim report to him on the activities of the task force and also to update him on preparation for the other phases of engagement.

He said the task force also supplied President Buhari with all the materials that were required to look at the issues. “Because, we are in for the long hurl, this is not a short distance race, is a marathon and we have to keep everything in perspective. But remember on the 27th of April, he addressed the nation and placed the easing down of the lockdown effective from the 4th of May. From the 4th of May to date is about 13 days, tomorrow (Monday) we should expect new processes to be put in place. But we have to give him all the material details that will help us in preparing for the future. So that is why we are here.”

Asked if the PTF achieved its objectives in the first phase, Mustapha said: “Yes. We had three objectives and I can say to a large extent we have achieved these objectives. We might not be there totally but I am confident that looking at the strategies that we are putting in place, going forward we will strengthen those objectives that we have substantially achieved which are purpose-driven in terms of dealing with COVID-19 and like I said it is not a 100-meter race, it is a marathon. So at every point in time, you put in place the strategy and move forward and that is what we are doing. I can assure you that what proposals we have brought today for Mr. President’s consideration, I think holistically, it will put us in a better frame to deal with the future.”

On whether the PTF have taken delivery of the Madagascan remedy, he said: “I understand it’s been brought by…I will take delivery probably tomorrow, Monday. The president has already said it will be scientifically dealt with; it is only after that that he can allow it to be tested. But that has been our position that whatever comes in, whatever cure, whatever solution that is being provided must be subjected to a process of validation.

“The minister of health has institutions under his ministry that is charged statutorily with the processes of validation. Anything that we will receive, anything that is locally developed must go through the processes of validation before we will allow it.”

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