The Federal Government has called for caution as some state governments announce reopening of schools, saying that COVID-19 remains potent and highly dangerous.
Mr Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, gave the warning on Monday in Abuja at the 62nd joint national briefing of the taskforce.
According to Mustapha, as the nation plans to re-open more sectors, everyone must stay the course and stick with the winning strategy which is anchored on the ability of our health institutions to contain the virus.
“While citizens wear facemasks properly, stay away from crowded places, avoid mass gatherings, maintain simple hygienic practices and as much as possible protect the elderly and most vulnerable to this pandemic.
“It is in the above context that the PTF appreciates the on-going calls for re-opening of the education sector and indeed some sub-nationals are already making preparations for such.
“Whilst the PTF does not discourage making such preparations, we need to be guided by experiences from countries such as Germany, France, the United States, and the UK where the opening of schools in some cities led to an increase in confirmed cases and fatalities,” Mustapha said.
The SGF also noted that the task force would be submitting the seventh Interim Report to President Muhammadu Buhari and would be guided by his directives on the next phase.
Mustapha said that the decisions and approval would be transmitted at the national briefing on Sept. 3, 2020.
He said that as the nation entered the last few days of the extended eased lockdown phase of the Nation’s National Response this week, the PTF, like the global community, was confronted with a series of emerging new developments around the characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the global number of confirmed cases has exceeded the 25 million mark and is attributable to a resurgence in countries hitherto considered to have effectively contained the virus.
“While a good number of countries that have relaxed restriction measures are actually re-introducing such, which in some cases are being made more stringent on the basis of lessons learned.
“The PTF has observed that South Africa is no longer in the top five with the global cumulative cases. It has similarly observed that Ethiopia is also rising strongly.
“The PTF will continue to monitor developments all over Africa even as we prepare to open up the international air space for flights.
“The PTF has also observed that from the point the global numbers entered the 20th million, growth in cases has been on the average of a million cases every four to five days.
“This is a trend that deserves a lot of attention and the PTF is doing that. For us in Nigeria, the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases.
“Indeed, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases, 138 were reported on 30th August 2020,” he added.
He, however, called for caution and vigilance on the declining numbers because the virus was still potent and very dangerous.
Mustapha said that the position was informed by the fact that in spite of the nation’s enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing have not been encouraging.
He said that while the government intensifies its targeted testing strategy, it still urged the states to expand the scope of their sample collection.
Also, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), on Monday, warned the Federal Government against reopening tertiary institutions without taking concrete steps to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Zones of the union said social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols were practically impossible in public tertiary institutions, which were always overcrowded in the country.
They, therefore, warned that any attempt to reopen the institutions would not only be suicidal, but also worsen the spread of coronavirus.
Also, the National Vice –President of the union, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview, called on the Federal Government to upgrade the education sector, if it wanted universities across the country to resume.
Recall that the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba had, on August 22 said tertiary institutions shut in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in March, would reopen “very soon.”
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