The Federal Government has relaxed emergency restrictions put in place in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic as a way of limiting its spread. It also expressed optimism on the possibility of fully reopening the economy by December, if only Nigerians would abide by all non-pharmaceutical measures to halt spread of the pandemic.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed this during a briefing of the task force yesterday. Accordingly, night-time curfew has been relaxed and would only be effective as from 12am to 4am. Also, amusement parks, cinemas, recreation centres are to re-open but would operate at half capacity, while bars and nightclubs remain closed till further notice.
He said: The PTF believes that while Nigeria is not ready for a full re-opening of the economy, there has been sufficient progress to warrant significant further relaxation of the restrictions applied. “Based on the foregoing, the PTF today (yesterday) submitted its 7th Interim Report to Mr. President for his consideration and approval. The main thrust of the recommendation is that Nigeria advances to the third phase of eased restrictions with further amendments, to address economic, socio-political and health concerns.
This will last till a time when the epidemic is sufficiently controlled in Nigeria.” On Nigeria’s Case Fatality Ratio CFR, the SGF said it has consistently remained at 1.9%, indicating improved case management and resulting in fewer COVID-19 deaths. “Similarly, the cumulative Test Positivity Ratio, TPR, which shows how many per cent of our total tests are positive, has reduced from 15.2% at the end of July to 13.3% at the end of August.”
He said the PTF was particularly disturbed by the low level of sample collection because of what it portended for the strategy of testing, detection, tracing, isolation and treatment. “For example, in July, seven states reported lower number of samples collected than in the preceding month, but in August, this number rose to 32 states.
This illustrates that despite the increased diagnostic capacity, and improved access to testing, the demand remains low with not enough samples being collected. Therefore, the recent reduction in cases in some states could be attributed to low testing,” he stated. According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari has considered and approved a transition into the third phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for a period of four weeks, with effect from midnight on Friday, September 4, 2020. He said the decision is in line with amendments to address economic, socio-political and health considerations reflected in the implementation guidelines.
Mustapha expressed optimism that with the cooperation of Nigerians regarding compliance with safety protocols, the nation could well be out of the woods by the end of the year. He said: “You know as a people we can decide to end or substantially reduce the rate of transmission in the country. And I believe we have the will, we have the resolve to do it. Let us exercise that will and resolve and tame this virus from its ravaging effect. “If we had cooperated, there wouldn’t have been any need for extension.
The extension is borne out of the fact that we still have business to deal with. “We understand the pressure, we understand the enormity of the responsibility. We do not desire to have a day extension if this job is concluded but we can only get to that milestone if all of us as Nigerians decide to cooperate to get through. “It is my strong belief that by the time we get to the end of December, probably there would be nothing left than to open up.
We would have sufficiently tamed the virus, we would have solicited your cooperation in dealing with the virus by complying with the non-pharmaceutical measures that we have consistently advocated for. The next three months will be very key to how we proceed as a people and as a nation.”
National Coordinator of the Task Force, Dr Sani Aliyu, who announced the newly relaxed measures, said the curfew had now been reviewed to commence at 12am and end at 4am. He said: “We are modifying the curfew to commence from 12am to 4am tonight.
This does not affect people on essential services and travelers from abroad. No restriction on general movement outside curfew hours within the country.” On international flights, the PTF said it was pleased that the process of re-opening had gone on well, and that such flights would commence with effect from tomorrow.
“In terms of working arrangement, we will allow the private sector to determine the optimum working capacity within their offices while maintaining physical distancing. For the public sector, we are maintaining the work from home policy for workers on GL-12 and below. “For hospitality and entertainment industry, hotels would continue to remain open. Amusement centres can operate at half-capacity. Eateries and restaurants can only open for night services, while bars and night clubs are to remain closed till further notice.
“For the NYSC, the management is to consolidate on safety measures currently being put in place and start preparing for opening of orientation camps when educational institutions re-open,” he said. Aliyu added that the PTF was partnering closely the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to ensure that the election process does not pose risks regarding the spread of the virus.
He said: “No face masks, no voting. For educational institutions which include daycare, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, they should begin the process of working towards potentially reopening within this phase. “However, we strongly recommend that states conduct risk assessments to ensure that all schools are at a level of compliance and create a monitoring mechanism to assess and monitor this level of compliance.
In the meantime, all daycare and educational institutions will remain closed until this level of risk is assessed.” He said religious and recreational centres should continue to operate in line with earlier guidelines.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said Lagos and Abuja airports would be reopened for international flights tomorrow. “Beginning on Saturday, from Lagos, there will be BA, Delta, Emirates, Qatar, AWA, Kenya Airways and Middle East Airlines. For Abuja, there will be BA, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, AWA, Middle East Airlines and Turkish airlines,” he said.