COVID-19: Buhari may announce new policy Monday

• Receives PTF report on containment effort

President Muhammadu Buhari may on Monday announce new measures as the nation battles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Towards this, on Sunday, the president received a briefing and recommendations on efforts further contain the spread of the virus from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The briefing has often preceded a nationwide broadcast where the president issues policies to tackle the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The task force led by its chairman and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, met the president at his official residence at the presidential villa, Abuja to apprise him of the progress in its assignment.

“Tomorrow, we should expect new processes to be put in place. But we have to give him all the details that will help us in preparing for the future. So that is why we are here,” Mustapha told reporters at the end of the meeting with the president.

Tribune Online reports that Mustapha described the briefing as a routine exercise, adding: “I think this is about the third time that we have had cause to submit an interim report to him on our activities as a task force and also to update him on preparation for the other phases of engagement. And we have supplied him with all the materials that are required to look at the issues. Because, we are in for the long hurl, this is not a short distance race, it is a marathon and we have to keep everything in perspective.

“But remember on the 27th of April, he addressed the nation and in place the easing down of the lockdown effective from the 4th of May. From the 4th of May to date is about 13 days.”

The PTF boss pointed out that the task force has achieved the three objectives it set out to achieve.

According to him: “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 replace the strategy and move forward and that is what we are doing.

“I can assure that what proposals we have brought today for Mr. President consideration, I think holistically, it will put us in a better frame to deal with the future.”

On the PTF’s worries over Nigerians’ non-compliance with established guidelines to curb the virus, he stated: “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 are aware of COVID-19, they have listened to publicity materials, jingles and the information that has been put out there by the ministry of information and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.

“But different percentages that have a different perspective, some 26 percent said that they are immune. 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 have 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.”

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Mustapha warned that a vaccine for COVID-19 is still a long way off, noting that the disease might have several resurgences.

He added: “No vaccine is in the horizon, we are talking about 18 months to two years before vaccines would be confirmed for human use for COVID-19. And unless we get there, it means is that it will remain.

“It might have cycles, after the first cycle of the pandemic, there 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

“We have been preaching that in the last one 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.”

On what the president told him, the task force chairman states: “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 crumbled 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 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 we 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 is being expected.”

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