#EndSARS: PTF warns of COVID-19 risks in protest gatherings

• Wants testing for participants

The Presidential Task on the COVID-19 Pandemic has warned of the risks of #EndSARS protesters contracting the virus because of scant regard for prescribed protocols.

The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who made the assertion at a press briefing in Abuja on Monday, said there is already an indication that the recent large gatherings led to an increase in confirmed cases in week 34 of the national response.

He said the increase in the cases could also have been as a result of increased testing over the period.

Mustapha said: “In the 34th week of the pandemic in Nigeria, a total of 1,174 new cases were recorded in the country. This represents a 32 per cent increase from the 921 recorded in the previous week.

“The increase in new cases could have been caused by an increase in the number of people tested for the virus. A total of 25,699 samples were collected for testing in the week under review, compared to the 18,597 tested the previous week.

“This statistical review becomes very relevant when we remember that over the same period, quite a number of large gathering events, particularly the protests across the country have been taking place.

“It becomes more pertinent because of the fact that measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and use of sanitizers were never observed.”

Mustapha appealed to the protesting youth to enter into dialogue with the government, reminding them that non-compliance with Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) is a risky adventure to avoid.

He added: “While we use this medium to join other voices of reason, to appeal to the youths to harken to the invitation to dialogue, we also emphasise that non-compliance with the NPIs are very risky adventures that must be avoided.

“We cannot afford to lose momentum and risk a second wave that might overwhelm our health systems.

“The PTF has on account of these developments, accelerated its plans for the National Testing Week and shall continue to monitor developments in all areas of the economy that have reopened and where new mass gathering events are taking place over the next three weeks for signs of a spike in numbers.

“We urge everyone who has been exposed unduly to a large gathering to get tested and/or report any signs of the symptoms of COVID-19.”

The PTF boss stressed the need to realise that the education sector has joined aviation in the gradual but safe reopening process, noting that the process is being monitored.

He also harped on the need to constantly remind and engage with communities, proprietors, parents, teachers, etc.

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While noting that civil servants on all grade levels have been allowed to return to work for the first time since March, he said: “This also calls for caution, vigilance and effective preparation and leadership by Permanent Secretaries and CEOs of Agencies of Government. It is strongly advised that alternate days of attendance are worked out to avoid overcrowding in the various offices.

“It will not be out of place for the PTF to, in consideration of the foregoing, remind all Nigerians that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. The virus remains very virulent, deadly and dangerous. It is an unseen enemy which thrives when people lower their guard.”

The SGF, however, noted that Nigeria is winning the war on Covid-19 given the reduction in the number of confirmed cases.

He explained: “Last week was week 34 of our National Response and week 42 of the year. Indications are that Nigeria appears to be winning the war against COVID-19.

“The PTF has however adopted an approach of cautious optimism and shall encourage Nigerians to do the same in view of the observed level of risk perception, scepticism, and general non-compliance with the NPIs. Some of the current figures support this position.”

Mustapha affirmed that the PTF continues to monitor developments in-country and around the world so as to improve on its activities and its decisions.

According to him, “A review of our situation in Nigeria within the last one-week, shows that scores of COVID-19 patients were discharged after recovering from the disease, leaving Nigeria with less than 4,000 active cases.

“The following are the details: 4,876 patients recovered and were discharged which represents a 388% increase when compared with 967 people discharged in the previous week.

“Cumulatively, a total of 56,611 patients have been discharged after treatment, as at date, representing 92 per cent of all cases since Nigeria recorded her index case in February; and currently, Nigeria is managing around 3,704 patients in various isolation centres across the country.”


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