PTF hints on reopening more economy sectors

As the nation this week enters the last few days of the extended eased lockdown phase of the National National Response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has hinted that more sectors of the nation’s economy may soon be reopened.

The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who gave the hint during Monday’s briefing in Abuja, also stressed the need for Nigeria to focus on its strategy to win the war against the virus while the citizens continue to adhere to the prescribed non-pharmaceutical guidelines for prevention.

He revealed that the PTF will make its recommendations to President Muhammadu Buhari this week, which will determine the next phase in the national response.

Mustapha stated: “As we plan to re-open more sectors, we must stay the course and stick with our winning strategy which is anchored on the ability of our health institutions to contain the virus while we as citizens wear our masks 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.

“As we end this phase, the PTF would be submitting the Seventh Interim Report to Mr President and would be guided by his directives on the next phase. The decisions and approval would be transmitted at the national briefing on Thursday, September 3, 2020.”

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Mustapha observed that the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, noting that, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases (138) was reported on 30th August 2020.

The PTF boss, however, urged caution and vigilance on the declining numbers as he noted that the virus is still potent and very dangerous.

While noting that “this position is informed by the fact in spite of our enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing have not been encouraging,” he added: “while we intensify our targeted testing strategy, we still urge the States to expand the scope of their sample collection.

“On a very good note, the last seven days have shown a consistently greater number of discharges than confirmed cases. Particularly, we note with delight, the report that Prof. Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, like many other Nigerians, has recovered from the infection. The PTF congratulates all those that have recovered and urge them to tell their stories.”

Mustapha reiterated the strict observance of the non-pharmaceutical measures and all other guidelines issued for prevention against infection.

He recalled that at the outbreak of the pandemic, it was predicted that the African continent – with its weak health infrastructure and propensity to high disease burden – would be the worst hit.

The SGF pointed out that a recent publication by the Weekly Science Review has indicated that despite having 17% of the global population, Africa has accounted for just 5 per cent of global confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3% of deaths.

Furthermore, he said, a recent study by a group of African countries, in East Africa indicates that Africa has weathered the storm of the pandemic with a death ratio of 1:10000 persons at a total of 23,000 so far.

According to the study, he also noted, far more Africans have been infected with the virus and are now resistant to it for reasons such as more exposure to variants of the coronavirus and regular exposure to malaria and other infectious diseases, which prime the African Immune system to fight new pathogens.

Mustapha remarked that PTF is, however, studying the manifestation of the virus in Nigeria and in other countries and continents in order to understand nature.

He added: “This should ordinarily give us encouragement that we are winning the war against the COVID-19 pandemic but unfortunately, the science, data and experience from other parts of the world indicate that such data should be viewed with extreme caution, as it is prone to be very deceptive and could be misleading if we let down our guards and be influenced to deviate from our strategy of cautious optimism that have brought Nigeria this far.

“Equally important for us in Nigeria is the that we are seeing a gradual shift in areas of high infection burden with Plateau State reporting the highest number of confirmed cases. Of course, this could be related to increased testing by citizens of the state.

“However, we also need to look at the flip side that there are a number of highly undetected cases lying around which we need to discover and deal with early.

“The WHO has published a draft landscape of the COVID-19 candidate vaccines. As of August 28, 2020, a total of 173 candidate vaccines are under evaluation.

33 are under clinical evaluation (8 at phase 3 trials) 143 candidate vaccines are in pre-clinical evaluation

“As the PTF has always maintained, early testing, detection, tracing and treatment remains the second-best option for dealing with this pandemic, with the first being staying safe.

“In this wise, we implore Nigerians to get tested and present cases requiring treatment early to reduce our avoidable fatalities. Testing positive for coronavirus is not a death sentence, not testing and concealing cases of symptoms and presenting late is what leads to death.”


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