We have failed if we don’t learn from COVID-19 to build institutions ― PTF

•Restaurants allowed only takeaway services

Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic says Nigeria would have failed its next generation if it does it learn from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to build enduring and sustainable institutions.

Speaking at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic, its chairman and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who made the assertion, also observed that the virus has exposed the weaknesses in all sectors of the country and the world.

He noted that the coronavirus outbreak has caused serious disruptions as he assured that life will never be the same after the pandemic.

Mustapha said: “I can assure you that at an individual level, at the community level, at the state level, at the national level, we will begin to do things differently. It cannot be business as usual again.

“If we do not learn anything from COVID-19 and build institutions that will be enduring and sustainable, we would have failed the next generation.”

He explained that the two weeks extension of phase one of the ease of lockdown was not punitive, but taken out of an abundance of caution and to enable Nigerians to adjust to a new life with the coronavirus.

According to him, the decision was well thought out and guided by experience from past pandemics.

He also stressed the need for a balance between safety and economic considerations.

Mustapha stated: “Yesterday (Monday), the PTF comprehensively conveyed Mr President’s directive on extending the eased lockdown for another two weeks in the bid to further contain and control the spread of the disease.

“This well-considered decision was taken out of an abundance of caution, current experiences from different countries and expert advice.

“I must add also that we were persuaded by the history of global pandemics because it is replete with evidence of an exponential rise in pandemic upon early lifting of restrictions, for which the 1918 – 1920 influenza remains the most recent example in human history.

“Nigeria, judging from these historical perspectives, must in our present approach, delicately balance between safety and economic considerations before we reopen the economy, fully.

“Again, I wish to repeat that the decision is not punitive, we share your pains and also share your concerns. However, our future remains in our hands and compliance is one of the keys to opening that future.”

The PTF chairman emphasized that the two additional weeks should be utilised by businesses, offices, professional bodies, places of worship, educational institutions, etc, to plan and adopt new strategies under a COVID-19 era in line with the guidelines.

“Above all, behavioural change is a must for every citizen because COVID-19 has changed the world completely,” he said.

While assuring of the commitment of the task force to continue to provide the required leadership for this national response, the SGF also informed that in the coming days, intense consultations will be deepened with different segments of the society including the state governments, security agencies, religious and community leaders to ensure coordinated implementation of the measures.

He spoke of specific directives that have been issued to security agencies to strictly enforce the measures as he admonished Nigerians to observe the restrictions in full.

He added: “As we go into the first week of the extension of Phase One under the eased lockdown regime, we appeal once more to everyone, to diligently comply with measures put in place. Of particular importance is the need to obey the curfew, obey the ban on interstate travels, observe physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, observe personal and respiratory hygiene and align with the policy on the use of masks/covering.”

He reminded Nigerians that “the ravaging force of the virus does not discriminate on the basis of status, creed, political persuasion, profession or where you come from. Now is the time to avoid any distraction from whatever quarters and all hands must be and remain on deck.”

Mustapha urged people struggling with the virus not to hide but to come out and seek help even as he reiterated his appeal against stigmatization.

“For those who are struggling with the disease, help is available. Do not go underground. It’s important to talk about it and to seek help. Every effort spares humanity the agony of the spread of the virus,” he stated.

In his remarks, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, further explained the need for the extension of the ease of lockdown.

He said: “The purpose of the extension is to provide the public with a window of opportunity to start adjusting, to start preparing for the new life with COVID-19 infection. We are in for a long haul; this pandemic is not going to end in the next few days of a few weeks. It’s going to be with us for a little longer.

“Therefore, the earlier we start putting in place measures to adjust and align our lives and our behaviour, the faster we will be able to get back to normal.

“We also extended the conditions for the gradual easing to prepare and make sure that we continue to slow down the pandemic.”

He said the existing guidelines for the ease of the lockdown essentially remain the same for the two weeks extension.

Aliyu said the main changes in the measures are with enforcement as he said that the PTF will continue to work closely with security agencies.

He admonished that offices and businesses such as banks and shopping centres must start providing temperature checks and hand sanitizers at their entrances in addition to providing convenient sitting arrangements including the use of floor markings to allow for physical distancing both outside and inside the premises.

“Banks are asked to limit the number of customers to allow for physical distancing and to also improve access to ATMs,” he declared.

The national coordinator said even though restaurants may open between the hours of 8 am to 3 pm, but they can only provide takeaway services.

 

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