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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari receives Briefing from Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 at the State House PHOTO: Twitter

President Muhammadu Buhari may address the nation today on new procedures in the national response to the ravaging Coronavirus Pandemic, having received progress report presented by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Task Force, Boss Mustapha gave the hint on Sunday after the PTF briefed President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Addressing newsmen, Mustapha said the President expressed satisfaction with the progress so far made by Nigeria in the campaign against the virus, in view of the resources and facilities available.

The SGF, accompanied by other members of the PTF, including the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, and the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, also gave reasons why the task force had been opposed to the idea of reopening congregation centres.

Speaking on his team’s briefing of the President, Mustapha said the next line of action from President Buhari would be to outline new procedures and guidelines for the next phase of the national response, especially as the first two weeks of the phased post-lockdown protocol would be ending today (Monday).

“From the 4th of May to date is about 13 days, tomorrow (today) we should expect new processes to be put in place. But we have to give him all the material details will help us in preparing for the future. So that is why we are here.

“Because, we are in for the long hurl, this is not a short distance race, it’s 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.

“This is part of a routine exercise. I think this is about the third time that we have had cause to submit an interim report to him on our activities as 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 is required to look at the issues, ” he said.

On the reactions of Nigerians and compliance level to the guidelines, Mustapha lamented that despite the fact that about 99% of the population had acknowledged the existence of COVID-19, many still held very dangerous beliefs that, according to him, would make winning the war a herculean task.

He said the task before the PTF now was getting Nigerians to give the fight against COVID-19 a community ownership, explaining that the fight would be more successful when it finally gained the attention of the communities and most of the processes of identifying, tracing and isolation.

He noted that COVID-19 would not go away soon, hence all citizens must take responsibility for the fight, own the response process, not just for themselves as individuals, but for their loved ones and the communities they belong to.

“COVID-19 is not going to go away in the next one or two months, whoever tells you that is not being realistic. No vaccine is in the horizon, we are talking about 18 months to two years before vaccines would be confirm for human use as far as COVID-19. And unless we get there, it means is that it will remain.

“It might have cycles, after the first cycle of 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 taskforce 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 healthcare 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 pluck 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. And that is why as a task force we have stood very strong against congregations.

“Congregations are the easiest places where you can get infected in terms of transmission and that is why we try as much as possible to discourage congregations in all that we do. Because, the aged, the sick and the vulnerable will turn up in congregations and once they get infected it becomes another ball game all together. And so the zeal now and the drive will be geared towards community ownership”, he said.

On the level of success so far achieved by the PTF and the President’s impression of the process, the SGF said “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 implace the strategy and move forward and that is what we are doing. I can assure you that what proposals we have brought today for Mr. President’s consideration, I think holistically, it will put us in a better frame to deal with the future.

“So he expressed his satisfaction with the PTF, the Minister of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which are integral part of the taskforce and all the multi-sectoral ministries that 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.” he said.

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