By Bolaji Ogundele, The Nation Newspaper
The Federal Government has pushed the battle to contain Coronavirus to States and communities, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the pandemic, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said on Sunday.
According to him, the Federal Government will henceforth only provide supervision and coordination.
Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), spoke on Sunday at the State House after members of the PTF briefed President Muhammadu Buhari and discussed their recommendations on the next phase of the battle.
With him at the briefing were Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire; National Coordinator of the PTF Dr. Sani Aliyu; Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekwaezu, and Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola.
Mustapha said: “The ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the States because we have gone into community transmission.
“Where are the communities? The communities are in the States. So, the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the States, the Local Government, the traditional institutions, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities, because that is where the problem is.
“Like we’ve kept saying, 20 Local Governments out of 774, account for 60 per cent of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So where are these 20 Local Governments? They are in communities. It means we have reached the apex of community transmission and we must get the communities involved.
“So, the issues of places of worship, the issues of schools, the issues of some certain businesses that were not opened hitherto are part of the packages that we have looked at and we have made the appropriate recommendations, but you know that Mr. President is the only one that can take decisions in respect of these.
“In the framework, the States are subnationals, they have their own responsibilities too, so it is in the exercise of those responsibilities that they had meetings with those religious bodies and agreed on the guidelines and protocols on how they can open up, but in the framework of the national response, we are taking that into consideration”, he said.
According to him, Nigeria had reached the critical stage of community transmission, adding that communities were under the supervision of the Council Areas, under which structure the communities fall.
He said there would also be the full involvement of traditional and religious institutions, adding that managing the health crisis at this point had melted down into the more complex community level.
The PTF Chairman said the advice on the reopening of the economy and worship centres had been delivered to President Muhammadu Buhari who will take the decision likely to be communicated to Nigerians today.
“That’s part of what we have considered in its totality. We would await Mr. President’s decision on that, once I receive his approval, going forward, as to certain recommendations we have put in place, we will see how that happens.
“The issue of easing up, you know we are in the first phase, we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase, the next phase should be the second phase and along with that will come in with a lot of recommendations, which we expect Mr. President to consider.
On total reopening of the economy, he said it was a process that had since been ongoing, noting:
“We have started, even in the first phase and the extension that came with it. Essential parts of the economy was opening up by way of allowing agricultural production, people that produce fertilizers.
“The oil and gas industry was never closed for one day and some aspects of the financial sector were opened. After we receive Mr. President’s approval tonight (yesterday) or tomorrow (today) morning, we will now know which segment of the economy he has allowed to open”, he said.
He added: “We are winning. As a matter of fact, you juxtapose the rate of cases with our fatality rate, which is basically about three per cent, in other countries and other climes, it’s over 10 per cent, but the most important thing that you will realise, when we started this exercise, we had only five testing stations, now we’ve ramped it up to 28, without correspondent increase in the number of deaths. We’ve gone beyond 60,000 tests now, that reflects in the number of confirmed cases
“We’ve not reached the peak yet and I won’t want to fool Nigerians by telling them that we are out of the woods. No, we are not out of the woods.
“As we even open up and accommodate more enterprises, because we are trying to have a balance between livelihoods and life, there’s a likelihood of increase in transmission in cases.
“But that should not be a source of despair. Like we’ve always said, the experts will tell you over 80 per cent will contact Coronavirus and will not even notice that they have and that accounts for what is happening at the isolation centres when you see young men saying they are not sick and asking why they are being kept there. They are asymptomatic, they don’t show symptoms and they will wear it out.
“There’s a 20 per cent that is critical by virtue of certain factors, indices: age, underlying health conditions and vulnerability.
“That’s the percentage we are trying to protect and if we don’t do something in terms of management, in terms of putting in non-pharmaceutical intervention and guidelines to protect that 20%, about five per cent of them can fall critically ill and eventually become fatalities in the numbers and that’s what we are trying to avoid.
“So everything we are emplacing is to ensure we protect this vulnerable 20 per cent. Eighty per cent will wear it out so the figure isn’t a thing of major concern.
“Yesterday when I saw the 553 I called the Governor of Lagos, I thought he was going to be under intense pressure, but surprisingly, he said no, that it was expected because testing has been ramped up and as you ramp up your testing, it reveals what is happening in your community that prepares better for the kind of management care you will put in place.
“We are not worried about it as to whether the numbers will increase? They will increase”, he said.
On Kogi and Cross River States, the SGF pointed out that steps would be taken to correct the disagreements.
He said: “We discussed challenges generally and I believe that in the context of those discussions, certain steps will be taken. We are doing everything to ensure that the entire nation is on the same page with one response and it is very important that we realise that no State is an island unto itself, when you deal with public health matters.”
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