Despite the spike in cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, PTF, yesterday ruled out another total lockdown, saying it would only strengthen the guidelines to check the trend. This is even as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, alerted Nigerians to be prepared for more confirmed cases of COVID-19, adding that the recent increase in cases and gaps in contact tracing was critical aspects of the national response to the pandemic. Disclosing these during its daily briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, the Chairman of PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who also urged Nigerians to celebrate June 12 in solemnity, said the issue of review would not be contemplated but noted that the guidelines already in place would be strengthened. “In the issue of review, we will not have that in contemplation because you can’t move up and come down again. We will be looking at what we have put in place and how to strengthen them. “The PTF will continue to monitor the level of activities and compliance with the guidelines nationwide. We appeal to governments at the sub-national level as well as security agencies to enforce the guidelines and protocols firmly.” Mustapha said the COVID-19 pandemic had got to the level where every Nigerian should take responsibility and take ownership of how he or she navigates the entire process of staying alive. He also ruled out another total lockdown of the country, despite the spike in the number of confirmed cases, adding that government could only put in place guidelines but individuals have to take ownership of the guidelines to stay alive. According to him, although it is difficult to navigate the process but with the scary prediction of 200,000 death rates by the end of September by the United States, Nigerians should have a rethink about the virus. “Basically, what the officials are doing is the much government can do. People have the responsibility to stay alive. If beaches are opened and other facilities are opened, you have to take personal responsibility to wear your mask, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and avoid physical contact and put sanitizers. The responsibility is not for officials but for those stepping out of their houses. “We have got to the stage every Nigerian must take responsibility, take ownership of how he or she navigates the entire process to stay alive and survive it. “If the United States, US, with all its strength in the economy and health system can be giving a projection of 200, 000 in 3 months, I am worried if as a people or nation we don’t see this. There is not much government can do. The responsibility has been shifted to the people. When you leave your house every day, the responsibility has been shifted to you to know the things you, the government cannot guarantee that but you can. “I believe we have a very critical role to play. My appeal is that we must do everything to protect ourselves, communities and by extension our nation. It is a challenging time and only when we walk in one accord we will be able to conquer the pandemic. The pandemic has exposed our system.”
On resumption of sporting activities, he said government was not excited about opening up sporting activities, knowing full well that sporting events, such as football activities attract so many people. “With the guidelines of 20 persons, I don’t see the excitement of allowing that to happen. A lot of countries where these games are lucrative are trying to return but doing it diligently. When they finally resumed, it will be teams playing in an empty arena,” he said. On his part, Minister of Health, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, warned health institutions in the country against rejection of COVID-19 patients, even as he warned persons above 60 years not to leave their houses.. “It is unethical to reject patients who come for treatment because of COVID-19. Be your brother’s keeper and wear your masks. Stay in your house and do not go out except when necessary. Persons above 60 years should be urged to not leave their houses,” Ehanire advised. Speaking on the number of confirmed cases, the Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu alerted Nigerians to be prepared for more confirmed cases of COVID-19 even as he said the recent increase in cases and gaps in contact tracing were critical aspects of the national response to the pandemic. Ihekweazu, who expressed shock over allegations that the numbers were being manipulated, said Nigeria was doing about 2,000 tests daily because the labs were working at about 20 percent capacity. “As we’ve eased the restrictions and continue to increase testing capacity, it’s likely we’ll see an increase in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria. Whether that increase continues or not will depend on our collective action. “We can test about 10,000 samples daily. We are challenging states to bring samples for testing. Between last week and now, we have distributed many PPEs. Disclosing that there is no global collaboration to deceive people about COVID-19, Iheweazu noted: “It is sometimes difficult to know when someone contracts the virus but it is real. States with the most number of cases are struggling to keep up. There are people behind those numbers. “There is no global collaboration to deceive people about COVID-19. It is real. It is sometimes difficult to know when someone contracts the virus and states with the most number of cases are struggling to keep up,’’ he said. “We have announced it severally to expect an increase in numbers. So, this increase in numbers is not unusual as we increase testing and ease the lockdown. Whether that increases continue or not depends on our collective actions.” Lamenting that the public was not adhering to the guidelines, he said easing the lockdown could further spread the virus but warned Nigerians not to encourage that to happen. “Easing the lockdown could increase the number of COVID-19 cases and we are seeing that. It is clear that the public is not adhering to COVID-19 guidelines and it is shown in their behaviours. But we must not make it easy for the virus to spread,’’ he added.