The federal government has explained that the two weeks extension of the first phase of the eased lockdown was to enable the segment of society still not opened to properly prepare to open up.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, Mr Boss Mustapha, gave the explanation, during Tuesday’s daily press briefing by the task force in Abuja.
The SGF also revealed that in the bid to achieve this targeted preparedness for businesses, offices, educational institutions and other institutions of society to gradually open up, the PTF would intensify consultations and engagements with various authorities on how to achieve successful implementation of measures and regulations.
He went further to reveal that part of the engagements and consultations were targeted at ensuring that essential services providers, who had been captured for exemptions in the various regulations and protocols issued get to go about their duties unhindered.
He, however, charged all Nigerians to learn to adapt to the new behavioural and changes required by the COVID-19 reality and the measures introduced to help the country beat the spread of the disease, noting that the outbreak of COVID-19 had changed the world as it used to be known.
“I must also emphasize that the two additional weeks should be utilized by businesses, offices, professional bodies, places of worship, educational institutions, etc awaiting reopening to plan and adopt new strategies under a COVID-19 era in line with the guidelines. Above all, behavioral change is a must for every citizen because COVID 19 has changed the world completely.
“The PTF COVID-19 is committed and determined to continue to provide the required leadership for this national response.
“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 a coordinated implementation of the measures.
“As I mentioned yesterday, specific directives have been issued to security agencies to strictly enforce the measures. I therefore admonish Nigerians to please observe the restrictions in full.
“I however wish to assure our essential workers such as the front-line medical personnel, the media, the environmental health workers, farmers and agro-related service providers, oil and gas services, aviation, the power sector and a host of others that they will be adequately protected. Your obligation is to always carry a valid means of identification”, he advised.
He also urged Nigerians to delicately balance between safety and economic considerations before the economy was fully reopened, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari’s idea for the extension of the first phase of the eased lockdown was to help the country further contain the spread of COVID-19.
“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 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,” Mustapha said.
He said that consistent with government’s community engagement strategy, it would leverage on existing community structures and assets, right down to the ward level, to push through a massive public awareness campaign, aimed at ensuring voluntary community engagement and ownership of the fight.
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. On our part, we assure Nigerians of our commitment to accountability, diligence and probity.
“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 said.