…Says Travel Ban to the UK Not Yet On the Cards …Buhari Extends PTF Mandate Till March 2021 Against the backdrop of the second wave of Coronavirus said to be more fatal, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, says it is working with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to impose sanctions on inbound travellers
…Says Travel Ban to the UK Not Yet On the Cards
…Buhari Extends PTF Mandate Till March 2021
Against the backdrop of the second wave of Coronavirus said to be more fatal, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, says it is working with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to impose sanctions on inbound travellers who have failed to take post-arrival COVID-19 test. This is coming as the Federal Government says travel ban to the UK is still farfetched for now as it needed to engage other neighbouring countries before taking such decision.
Speaking at the PTF’s briefing on Monday, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed that a “good percentage” of in-bound travellers have breached travel protocols thereby causing surveillance and testing setbacks.
Mustapha, who’s also the PTF chairman, said at least 20,216 travellers had shunned the post-arrival test out of the 64,405 due for the test.
“You will also recall that the PTF established the Nigeria International Travel Portal for the control of possible importation of the virus. Statistics show that a good percentage of in-bound travellers have breached the travel protocols thereby making surveillance and testing suffer undue setbacks. The following statistics will be of interest,” he said.
“As at date, 163,818 inbound travellers have been captured on the portal; Out of this number, 77,025 (47%) made payment for post arrival testing; 64,405 (84%) of the number are due for post-arrival test;
“Out of 64,405 that were due for post-arrival test, 44,189 representing (69%) of those tested; and 20,216 (31%) have not shown up for post-arrival test thereby endangering members of the community and breaching the protocols they signed up to.
“The PTF has concluded arrangements with the Nigeria Immigration Service to impose sanctions on these defaulters for breaching the public health protocols, within ambit of the law.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has also approved fresh measures to curtail the further spread of COVID-19 across the country.
Part of the measures is the restriction of guests at weddings, conferences, and sporting activities among others to 50. The government also ordered the closure of all bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
Mustapha said, “The PTF has surveyed developments and actions taken by governments around the world, assessed our domestic environment and has accordingly submitted its recommendations to Mr President on immediate measures to be taken.
“Accordingly, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has authorised the PTF to engage with the states and the FCT to assume full ownership of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions.
“In line with the authorisation, the PTF wishes to issue the following advisories to sub-national entities for implementation over the next five weeks because these activities are considered super spreader events:
- Close All bars, night clubs, pubs and event centres, and recreational venues;
- Close all restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents; takeaways, home deliveries and drive-ins shall remain closed;
- Restrict all informal and formal festivity events including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events shall be restricted to not more than 50 persons;
- Limit All gatherings linked to religious events to less than 50% capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing; mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced.
- Where more than 50 persons are attending, any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only;
- Public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50% of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules.
- Enforce compliance with NPI protocols especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces.”
Mustapha added that to reduce overcrowding in public spaces, markets, shopping centres, offices and schools, states are advised to implement the following:
- Encourage virtual meetings in government offices. The leadership of such offices are to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated offices, and encourage staff to work from home where possible;
- All government staff on GL.12 and below are to stay at home for the next 5 weeks; Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executives are to be held accountable for enforcing NPI rules in their domains with frequent spot checks;
- The PTF on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Education expects that schools would have vacated from the 18th December 2020 and remain closed till at least the 18th of January, 2021 to enable the measures introduced to take effect;
- All persons above the age of 60yrs and/or with comorbidities are to be encouraged to stay at home and avoid crowds;
- All non-essential travels – both domestic and international during the holiday season are seriously discouraged.
Nigeria has recorded 356 new cases of the novel coronavirus with a total 68,483 recoveries and 1,227 deaths.. This was disclosed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its daily update on Monday night. According to the centre, in the last 24 hours, 180 infected persons recovered.
The recoveries included 59 community recoveries in Lagos State managed in line with guidelines. But 6 new deaths were also recorded. 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recorded new cases on Monday. The FCT recorded the highest number of cases with 79. Lagos State recorded 59 new cases while Kaduna State recorded 56 new cases. Others are Katsina (37), Nasarawa (30), Kano (25), Edo (18), Gombe (14), Kebbi (12) Akwa Ibom (7), Rivers (7), Sokoto (7), Abia (3), Ogun (1), and Cross River (1). The total number of confirmed cases is now 78,790.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has extended the mandate of the PTF on COVID-19 “for a further period till the end of March, 2021 bearing in mind the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines.”
The President disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja while receiving the End-of-Year Report of the task force.
He said: “Recent reports reaching me indicate that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.
“New epicentres have been identified and the nation cannot afford to lose the gains of the last nine months.
” I have critically evaluated the situation and remain convinced that urgent measures have to be taken to halt the spread and the attendant fatalities.
“Closely associated with the foregoing is the need to speedily and strategically access and administer the COVID vaccine in a safe, effective and timely manner.
” This is an important obligation that we owe Nigerians as we go into year 2021 and it must be carried out through an efficient machinery.
“The nation is clearly in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of this second wave and we must act decisively to protect our people.’’
Need for Collaboration
The President urged all sub-national entities, traditional rulers, religious and leaders of thought to collaborate with the PTF by taking up the responsibility for risk communication and community engagement at all levels.
He stressed the need for all stakeholders to intensify efforts in checking the spread of the virus.
“As the festive season approaches, I urge all Nigerians to remain vigilant and stay safe. Non-essential trips and large social gatherings should be avoided or shelved completely,’’ he added.
The Federal Government says it has not imposed travel ban, particularly to and from UK, over the mutated strain of COVID-19.
The government said it will require the concurrence of neighbouring countries for the ban to be effective.
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, disclosed this when he featured on a Radio Nigeria programme, “Politics Nationwide’’ on Tuesday in Abuja.
Mohammed said: ”Although the government is concerned over importation of the COVID-19 new strain, it did not want to take a hasty decision”. He said the Presidential Committee on COVID-19 deliberated on the issue at its meeting on Monday and decided to watch the development for the time being.
He said they are working with West African Health Organisations and other neighbouring countries, particularly, Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana.
“We did not want to take a hasty decision to ban flights from the UK into Nigeria only to find out our people are going through Cotonou, Lome or Accra to come into the country.
“What the Airlines will do is to transfer Nigerian passengers to these routes and they will enter the country through the land borders.
“This will lead into hardship to Nigerians because if you transfer your economy to other countries, you lose a lot of money
“However, if we get the concurrence of these other countries, we will not hesitate to do the needful.
“We are consulting and being very careful in order to take a proper decision,’’ he said.
It would be recalled that the minister gave the hint on Monday that the Federal Government might impose travel ban to and from certain parts of the world into the country.
Mohammed, a member of PTF, had said at a Special NAN Forum that the government was concerned about the new strain of COVID-19, manifesting itself in the UK that is the mutated strain.
“It is difficult to detect, it spreads faster and people have been known to die of it within a very short period of its detection.
“This is a major concern to us as a country.
“Why I did not want to pre-empt the PTF because we are meeting this afternoon, it is going to be top on the agenda of our discussions.
“I will not be surprised if that will be the recommendation of the committee which is meeting later today,’’ he said.
The Minister noted that many European countries had banned flights into the UK and many imposed restrictions into that country.