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Nigeria far from end of Covid-19 pandemic -SGF

.Says ‘we must flatten the curve at all cost and restore our country to full activity’

.Apologises over handling of Abba Kyari’s burial

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, has said that Nigeria is far from the end of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at the resumption of the PTF daily briefing on Abuja on Monday, Mustapha said that the PTF is shifting its focus on vigorous strategy by increasing testing and isolation of confirmed cases.

He said: “Given the increase in the number of confirmed cases in the last week, the PTF remains conscious of the fact that we are far from the end of this outbreak in Nigeria.

“We, therefore, must focus even more vigorously on our strategy of increasing testing, isolating confirmed cases, following up with contacts of cases and managing confirmed cases to recovery.

“The significant increase in the number of cases and distribution across states underscore the importance of remaining focused as citizens and as a nation because of the enormity of the challenges ahead”.

He stressed the need for all hands to be on deck to fight the common enemy.

“This is the time for all hands to be on deck so that the PTF can improve on its delivery.

“We must all come together because we face a common enemy and potential risk. We must flatten the curve at all cost and restore our country to full activity”, he added.

The SGF also assured that Nigerian health sector would not remain the same post Covid-19 as all measures would be taken to improve the sector.

He said that post Covid-19 would bring about total overhaul of the health sector, adding that: “I believe after Covid-19, Nigeria will not be the same again as there will be provision of infrastructure that was hitherto neglected.”

Mustapha, however, pointed out that the Task Force was not averse to criticism from spirited Nigerians in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

He said that the PTF would always welcome criticism with solutions, adding that any criticism directed at PTF must be constructive and proved to be a solution to contain the coronavirus.

“We have always accommodated criticism, but any criticism without suggestion of solution is not constructive, nobody can predict the attitude of Covid-19; it is unprecedented global pandemic,” he said.

He said that PTF remained one of the most coordinated responses in national crisis, adding that the Taskforce had taken bold step that had never been taken before now.

Mustapha commended private organisations, religious bodies, government agencies and NGOs that had responded by donation and palliatives, saying that the national response had been awesome.

He, however, urged commercial banks to ensure money was always available to their customers who might want to withdraw money by ensuring that money was always available in the Automated Teller Machine (ATM).

The SGF blamed shortage of fund at most ATM centres on panic withdrawal and slow restocking, adding that the Central Bank of Nigeria would continue to engage commercial banks to ensure a hitch free financial flow.

Similarly, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said that the ministry needed to ensure that facilities put in place for returnees were well equipped, adding that it would ensure the returnees were well kept.

He said that the returnees should be back to the country by the end of next week, adding that 200 returnees would be accommodated in Lagos and Abuja.

Some PTF members including those who attended the burial of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, attended the briefing.

Recall that the attendance of the burial ceremonies had raised concerns and questions among Nigerians since Saturday even as all those who attended the ceremonies were advised to immediately commence 14 days self-isolation.

Among those who attended the burial ceremonies, but who still took part in the Monday daily briefing were the SGF; Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama; and the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Aliyu Sani.

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The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Dadiya Umar Farouq, was also present at the prayers held for the late Chief of Staff at his Defence Guest House residence, but was absent at the Monday’s briefing.

In a related development, the Chairman of Presidential Task Force on CoviD -19 and Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha, has apologised for the non-adherence to physical distancing guideline during the burial of late Abba Kyari, the former Chief of Staff to the President at Gudu cemetery  on Saturday in Abuja.

Mustapha observed that the burial of the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, on April 18, 2020, has attracted a lot of concerns from Nigerians over the non-adherence to the physical distancing measures and mass gathering at the Gudu Cemetery.

The non observance of physical distancing and the flouting of mass gathering restrictions at the cemetery were due to the failure of crowd control measures, he said.

“We acknowledge that mistakes were made, we have learnt from these mistakes and would ensure that future events are adequately regulated in accordance with the Presidential Task Force and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocols.

“It is however important to state that the body of the late Chief of Staff, who died on 17 April 2020, was prepared for burial in line with the NCDC interim guidelines for the safe management of a deceased person with COVID-19 infection.”

“As a matter of fact, the body of anyone who dies from COVID-19 infection will not be released for burial without following these guidelines.

“Consequently, the body of the late Chief of Staff was thoroughly decontaminated, put in a body bag and then a sealed coffin in Lagos before being flown to Abuja. On arrival in Abuja, all safety measures required to protect those handling the body were strictly adhered to, from the plane to the burial ground. At no time was the body openly exposed to the environment.

“It is worth noting that while COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is significantly less infectious when compared to Ebola or Lassa fever, the protocols for safe burial must still be strictly followed.     

“The incidents that were recorded after the burial, which may have compromised due safety procedures, have been duly recognised and correct steps taken to limit any risk to the public,” he stated.

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