The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 says states will now take over the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic while it provides national coordination and supervision.
Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this to journalists on Sunday after submitting the fourth interim report of the panel to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It is exactly four weeks today since the beginning of a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states. He said Buhari would today announce his decisions on the recommendations of the PTF.
On the decision of some states that reopened worship centres because they said prayers were critical in containing the disease, he said: “That’s part of what we’ve considered in its totality.
“We’d await Mr President on that once I receive his approval, going forward, to certain recommendations we’ve put in place, we’ll see how that happens.
“The issue of easing up, you know we’re 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.
“But I can assure you about one thing; the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states because we’ve 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% of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. “So, where are these 20 local governments? They’re in communities. “It means we’ve reached the apex of community transmission and we must get the communities involved.”
Reopening of schools, religious centres
He said the PTF had made appropriate recommendations to Buhari on reopening of schools, religious centres and “some certain businesses not opened hitherto”.
“In the framework, the states are sub-national, they’ve their own responsibilities too, so it’s in the exercise of those responsibilities that they had meetings with those religious bodies and agreed on the guidelines and protocols on how they open up, but in the framework of the national response, we’re taking that into consideration.”
Kogi, Cross River stance
Asked whether the issue of Kogi and Cross River states that failed to cooperate with the NCDC came up during the briefing, he said: “We discussed challenges generally and I believe that in the context of those discussions, certain steps will be taken.
“We’re 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.
“Whatever happens in a particular locality has the consequences of spilling off to other constituencies. “That is the message that we’ll continue to drive in our pursuit of getting everybody to be on board and I can assure you that there’s no island that exists as far as COVID-19 is concerned in this country.”
'We have not reached the peak’.
On whether the country was winning the battle against COVID-19, considering the rate of infections, Mustapha said: “We’re winning. “As a matter of fact, you juxtapose the rate of cases with our fatality rate, which is basically about 3%, in other countries and other climes, it’s over 10%, 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 a correspondent increase in the number of deaths.
“We’ve gone beyond 60,000 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 we’re out of the woods. “No, we’re not out of the woods. “As we even open up and accommodate more enterprises, because we’re 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% will contract coronavirus and will not even notice that they’ve and that accounts for what’s happening at the isolation centres when you see young men saying they’re not sick and asking why they’re being kept there. “They’re asymptomatic… “There’s a 20% that’s critical by virtue of certain factors, indices: age, underlying health conditions and vulnerability.
“That’s the percentage we’re 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 5% of them can fall critically ill and eventually become fatalities in the numbers and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.
“So, everything we’re emplacing is to ensure we protect this vulnerable 20%. “80% will ware it out so the figure isn’t a thing of major concern. Yesterday (Saturday), 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’s happening in your community that prepares better for the kind of management care you’ll put in place. “We’re not worried about it as to whether the numbers will increase. They’ll increase.”
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