COVID-19: Rising Cases, No Plans for Another Lockdown, Says SGF

Boss Mustapha

•Stricter measures to strengthen system likely ahead of yuletide
•Links rise in new cases to protests

Olawale Olaleye

With the economy now back in recession, the nation is definitely not contemplating a second lockdown even though the Covid-19 cases are increasing by the day, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on coronavirus, Boss Mustapha, has said.

Mustapha, who hinted that the PTF is billed to meet tomorrow, Monday, November 23, and perfect strategies on how to contain the new wave of Covid-19 infection, however, said the nation might introduce new but stricter measures, going forward.
Although he claimed more facts did not support the idea of a second lockdown, Mustapha insisted that such a position would be the way to go if only Nigerians were willing to cooperate and stop acting as though the virus was a hoax.

Mustapha, who sounded very concerned with the increase in numbers while speaking exclusively to THISDAY, noted that the reality was that a second lockdown appeared more unlikely especially, because of the economy, which he stated was still recovering before sliding into another recession, alleged to be the worst since 1987.

The SGF, who quoted the National Bureau of Statistics as announcing the slide into recession, said her recent “report showed that we have slid, albeit slightly, into recession, so we can’t allow another lockdown, in fact, we shouldn’t allow it, however, only if Nigerians cooperate. It’s a collective responsibility and we all must play our parts.
“If we continue to be reckless and act irresponsibly especially, during the yuletide period, which is our greatest fear, public health might demand certain measures are taken and we just might be left with no option. But, honestly, a second lockdown is not on the card and I pray we don’t go that route.”

He, however, linked the rise in new cases of coronavirus to the recent #EndSARS protests, which saw thousands of Nigerians, throng the streets in objection to alleged police brutalities in different parts of the country.
Also, addressing the issue of vaccine, which he noted had recorded some huge success from reports, Mustapha expressed concern about the politics of its distribution, which according to him, meant it was not automatic that the country would get it immediately it is approved and pushed into circulation.

“The politics of the distribution of the vaccine is also there and that would be controlled by who is in need of it the most. So, it’s not just for the taking,” he observed.
That notwithstanding, Mustapha, who maintained that Nigeria’s testing regime for travellers remained one of the best around the world, stated that the country would continue to maintain a rigid testing regime, which stipulates 72 hours before arriving Nigeria as well as invoke stricter protocols as a way of strengthening the system against further spread of the virus.
Insisting that the new measures had become necessary ahead of the yuletide festivities since people would be going in and out of the country, he also identified one of the problems with the testing regime as travellers not turning up for testing even after paying for the service.

“I must say we are worried about the yuletide season, because of those going and coming into the country, and the problem has been that travellers hardly turn up for testing even after paying, when they arrive the country. But we are monitoring the laboratories and their activities at the airport and following them up religiously,” he explained.
Against this backdrop, Mustapha said there is going to be a meeting of the PTF committee tomorrow, where all the issues concerning the increase in cases of Covid-19 would be discussed.

He said the meeting would consider among others, the possibility of another lockdown, which is though not supported by the present realities as well as the introduction of other measures that would help check a further spread of the virus.
The Monday meeting, he noted, would finalise the choices before them and the details before they are communicated to the public, adding that the implementations would be strict and decisive.