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FG to Review January 18 School Resumption Date
Holds talks with govs on curfew hours
By Olawale Ajimotokan and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has said it will review the January 18 date earlier fixed for resumption of schools.
It has also begun talks with state governors on the review of curfew hours in different parts of the country as a curb to nightly activities and entertainment, which are considered to be driving the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.
This is coming as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has cautioned Nigerians against allowing COVID-19 infections to escalate to a level that it will stretch health facilities to their limits.
Speaking yesterday while answering questions during a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, attributed the decision to review the resumption date to the second wave of COVID-19 currently ravaging the country.
Adamu said: “It (January 18 date of school reopening) is not sacrosanct. When we decided on that date, it was just a target towards what we were working on. Of course, we are keeping it in view and looking at what is happening in society and then it is supposed to be subject to constant review.
“Even today (Monday) at the PTF meeting, we looked at the rising figures and thought about if we should probably take another look at it. On the January 18 resumption, we are reviewing it, we are going to review it. At the PTF meeting today (Monday) we considered it and tomorrow (today), the ministry is going to take it up.”
The PTF has also said travels, reopening of schools, businesses and religious centres contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.
Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, during the media briefing in Abuja, said: “It is, however, very instructive to stress that factors that have contributed to rise in numbers from late November 2020 included increased local and international travels, business and religious activities, reopening of schools without strict compliance with COIVID-19 safety measures.
“The full import of the foregoing is to press further on the need for us all to elevate the level of our vigilance and compliance with the recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions.”
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, also said the PTF and the governors met last week to review the COVID-19 protocol and deepen the community engagement and enforcement of protocols.
He added that the talks also included reviewing curfew hours put in place as a curb to nightly activities and entertainment, which are considered to be driving the upsurge in COVID-19 cases nationwide.
The federal government last June had reduced the curfew introduced at the onset of the pandemic from 8pm to 6am to 10pm to 4am.
It had also relaxed the restrictions placed on religious gatherings and gatherings with more than 20 people, among others.
Already, some of the states have come up with new curfew period with the Ekiti State Government on Sunday imposing an indefinite night curfew and a ban on large crowds in the state to check the spread of COVID-19.
The government said the curfew, to take effect from yesterday, would be from 8pm to 6am.
Aliyu also said the federal government has changed the validity of the COVID-19 PCR test for international passengers outside the country.
The federal government on Sunday had issued a new provisional quarantine protocol for passengers arriving in the country. The COVID-19 response protocol, which came into effect from yesterday, was signed by Mustapha.
While shedding light on the new protocol, Aliyu said incoming passengers are now required to present PCR negative certificate that are valid within the country for 96 hours or four days and not 120 hours.
Airlines have also been duly informed to from yesterday note that PCR tests done more than 96 hours before departure are no longer valid and persons that do not have it should not be allowed to board flights to Nigeria.
Aliyu added that it will also be necessary for inbound travellers to access the travel portal, fill in the health questionnaire, upload the PCR result and print out the permit to travel or the PR Code.
“If you don’t have your permit to travel, you would be denied boarding. And this especially so for passengers just coming from South Africa and the UK. You have to pay before you board to Nigeria. If you don’t, the airlines won’t allow you to board,” Aliyu stated.
The statement signed by Mustapha had listed some steps which a passenger from a country of exit must fulfill before he could be allowed to board a flight to Nigeria.
The passengers must inform Port Health officials on the arrival of any change in their health circumstances since completion of the health declaration/self-reporting form.
“Passengers who falsify their status as diplomats will face prosecution,” the statement said.
It urged travellers to still bring along an electronic or hard copy of their COVID-19 PCR test for presentation at the airport.
“On reaching the payment section of the portal, passengers will be requested to select their preferred laboratory/sample collection centre based on where they will be self-isolating at Day-7 of arrival in Nigeria. A list of accredited private laboratory providers/sample collection centres across the country are available on the payment platform.
“Diplomats and children less than 10 years old are exempted from payment for the repeat COVID-19 test,” the statement added.
The statement said following successful payment, passengers should download the permit to travel certificate/ QR Code using the “Get Permit to Travel” button visible at the top right corner of the portal, save and print the form for presentation at the point of boarding.
The permit to travel certificate/QR code will have a “PAID” label if payment is successful and “UNPAID” label if payment has not gone through yet or is unsuccessful. A copy of the permit to travel certificate/ QR Code will also be sent to the email address provided by the passenger.
Before boarding for Nigeria, passengers are required to present two documents at their point of departure to be allowed to board; a. A negative COVID-19 PCR test administered within four days (96 hours) of departure, while airlines have been directed not to board passengers with non-PCR COVID-19 tests (such as antigen/or antibody tests), a positive COVID-19 PCR test result or tests performed beyond 96 hours of boarding.
Passengers failing to show a permit to travel certificate/QR Code will not be allowed to board while passengers departing from the United Kingdom and Republic of South Africa must show evidence of having paid for their post-arrival Day-7 COVID-19 PCR test prior to boarding.
Also airlines that board passengers without any of the two documents (a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken not more than 96 hours prior to boarding and a permit to travel certificate/QR code), shall be sanctioned.
Mustapha also said Nigeria has crossed the 100,000 cases mark and now ranked second in the number of new cases, the fourth in cumulative cases in Africa and fifth in cumulative deaths.
He explained that the country last week recorded over 9,000 cases, attributing the factors that have contributed to the rise in numbers from late November 2020 to include increased local and international travels, business and religious activities and reopening of schools without strict compliance with COIVID-19 safety measures.
NCDC Warns against Overstretching Medical Facilities
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has cautioned Nigerians not to allow COVID-19 Infections to escalate to a level that it will stretch health facilities.
NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said yesterday at the PTF briefing that Nigeria has recorded a consistent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the Yuletide season till date.
“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is issuing this public health advisory to alert the public that the non-adherence to public health and social measures is exacerbating the public health response efforts to limit the continued spread of COVID-19,” he stated.
According to him, the average number of daily confirmed cases recorded in the first week of January 2021, is higher than the cumulative cases recorded in the last week of December 2020.
He said that following the festive season, and in view of the increase in the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria, the NCDC and partners, with leadership from the Federal Ministry of Health and Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, are putting in place measures to strengthen the public health response to the pandemic.
“While the public may be tired of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, the virus is taking advantage of the fatigue and complacency, instead gaining momentum and taking advantage of lapses in the adherence to the public health measures. To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the public is reminded to wear a face mask properly, wash hands with soap and water, and physically distance from others.
“This is not the time to let down our guard. The virus that causes COVID-19 never went away and is still very much with us, as evidenced by the rising cases in Nigeria and globally.
“COVID-19 can affect all age groups with severe outcomes in the elderly (50 years and above), and in persons with co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer etc. Recently there has been increased infection among the younger age groups, therefore, NCDC urges all persons to take responsibility and adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions (regular hand washing, maintaining physical distance and proper use of face mask),” he said.