SGF Mustapha’s speech at Covid-19 national press briefing

July 14, 2020
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Remarks by the secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman of the PTF-Covid-19, Boss Mustapha, at the national press briefing of Monday, 13th July, 2020

I welcome you all to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Monday, 13th July, 2020.

2. For two days last week, the PTF conducted a mid-term Review of the National Response Strategy. The objectives were:

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To review the PTF’s achievements, challenges, and opportunities for improvement of the COVID-19 response efforts from its inception to June 30, 2020; and
Engage key stakeholders in developing the way forward on the overall COVID-19 in the response efforts

3. The Mid-term review had in attendance legislators including the Chairmen of the relevant Committees on Health in the Senate and House of Representatives, the Office of the Vice President, Ministers, Diplomatic Community as well as development partners. At the end of the two-day meeting, key resolutions covered the following areas and actions we intend to take:

1. Case management deficit: Focus on having enough oxygen nationwide as the number of hospitalized persons increases

2. Testing deficit: Establish one sample collection center per LGA

3. Strategy for high burden LGAs: Focus on high burden LGAS with precision interventions including increased risk communication

4. Risk communication: Increase community engagement including religious leaders

5. State ownership and Collaboration:
Increase state ownership by increasing State engagement and collaboration,
Strengthen ownership at the state and local government levels;

6. Compliance on IPC measures: Institutionalize IPC policies in health care facilities and take step to increase compliance of non-pharmaceutical measures (use of face masks, hand sanitizers, and physical distancing)

7. Private sector: Increase engagement with the private sector

8. Industrial Development as a gain from the Pandemic,
Support local production of PPEs and other critical supplies

9. Movement post easing of lockdowns

Communicating that anyone above 60 years or persons with morbidities (such as hypertension, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancers etc.), should stay at home and avoid social events as they are at highest risk of infection and mortality

10. Government meetings/Board meetings should be conducted virtually until further notice.

11. All unnecessary travels for meetings by government official suspended till further notice.
Post PTF National Response
Develop an exit strategy beyond the life of the PTF, that is beyond September 2020.

4. Underlying the above, as a cross-cutting initiative, is an enhanced Risk Communication Strategy designed not only to educate the citizenry on the virulence of the virus and individual and collective roles but more importantly to tackle the deliberate mis-information being bandied around especially in the social media.

5. An enhanced Risk Communication strategy becomes inevitable when we realise that within the last twenty-four hours, the world witnessed the largest single day cases of 230,370 while in Nigeria the last week recorded the highest weekly fatality of 70 deaths. The rising fatalities in Nigeria is not unconnected with denial and delay in seeking help.

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6. I will want to support the foregoing position with an insightful quote from Dr. Michael Ryan (WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies Programmes on the rhetorics of denial and the need to take responsibility (See Projection screen)

“Every person needs to look at your own risk
You need to be aware of what is the local transmission
You need to know what the transmission in my area is
We do this, every day in our lives as human beings
We manage risks, we decide when we cross the road
We decide when we fly, we decide when we have an
operation or not have an operation
What we need is information to make those risk based decisions
We need to gain the knowledge to be able to make good decisions
We decide on our proximity to other individuals
We decide on the intensity of our social engagement
We decide on how long we spend in that environment
We can be advised by government
We can be advised by science but in the end,
it comes down to personal motivation and personal choice
But in the end, it comes down to individuals and
it comes down to communities,
If it does not feel safe, it is not safe for you”

7. The PTF is also encouraged by the compliance messages that have gone viral on the social media. One of those that caught my attention gives three major reasons why COVID-19 is spreading fast and reads thus:
(a) They are My colleagues So, I can speak without a Mask
(b) They are my close friends So, I can speak without a Mask
(c) They are my relations So, I can speak without a Mask.

8. This message is so poignant that if we juxtapose it with the fact that crowded places and closed spaces create environment for the spread, we should behave more responsibly. I want to thank the author of the above and other related messages.

9. As we progress in this phase and acknowledging that testing capacity has to be increased, we encourage as many Nigerians as possible to get tested, we have expanded the network of sample collection centres. In Abuja, a sample collection centre has been set up at THIS DAY DOME and all Government hospitals In the FCT have been designated as sample collection centres. The Honourable Minister of Health would provide details in due course. Getting tested is the only sure way of making sure we know the prevalence of the virus and understand how to tackle it effectively.

10. The visit of some media houses, over the weekend, to the Asokoro Observation Centre and their interaction with some patients should give Nigerians the comfort to get tested and treated if necessary. As often-repeated by the PTF, CONTRACTING COVID-19 IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE, but not presenting yourself for testing or treatment when symptoms become observable, could likely lead to avoidable death.

14. Ladies and gentlemen, as you are all aware, the domestic flights in the aviation sector have resumed. As at the last count, six of our airports; Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Owerri, Maiduguri and Port Harcourt; have commenced operations. We wish to commend the aviation players for the measures put in place and hope that this would be sustained until we overcome the pandemic.

15. The PTF has followed with keen interest the conversation around the resumption of schools. We recognize that our children are precious and we would not do anything to compromise their safety. The PTF has assessed the circumstances and has put in place necessary guidelines to be followed while the managers of the sector have the responsibility for drawing up the protocols and determining the dates. We urge Nigerians to follow closely the critical steps being taken by the Federal Ministry of Education in conjunction with other stakeholders.

16. Further to this, the Federal Ministry of Education has released Guidelines for Schools and Learning Facilities reopening after COVID-19 Pandemic closure. The guidelines clearly spell out major things to consider before schools and learning facilities shall reopen, the reopening process, sequencing and scheduling of safe reopening and decisions about schools reopening. The Minister of State for Education will elaborate on this.

17. The PTF recognizes the efforts of our innovators, researchers and research institutions in working to get a solution to the COVID-19, especially its cure. However, we refrain from misleading the public into believing that a cure has been found or certified when indeed the validation processes was still on-going. This call is necessitated by the recent publication that a cure for COVID-19 had been listed by NAFDAC. The Agency has debunked the claim and we advise Nigerians to be vigilant.

18. In furtherance of the partnership we have built, Nigeria received US$8million worth of PPEs from the German Government and the ECOWAS Commission. Also, in line with Mr. President’s role of the ECOWAS COVID-19 champion, Nigeria provided the warehouse space and shall support with the logistics for delivering the materials to other ECOWAS member countries. The PTF would like to use this opportunity to thank the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Economic Commission of West African States.

19. I must not close without reiterating the need for all of us to remain conscious of the fight before us. The pandemic would not go away by a wish, neither would it go away if we refuse to keep safe. Please let’s all resolve to play our part, while Government does its best to save lives and livelihood. To this end, the PTF wishes to reiterate the following:

All government offices shall continue to hold virtual meetings in their offices especially where participants exceed four persons and suspend all unnecessary travels for meetings;

For corporate organisations, Board members, etc, the reopening of the domestic flights should not be misconstrued. The PTF strongly encourages virtual meetings as well;

We still urge places of worship to cautiously follow the guide lines on public gatherings; and

We urge members of the political class to exercise utmost circumspection in their gathering for whatever reasons.

20. I now invite the Honourable Minister of Health, the DG NCDC and the NC to present their updates.

21. I thank you all for listening.



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