REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN OF THE PTF-COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL PRESS BRIEFING OF THURSDAY, 23RD JULY, 2020
I welcome you all to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Thursday, 23rd July, 2020.
2. For the first time since the PTF commenced the regular briefing , we had to postpone the briefing for Monday 20th July, 2020. On Sunday 19th July, 2020, the dangers that our frontline workers face on a daily basis was forcefully brought to our consciousness, when the tweet from the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs who is a member of the PTF, went viral. That singular piece of information in the public space is sufficient proof to Nigerians that the virus is real and does not discriminate.
4. Sequel to that development, the PTF and its Secretariat immediately carried out a risk assessment and tested all members to determine their status, out of an abundance of caution. Fortunately, as a precautionary measure, the PTF had earlier arranged that all journalists covering its activities should be tested by the NCDC.
5. I am pleased to inform you that testing of members for COVID-19 has been a regular exercise for the PTF and that policy would be sustained. I am also pleased to inform you that haven successfully taken all precautionary measures regarding safety, the normal business of the PTF has resumed. We will however not lower our guards for any reason because the nation cannot afford to shut down its response.
6. Our prayers and best wishes are with the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs as it is with all Nigerians that have contracted the virus and the entire humanity bearing the burden of the pandemic. We wish them all speedy recovery.
7. As we progress however, the PTF might consider restructuring the mode of delivering some of its activities, relying more on technology, to minimize the risks associated with avoidable physical contacts.
8. Since the last time we briefed the nation, global and national developments continue to yield statistics that point at the fact that the virus is still very potent and spreading faster than human efforts can speed to stop it. WHO statistics show that India has joined the United States of America and Brazil in the category of countries that have recorded over one million cases. Cumulatively, 15,403,120 cases have been recorded from 215 countries and territories.
9. On the African continent, the cumulative total for Africa has risen to 773, 804 including 16,448 fatalities. Nigeria, with 38,344 cases account for about 5% of the Africa’s numbers. Similarly, Nigeria, with 813 deaths accounts for 5% of fatalities in the continent.
10. The message of hope is that the world continues to close its ranks in the search for a vaccine in a manner designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access worldwide. Back home, there has been a lot of debate on finding a local cure. While this is a plausible expectation, the PTF, other relevant institutions of government and the private sector working with our partners shall pursue the path of research relentlessly. As we have often said, only a well-developed partnership will save humanity.
11. To demonstrate the commitment of government to research, on Monday July 202, 2020, I inaugurated the Body of Experts for Health Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme (HSRDIS) established by the Central Bank of Nigeria, under the Chairmanship of the Director General NAFDAC. The body is expected to address the challenges that limit Research and Development Investment in the healthcare sector.
12. While we do that, it shall be the duty of Nigerians to change their behavior and scale up their compliance with non-pharmaceutical measures. The best option is to totally avoid contracting the virus by staying safe.
13. The Aviation sector has been working assiduously to develop the protocols for the resumption of international air services. This PTF remains conscious of the significant contributions of air travels to economic growth and shall continue to push for a safe resumption. The next phase is for aviation regulators to engage with other stake holders to facilitate an integrated and seamless resumption of international flights. I plead with all Nigerians to await authentic information from the aviation authorities and discountenance fake news and speculation on dates.
14. As we approach the last five days to the end of this eased lock down phase, the PTF shall rigorously evaluate the developments on the basis of emerging data, evolving science, strengthened best practices and improvements in our Risk Communication Strategy. All these will help us form an opinion upon which the next set of recommendations to Mr. President will be based.
15. We also have cause to begin to advise Nigerians on the upcoming Eid-El Kabir Festival. This naturally comes with lots of mass gatherings but we must not forget that the guidelines are still in existence and the virus is very potent. We urge all State Governments to ensure that guidelines are adhered to and citizens should not indulge in activities that would allow for the spread of the virus and lives are endangered. We are encouraged by State Governments that have announced ban on Sallah Festivities and hope it will be upheld and replicated by other States. The National Coordinator will also amplify on these issues.
16. Today the PTF formally welcomed the new WHO Country Representative to Nigeria. The WHO has been a major partner in the National Response and Nigeria appreciates the support of the organization.
17. The PTF is happy to note that a number of Civil Society Organisations are fielding Medical Missions across the country to further deepen awareness amongst the grassroots. While we would always appreciate their efforts, we call on them to work closely and collaboratively with sub-national level governments so that a coordinated Risk Communication Strategy would result in optimal outreach.
18. The PTF wishes to thank friendly nations and corporate organisations for their continuing support through donation of medicines and equipment. In this regard we thank India for the donation of 7-tons of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of patients. Similarly, we want to express our appreciation to the WEBB FONTAINE foundation, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the MTN for the donation of 35 Oxygen Concentrators, one Ambulance and five hundred phones respectively. We wish to assure you that the resources will be judiciously utilized.
19. The sub-national entities have also escalated the levels of their ownership and we encourage them to continue as that is the most practicable means of dealing with this community transmission phase of the virus.
20. I must always remind all Nigerians to comply with the measures put in place. Remember to wear your face mask in the proper manner when in public places. Do not share facemask because any face mask that is already used becomes a contaminated material and could be dangerous. Finally, dispose of your mask and any other used item properly and safely. This will save others, including street cleaners from being exposed to dangers.
21. Finally, the PTF finds it necessary to re-educate Nigerians on the policy and strategy for the coordination and management of resources for the National Response. For the avoidance of doubts, the PTF provides leadership, guidance and coordination.
22. The resources generated by the Private Sector especially CACOVID is managed and delivered in kind on specific projects. The same goes for the deployment of resources in the UN One-basket Fund and the NNPC & Partners’ Support . The National Coordinator will elaborate more on the CACOVID and other resources from the International Community.
23. I now invite the Honorable Minister of Health, the DG NCDC and the NC to present their updates.
24. I thank you all for listening.