The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has assured Nigerians that plans for safe reopening of schools across the country were being put together.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the PTF, Mr Boss Mustapha, gave the assurance on Wednesday during the daily media briefing by the task force in Abuja.
The PTF, however lamented that the need to shut schools, as part of the measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, had compounded the challenge of out of school children.
The SGF also used the time to charge state and local government authorities, as well as proprietors of schools, to start putting measures in place that could be help in early and safe reopening of schools.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation was faced with the challenge of out of school children. This has now been compounded by the compelling need for closure of schools as part of the measures to limit the spread of the virus.
“The PTF has been deliberating on this situation and wish to inform Nigerians that the Federal Ministry of Education will roll out measures to be put in place for safe re-opening of our schools.
“The Hon. Minister of Education (State) will be elaborating on the subject, this afternoon. He will also clarify the purported announcement of the resumption date which went viral last week.
“The PTF wishes to use the occasion of this celebration to congratulate our children and assure them, their parents and all stakeholders alike, that all hands are on deck to reopen the schools at a safe time.
“We therefore use this medium to urge States, local governments, proprietors and other stakeholders to begin to take steps that will facilitate an early and safe reopening”, he said.
Mustapha said on the effort to find a local solution to COVID-19 that three claimants have been identified as deserving further investigation as he noted that the number of infections and death in Africa are lower than had been predicted.
“The subject of research has been central to the mandate, thinking and planning of the PTF. Studies have shown that Countries in Africa are so far experiencing a lower rate of transmission, fewer severe cases, and fewer deaths than had been predicted in previous estimates.
“A recent publication by WHO on risk modeling for 47 countries in the Africa Region predicts 82,000-190,000 deaths during the first year of the pandemic. However, African countries need to take measure to respond to this worst-case situation while also ensuring continuation of existing services would certainly stretch our already burdened health systems.
“Countries in the region need to progressively increase their capacity to detect cases, not just to know the extent of the outbreak, but also to identify and initiate care for people most at risk. They also need to expand capacity to mitigate the implications of widespread community transmission of COVID-19.
“Above all, more research to determine the underlying factors for the current trend in the pandemic in Africa is needed. In addition to pursuing this line of thought, the occurrences in Kano and some other cities have given us cause to launch our research initiatives using existing structures and systems in a manner that will build a legacy and also prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic.
“The PTF is happy to note that the Central Bank of Nigeria has indicated the willingness to support research efforts. This is therefore, a call on our researchers and scientists to take up the challenge.
“As a measure of the importance attached to research and development of local capacity for finding a cure to the COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Health held a virtual meeting with a number of researchers and scientists with claims to cure for COVID 19 and out of the numerous claimants, three were found to deserve further investigation and have been forwarded to the relevant authorities for appropriate review.
“Similarly, efforts are being made by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to subject a good number of locally manufactured COVID 19 equipment to verification and subsequent certification” he said.
Mustapha said further that as the nation progressed into the closing days of the extension of the phase one of the eased lockdown, the administration had felt the economic pains the people had been passing through and it was for this reason that beyond the number of stimulus packages, especially for citizens that rely on daily subsistence, the gradual opening up of the economy was also a strategy in preparing for a POST-COVID economy.
“To achieve this objective, the PTF has continued to brief the National Economic Council and the Nigeria Governors Forum. It has also collaborated with the Economic Sustainability Committee, the Economic Impact Committee and the Committee on Free Movement of Agricultural and Allied Produce.
“The PTF also continues to interact with the private sector, religious and traditional rulers in pursuit of a robust national response,” Mustapha said.
He also informed that the PTF had adopted a new community-focused protocol, which would soon be unveiled, adding that the new protocol would encourage greater involvement and ownership of the fight against COVID-19 from the community level.
“In some of our previous briefings, the PTF hinted about the strengthening of community engagement in the control of COVID-19. I am pleased to inform you that a protocol has been developed and it gives community members greater involvement and ownership in identifying and supporting the case management process. The details will be unfolded in the coming days”, he said.