Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Federal Government has said that in order to address the testing deficit in the country, it plans to establish one sample collection centre in every Local Government Area (LGA) across Nigeria.

This comes as it announced the suspension of all unnecessary travel for meetings by government officials until further notice.

It disclosed that a sample collection centre has been set up at THIS DAY DOME, Abuja and that all government hospitals in the FCT have been designated as sample collection centres.

The FG remarked on the visit of media houses over the weekend to the Asokoro Observation Centre and their interaction with patients, saying it should give Nigerians the comfort to get tested and treated if necessary.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made this known during Monday’s task force briefing.

He reiterated that contacting COVID-19 is not a death sentence, but not presenting oneself for testing or treatment when symptoms become observable could likely lead to avoidable death.

Mustapha stressed that all government or board meetings should be conducted virtually until further notice.

Mustapha reiterated the call for Nigerians to remain vigilant as the pandemic would not go away by a wish, neither would it go away if people refuse to keep safe.

‘Please, let us all resolve to play our part, while the government does its best to save lives and livelihood. To this end, 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, among others, 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 guidelines on public gatherings, and we urge members of the political class to exercise utmost circumspection in their gathering for whatever reasons,’ he said.

According to Mustapha, the decision was part of the outcome of the PTF mid-term Review of the National Response Strategy.

According to him, the 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.

On the case management deficit, Mustapha said that focus was on having enough oxygen nationwide as the number of hospitalised persons increase.

On the testing deficit, he said that the plan was to establish one sample collection centre per local government areas.

‘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 misinformation being bandied around especially on social media.

‘An enhanced risk communication strategy becomes inevitable when we realise that within the last 24 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,’ Mustapha said.

The PTF chair said that the rising fatalities in Nigeria were not unconnected with denial and delay in seeking help.

Mustapha said that the PTF is also encouraged by the compliance messages that have gone viral on social media and that one of those that caught his attention gives three major reasons why COVID-19 is spreading fast.

‘They are my colleagues, so I can speak without a mask; they are my close friends, so I can speak without a mask; they are my relations, so I can speak without a mask.

‘This message is so poignant that if we juxtapose it with the fact that crowded places and closed spaces create an environment for the spread, we should behave more responsibly,’ Mustapha said while appreciating the author of the quotes.

On the controversy surrounding school resumption, the SGF said: ‘The PTF has followed with keen interest the conversation around the resumption of schools. We recognise 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,’ he said.

He added that the Federal Ministry of Education has released guidelines for schools and learning facilities reopening after COVID-19 pandemic closure.

He said that 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.

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