As the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases rose to 40 yesterday with the discovery of 10 new incidences and Nigeria recording its first fatality since the virus seeped into the country last month, the federal government yesterday outlined tougher steps to curb the further spread of the disease.
The new measures include government’s preparedness to deploy the military in tracing and apprehending recalcitrant case contacts, the indefinite suspension of statutory meetings such as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Council of State, closure of the nation’s land borders to human traffic, and restriction of activities in Lagos, with the largest concentration of cases in the country, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with the directive that people on non-essential services should stay at home.
To boost the medical workforce to fight the virus, the federal government recalled doctors and nurses from retirement.
The presidency has also written to the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives, with an exhortation to them to prevail on lawmakers, who just returned from trips to countries with high cases of COVID-19, to submit themselves for medical checks.
Besides, to complement the efforts of the federal government to curb the spread of the disease, which has now spread to five states with the discovery of an incidence yesterday in Edo State, more states and the FCT Administration have ordered a large proportion of their workforce to stay at home while Niger State has clamped a 12-hour curfew on the state. Apart from Edo, the other states with cases of COVID-19 are Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun, and Lagos. The FCT is also infected.
However, amid the concerted efforts by local authorities in Nigeria to check the spread of the pandemic, the United Nations warned the global community to prepare for hard times ahead, saying the world was at war with the virus.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, announced the federal government’s decision yesterday in Abuja.
Mustapha said the Council of State meeting earlier scheduled for Thursday had been postponed.
In addition, the federal government also resolved that all land borders that had hitherto been under a partial closure would now be closed to human traffic for four weeks effective, from yesterday.
The SGF also added that a circular would soon be issued to the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi- Esan, for immediate action to be taken to protect federal civil and public servants from the pandemic.
“If and when the need arises, any national assets required for use in the response to COVID-19 shall be mobilised and deployed. The federal government is at the highest level, engaging with state governors in order to ensure a collaborative and effective response to COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding: “All Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home, avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings, until further advice is given.”
He said the taskforce would continue to monitor the global and domestic developments, while it has isolated Lagos and Abuja for particular attention in view of their population, mobility, and number of cases already reported.
Mustapha added that advisories had been issued and measures taken, including “escalating the nation’s capacity for testing and detection through the acquisition of more testing kits and establishment of additional test centres, enhancing contact tracking, deepening awareness creation, closure of schools and tertiary institutions and the total ban on international travels, which commenced at 12.00 midnight tonight at all the nation’s airports.”
Last night, the Head of Service of the Federation gave effect to the federal government’s directive on the need to safeguard the welfare of its service personnel. She told all civil servants from level 12 and below to stay at home from today till further notice.