THE Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 on Thursday expressed concerns over reports that security agents had been compromising the enforcement of the ban on inter-state travels.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who raised the alarm during the daily briefing in Abuja, also condemned the non-compliance with the guidelines for the first phase of the eased restriction by citizens.
Also, Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire admitted that Federal Government policy on self-isolation for those coming into the country had failed.
The SGF disclosed that the 256 Nigerians who were evacuated from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and arrived Nigeria on Wednesday, had proceeded on 14-day quarantine.
He also clarified that the four weeks of ban extension on air travels in the country, which took effect from yesterday’s evening, would not involve flights on essential service.
Speaking on the violation of inter-state movements, Almajiri exchanges, night curfew, and subversion of the guidelines by security, Mustapha charged leaders of the security agencies to rise to the occasion and prevent a few unscrupulous officials from smearing the images of the agencies.
He said: “Reports from various parts of the country at the close of day yesterday 6th May, 2020 indicate the following:
(i) High level of non-compliance with the ban on inter-state travels . This resulted in a high number of vehicles finding their way across many state borders despite the curfew/ border restrictions;
(ii) Lack of respect for timing and the curfew also resulted in heavy traffic gridlock where many motorists spent the night following the enforcement of the curfew;
“Increasing level of abuse of exemption granted to vehicles conveying specified goods. Reports across the country show that they continue to hide passengers with the intention of ferrying them across state boundaries; and
(iv) Continual transportation of Almajiris across state borders is still evident;
“I have highlighted the foregoing as it relates to the road transportation sector to underscore the dangers inherent in the seeding of the virus across states. I however commend the security agencies for their vigilance in apprehending and prosecuting violators.
“It is, worrisome, however, to note reports received about isolated cases of compromise by some security operatives. We urge the various commands of the security agencies to enhance their monitoring machinery to ensure that we do not only achieve the objective of stopping the spread of the virus but also prevent the good name of the services from being tarnished. We also implore all Nigerians to alert the security agencies whenever they witness the violation of these guidelines”.
On the quarantining of the United Arab Emirate (UAE) evacuees, he said: “The first batch of 256 Nigerians arrived from the United Arab Emirates into Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos on Thursday. In accordance with our protocol, all evacuees have been taken into 14-day isolation at designated facilities in Lagos State.
“The NCDC will conduct appropriate tests to determine their status within the period of isolation. The PTF is finalizing arrangements for similar evacuation from other parts of the world and you would be adequately briefed on developments”.
On the extension of ban on air travels, he said “the extension of the ban on all flights for additional four weeks takes effect from tonight as reported to you yesterday. We shall, however, continue to give exemptions for flights in circumstances that are considered essential”.
Acknowledging the failure of the self-isolation policy, the health minister alluded to the multiplication of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases from such persons at the time of entry.
He said to curb the clusters of new infections across the country, he said the provision of self-isolation has now been replaced with quarantining of returnees on arrival.
“The policy we have now is that anybody arriving Nigeria from anywhere whether by air, land or by sea will go into quarantine for 14 days. During that 14 days they will be observed for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 disease. They will be tested at the beginning and at the end.
“We don’t have a provision for isolation at home. At the very beginning, we had that provision that if you came in and did not have a symptom, you isolate at home. Since then, all the cases we are dealing with now came in and multiplied. In order to reduce the incidence of cases coming in and then forming clusters of new infections, the provision has now changed to what we call isolation-one or quarantine.
“Quarantine is for those who have not been confirmed or who are under isolation. If during the period, signs and symptoms show up, they will be tested. If they are positive they will go to treatment centres. If after 14 days they show no symptoms or signs and they are tested and are negative, they are free to go. That is the protocol we have now.”
The minister, therefore, urged state governments to treat COVID-19 patients with dignity as there are some reports across the country of inhumane treated of some patients in isolation and treatment centres.
He added: “I join the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in welcoming the first batch of Nigerian nationals, who were successfully repatriated yesterday evening to Lagos from Dubai. They have entered into mandatory supervised 14-day quarantine, in 2 designated hotels, in line with laid down protocols.
“They will be tested for COVID-19 and any person testing positive shall be invited to a treatment facility. I appeal to our returning citizens to bear with us and cooperate with authorities, especially if they perceive imperfections in our arrangements, as this is a test run, the first of these exercises.
“I shall here also request all states to embark on preparing at least 300 bed spaces for COVID-19 isolation and treatment. As testing is scaled up and more persons with COVID-19 infection are identified, it is necessary that they are safely and securely isolated and treated with dignity until they test negative, to break our chain of transmission.”
Echoing the minister, Ihekweazu, said: “People have not committed a crime, so they are not being held in prison. So we really want to work together with everyone to ensure that we all achieve our goals
“The security in treatment and isolation centres is the same thing like any other established organisation as security is the responsibility of the police working with the states government in that particular place.
“In certain circumstances, the states have had to increase the security in those facilities. In honesty, we don’t want to ‘securitize’ this response. We want people and organisations to take responsibilities.”