SPEECH BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN OF THE PTF ON COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL BRIEFING OF TUESDAY, 19TH MAY, 2020

REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN OF THE PTF ON COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL BRIEFING OF TUESDAY, 19TH MAY, 2020

I welcome you to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Tuesday, 19th May, 2020.

2.Yesterday, the PTF comprehensively conveyed Mr. President’s directive on extending the eased lockdown for another two weeks in the bid to further contain and control the spread of the disease.

3.This well considered decision was taken out of an abundance of caution, current experiences from different countries and expert advice. I must add also that we were persuaded by the history of global pandemics because it is replete with evidence of exponential rise in pandemic upon early lifting of restrictions, for which the 1918 – 1920 influenza remains the most recent example in human history.

4.Nigeria, judging from these historical perspectives, must in our present approach, delicately balance between safety and economic considerations before we reopen the economy, fully. Again, I wish to repeat that the decision is not punitive, we share your pains and also share your concerns. However, our future remains in our hands and compliance is one of the keys to opening that future.

5.As we go into the first week of the extension of Phase One under the eased lockdown regime, we appeal once more to everyone, to diligently comply with measures put in place. Of particular importance is the need to obey the curfew, obey the ban on interstate travels, observe physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, observe personal and respiratory hygiene and align with the policy on use of masks/covering.

6.I must also emphasise that the two additional weeks should be utilized by businesses, offices, professional bodies, places of worship, educational institutions, etc awaiting reopening to plan and adopt new strategies under a COVID-19 era in line with the guidelines. Above all, behavioral change is a must for every citizen because COVID 19 has changed the world completely.

7.The PTF COVID-19 is committed and determined to continue to provide the required leadership for this national response. In the coming days, intense consultations will be deepened with different segments of the society including the state governments, security agencies, religious and community leaders to ensure a coordinated implementation of the measures.

8.As I mentioned yesterday, specific directives have been issued to security agencies to strictly enforce the measures. I therefore admonish Nigerians to please observe the restrictions in full. 9.I however wish to assure our essential workers such as the frontline medical personnel, the media, the environmental health workers, farmers and agro-related service providers, oil and gas services, aviation, the power sector and a host of others that they will be adequately protected. Your obligation is to always carry a valid means of identification.

10.As part of our engagement strategy, the PTF met with the Joint Health Committees of the National Assembly, today, to seek further collaboration and support for the battle. We robustly presented the Health Sector Response to the pandemic. As expected, the interactive session was very useful and the PTF COVID-19 received a re-assurance of the support from the legislature.

11.I am happy to inform you that our risk communication strategy has been enhanced by the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN). The professional body has offered the services of its members pro bono to the PTF, in order to strategically and effectively communicate with more Nigerians on the pandemic. The PTF appreciates this offer and look forward to consolidating the relationship.

12.Consistent with our community engagement strategy, we will leverage on existing community structures and assets right down to the ward level to push through a massive public awareness campaign aimed at ensuring voluntary community engagement and ownership of the fight.

13.Let remind all Nigerians that the ravaging force of the virus does not discriminate on the basis of status, creed, political persuasion, profession or where you come from. Now is the time to avoid any distraction from whatever quarters and all hands must be and remain on deck. On our part, we assure Nigerians of our commitment to accountability, diligence and probity.

14.Finally, I wish to also remind all Nigerians to remain their brothers’ keeper. Your response so far has been tremendous and I urge that we do more. We should do more for the elderly, the sick, persons living with disabilities, the pregnant women, the vulnerable and the poor. We must avoid stigmatization and must consider the mental health of those infected.

15.For those who are struggling with the disease, help is available. Do not go underground. It’s important to talk about it and to seek help. Every effort spares humanity the agony of the spread of the virus.

16I now call on the Hon. Minister of Health, the DG NCDC and the National Coordinator to update the nation.

17.I thank you all for your kind attention.