ABUJA / LAGOS – There are indications that the Federal Government may order the reopening of tertiary institutions any time soon.
This may come amidst growing concerns that the rate of COVID-19 infections may already be hitting the 50,000 mark.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, gave hints of the reopening on Monday while briefing Nigerians on control measures adopted.
He expressed delight that the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) has commenced nationwide and that Nigeria was participating in the exercise.
Mustapha equally said the latest global statistics of the infection had attained 22 million, with cumulative death toll put at over 771,000.
He said: “Nigeria is gradually inching towards the 50,000 mark of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with a total number of confirmed cases standing at 49,098 as at yesterday, 16th August, 2020.
“The PTF has continued to observe the noticeable decline in fatalities, high discharge rates, and consistent under 500 daily cases for the past four weeks in spite of the huge jump in our testing capacity and the increase in the number of daily tests conducted.
“The PTF wishes to strongly remind all Nigerians that we have not attained the desired level that will enable us to make conclusive statements on the rate of infection in the country.
“We must, therefore, continue to do that which is giving us record improvements and desist from actions capable of undermining our successes.
“The world had its highest daily increase of 294,237 confirmed cases yesterday, bringing the total to 22.4 million, with a cumulative death of 771,000.
“These statistics are daily reminders that humanity is still endangered by this virus. We are also reminded that the countries that appeared to have overcome the pandemic are actually being forced to re-introduce even stricter containment measures.
“As a country, Nigeria should not and would not lower its guard, and as a people we should also improve our compliance to the various protocols at all levels.
“Today, the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) commenced all over the country, like in other West African states, and the PTF is happy to note the high level of compliance with the protocols for the reopening of exit classes.
“It is in this light that we appreciate the call by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) for the reopening of tertiary institutions.
“As a listening government, we wish to state that education is topmost on the priority list and the reopening of our institutions remains critical, within set safety parameters.”
There are, however, fears that the existing conflict between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government over discrepancies in the implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) may jeopardize the planned reopening of the institutions.
Besides this, other university staff unions like the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Universities (SSANU) are also warming up to commence industrial actions once government make good plans to open the tertiary institutions.
FG Reopens Airports For International Flights August 29
Similarly, five months after the Federal Government shut its airspace against international flights, the government said the airspace would be reopened on August 29, 2020.
The government also said all evacuation flights, which were introduced in the country in the wake of the ban on international flights occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, would end on August 25, 2020.
The government had, on March 23, closed the airspace for international flights, while the local flights were suspended on March 27.
The government had shut the airspace to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement by James Odaudu, the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, said the government was preparing to reopen the airspace.
The statement hinted that Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, announced the reopening of the airspace for international flights at Monday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He insisted that Nigeria’s international airports had reached advanced stages of preparedness for the resumption of international flight operations.
He further disclosed that, like it was done during the resumption of domestic flights across the country, international flights would commence with the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Emphasis, he stated, would be placed on the observation of all the safety and technical guidelines as prescribed by global and health authorities which would be communicated in due course.
He said: “I am pleased to announce the resumption of international flights from the 29th of August, 2020.
“Beginning with Lagos and Abuja, as we did with the domestic flight resumption. Protocols and procedures will be announced in due course.”
Earlier on Monday, the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) inspected COVID-19 facilities at the airport to ascertain their preparedness for resumption.
Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba, the South West, Airports Manager, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, who conducted the management staff around the airport, said it was still work in progress.
Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, told our correspondent that carried out the floor mark FAAN’s management had ings, while barricades outside the terminal had also been done.
“We are installing hand sanitizer dispensers, hand washing contactless taps, and the luggage area disinfection is also being worked.”
When our correspondent visited the terminal, he observed that the agency was also carrying out repair works on the male and female conveniences, as well as lighting the airport.
FG To Prepare For COVID-19 Invasion Of Rural Areas
Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said there was good reason to prepare for COVID-19 invasion of rural areas with testing, first aid, ambulance service, and commensurate isolation and treatment centres.
This is as the nation expands and includes small towns and rural areas in its testing scope, which should pave the way for the emergence of a more accurate picture of the nation’s COVID-19 status.
Ehanire made this known on Monday at the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19, saying the apparently fewer positive cases of the past few days had not given reasons for the task force to rejoice or lower its guard.
According to the minister, “However, we note with concern, the development in many overseas countries, of sharp upsurge in the COVID-19 cases after they lifted or relaxed restrictions in air travel, commerce, and especially in social activities.
“We know that some countries had to quickly restore lockdown or limit movement of citizens, and even to postpone elections in order to deal with the COVID-19 spike.
“In one country, thousands of members of a religious group had to be put in quarantine, having tested positive.
“These are significant lessons for us as we prepare to reopen our economy and as we consider options for resuming flights and travel operations, or opening schools and land borders.
“Unless we utilise lessons learned to define and set measured precautionary steps to mitigate the risks, the danger of falling into the same negative balance in our own COVID-19 strategy and losing the gains made so far, is real.
“The impact of lockdown on livelihoods and socio-economic activities is well known and serious, and what we wish to avoid.
“The other side of this coin is the question of what we need to do to take up the challenge of keeping control of COVID-19 as we reopen.
“This is a shared responsibility of government and people and an assignment for the entire country.
“It has been repeatedly stressed that the easiest, cheapest, well proven options are still the simple non-pharmaceutical interventions, like wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and frequently washing hands.
“It is the least citizens can contribute, by adhering to these and urging their neighbours to adhere so that we together stand a better chance of limiting the negative consequences on the economy of easing and opening the borders.”
He added: “As of August 17, 2020, Nigeria has recorded 49,068 COVID-19 cases from 352,625 samples tested so far, with 36,497 persons successfully treated and discharged.
“We have sadly had 975 fatalities and a case fatality rate still about 2%.
“We continue to strive to lower the case fatality rate to less than 1%, because we believe more lives can be saved from COVID-19, with the knowledge and system strengthening we have achieved over the past six months, even though I hasten to add that we do not yet know enough about COVID-19.
“But what we are sure of so far is that a strong response to COVID-19 is a collaborative effort between the citizenry and the government for the benefit of all Nigerians.
“While government provides direction, guidance and resources, citizens are to take ownership of the response.”
He said that the continuity of health routine services, capacity building of health workers and their protection are paramount to the Federal Ministry of Health and that it was therefore a good opportunity to now urge health workers to continue to focus on their assignments, from traveller screening, surveillance, sample collection, laboratory analysis to hospital and other forms of care.
NGstudents Team Cares…..