As part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday night addressed Nigerians.
In his address Buhari said that after the first case which was confirmed on the 27th February 2020 and the gradual increase in the number of cases they are moblising the “whole instruments of government to confront what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis.”
As at March 29th, 2020, the total confirmed cases within Nigeria had risen to ninety-seven, with 1 death and 3 discharged.
The president also spoke about the the first fatality, a former employee of PPMC, who died on 23rd March 2020. He said “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in this very difficult time. We also pray for quick recovery for those infected and undergoing treatment.”
President Buhari stressed that there is no cure yet for COVID-19. He however noted that scientists around the world are working very hard to develop a vaccine.
He said “We are in touch with these institutions as they work towards a solution that will be certified by international and local medical authorities within the shortest possible time.”
With the lack of cure in sight the president said individuals “remain the greatest weapon to fight this pandemic”. He said staying infection free can be achieved through regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing.
He said the pragmatic practices that can be done include “washing our hands regularly with clean water and soap, disinfecting frequently used surfaces and areas, coughing into a tissue or elbow and strictly adhering to infection prevention control measures in health facilities, we can contain this virus”.
Communication with China
President Buhari said since the outbreak was reported in China, the Government has been monitoring the situation closely and studying the various responses adopted by other countries.
He added that the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC),Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu was one of ten global health leaders invited by the World Health Organisation to visit China and understudy their response approach.
Strategies to tackle COVID-19 in Nigeria
President Buhari said the implementation of the global strategies adopted will be tailored to reflect local realities. This he said will be done through a two step approach which are: To protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and to preserve livelihoods so as to ensure families get through this very difficult time.
The N15bn intervention
The president in his address said he has provided an initial intervention of fifteen billion Naira (N15b) to support the national response with a focus on Lagos and Abuja which have the majority of the confirmed cases.
He added that a Presidential Task Force (PTF) to develop a workable National Response Strategy was created as well as recruiting hundreds of ad-hoc staff to man call centres and support tracing and testing efforts in Lagos and Abuja.
He said he had requested that all state governments to “nominate Doctors and Nurses who will be trained by the NCDC and Lagos State Government on tactical and operational response to the virus in case it spreads to other states”.
The training will also include medical representatives from the armed forces, paramilitary and security and intelligence agencies.
Abuja and Lagos Lock down
President Buhari said because the few confirmed cases outside Lagos and Abuja are linked to persons who have travelled from these centres they are working to ensure such inter state and intercity movements are restricted to prevent further spread.
He said “I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11:00pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.
“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period”.
Exemptions from Abuja and Lagos Lock down
President Buhari stated that the order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in health care related manufacturing and distribution. He listed other categories of exemptions to include:
- a. food processing, distribution and retail companies;
- b. petroleum distribution and retail entities,
- c. power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and
- d. private security companies are also exempted.
He added that Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.
He however noted that seaports in Lagos “shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these Ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority”.
Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.
Suspension of aircraft movements
The president said all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are suspended. He said special permits will be issued on a needs basis.
Relief Materials and stimulus packages
The president said in the coming weeks relief materials will be deployed for residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will be affected by some of these restrictive measures.
He added that a three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans will be implemented with immediate effect.
A similar moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export Import Bank.
Also on-lending facilities using capital from international and multilateral development partners, the development financial institutions will engage these development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of the borrowers.
The most vulnerable will get the conditional cash transfers for the next two months. And this will be paid immediately. The Internally placed persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.
Isolation centres should the virus spread…?
The president said in the case of a wide spread virus all Federal Government Stadia, Pilgrims camps and other facilities will be converted to isolation centres and makeshift hospitals.
Health workers and people in the frontline
The President expressed gratitude to public health workforce, health care workers, port health authorities and other essential staff on the frontlines of the response for their dedication and commitment. You are true heroes.