Dr. Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of PTF on COVID-19

Why Government approves phased reopening of Nigerian schools, removes restrictions on markets, others: PTF

*Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 directs state governments, school administrators, other stakeholders to start making preparations for full reopening of schools, colleges and universities

*Raises attendance at gatherings, including weddings, meetings to 50 persons from previous 20

*President Muhammadu Buhari extends six-month mandate of PTF till December 31, 2020

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Following several months of closure of all institutions of learning as a precaution against the spread of disruptive COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Federal Government has approved the gradual reopening of educational institutions in Nigeria.

Dr. Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, who disclosed this to reporters in Abuja, FCT, Thursday stated that the PTF has recommended a phased return of students to classrooms.

Subsequently, the Task Force directed state governments, school administrators, and other stakeholders in the educational system to start making preparations for full reopening of schools, including daycare, primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions of learning.

ConsumerConnect reports that President Muhammadu Buhari has also approved the extension of the six-month mandate of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 due to expire September 17 till December 31, 2020.

Likewise, the PTF stated that the government also reviewed the initial 10 p.m.─4a.m. nationwide curfew to start from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. henceforth.

Dr. Aliyu said: “For educational institutions, which include daycare, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, educational institutions should begin the process of working towards potentially reopening within this phase.

“However, we strongly recommend that states conduct a risk assessment to ensure all schools are at a level of compliance and create a monitoring mechanism to assess, create and monitor this level of preparedness.

“Meanwhile, all day-cares and educational institutions are to remain closed to in-classes until this level of risk is assessed.”

According to the PTF National Coordinator, “if there will be opening of schools, it must be staged and preferably carried out in phases to ensure that this does not pose a risk to the general public, and in particular to vulnerable groups that might end up getting infected by students going back home.”

Aliyu clarified that although the new nationwide curfew hours from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. took effect Thursday, the restriction, however, would not apply to people on essential services and international travellers.

He stressed that the work-at-home policy would be maintained for the Federal civil servants below Grade Level 12, while only public workers from Level 12 and above would be allowed to go to workplaces.

According to him, the private sector will be allowed to determine the optimum working capacity within their offices while ensuring enough physical distancing and preserving the health of workers in their employ.

Aliyu as well announced that all restrictions on markets’ opening days have been removed, including limits placed on stores.

Amusement parks, gyms and cinemas could open at half capacity, while bars and nightclubs are to remain closed till further notice and that only outdoor event centres can open for service, said he.

Aliyu also informed that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) authorities should start making preparations to reopen the camps across the country.

“For the National Youth Service Corps, the NYSC is to consolidate safety measures currently being put in place and start preparing for the reopening of orientation camps when educational institutions open.

“We are in the process of developing strict guidelines to ensure there is no outbreak of COVID-19 when this process starts,” Aliyu stated.

According to him, the NYSC can only reopen orientation camps when the tertiary institutions open.

He also emphasised that the limit of gatherings, including weddings, meetings and burials has now been raised to 50 persons from 20 that it used to be, while the visiting of patients is still limited to the immediate family.

Meanwhile, Mr. Boss Mustapha, Secratry to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of PTF on COVID-19 has said that President Buhari approved the extension of the six-month mandate of the Task Force till December 31, 2020, after the PTF submitted its seventh interim report to him in Abuja.

Mustapha stated that the report reviewed the four weeks of transition into the third phase of the National Response to COVID-19, which ended 12.01 a.m. Friday, September 4.

The thrust of the recommendation would see Nigeria advance to the third phase of eased restrictions with further amendments to address economic, socio-political and health concerns, adding, this will last until a time when the epidemic is sufficiently controlled in Nigeria.

He, however, revealed PTF’s displeasure with the low level of sample collection because of its implications for the strategy of testing, detection, tracing, isolation and treatment.

According to the PTF Chair, despite increased diagnostic capacity and improved access to testing, the demand has remained low with not enough samples being collected in the country.

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