The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has approved gradual reopening of international flights and train services across the country.
This was part of the decisions reached at the end of the second extension of the second phase of eased lockdown.
Mr Boss Mustapha, the Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said this while speaking at the daily briefing of the PTF on Thursday in Abuja.
He said: “It is important to ensure that restrictions are not completely relaxed in order to control transmission.
“It is also important that at this Community Transmission Phase of the pandemic, sub-national governments step up to take more responsibilities by owning the response.
“To sustain gains already made, therefore, the PTF recommended to the President the retention of the current phase of the response with minor changes to address economic, socio-political and health concerns.
“It is, however, important to inform you that the major changes being proposed are aimed at achieving the following:
“Gradual re-opening of international air flights within established parameters;
“Re-opening of rail transportation within established parameters”.
Mustapha also granted permission to exit classes to resume ahead of examinations and allowing civil servants from Grade Level 12 to resume work, and also the opening of recreational parks for supervised exercises.
Also speaking, the Coordinator of PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the PTF had communicated to the aviation ministry to begin processes of reopening international flights.
Aliyu also noted that one of the new requirements would be to ensure that international passengers arrived three hours before departure to ensure proper checks before takeoff.
He further stated that if all requirements from the aviation sector were made the resumption of international flights would be a matter of weeks and not months.
Answering a question from the media, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, explained that the aviation sector was ready to open any moment.
Sirika also explained that international flights would open as soon as it was safe to operate as all efforts were being put in place to ensure the reopening in weeks and not in months.
Meanwhile, the second phase of the eased lockdown was extended by four weeks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
This is coming after the extension of the second phase by one week to accommodate the Sallah celebration.
Mustapha said: “I am pleased to inform you that the PTF team met with the President on Wednesday 5th August, 2020 to apprise him of the situation on COVID-19 and the next steps.
“Suffice it to state that the recommendations made to the President have been borne out of diligent evaluation of the situation in Nigeria as well as regional and global experiences.
“The virulence and novelty of the virus has made it compelling for humanity to work together to put in place strategies to contain its spread and ensure that the delicate balance between dealing with the pandemic as a public health concern and guaranteeing livelihood is maintained.
“After due consideration of the recommendations, Mr. President approved the following:
”Maintaining the current phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for another four weeks in line with the modifications reflected in the Report;
“Partnering with States and Local Governments to improve community sensitisation and engagement to the COVID-19 response;
“Mandating State authorities and the FCT, to enforce non-pharmaceutical guidelines, primarily the use of face masks in public appearance and places;
”Encouraging State Governments to collaborate with Local Government Authorities to intensify necessary measures such as contact tracing, grassroots mobilisation and risk communication; and
“Strengthening of collaboration with other mandate groups at Federal/State levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response, on the short, medium and long-term basis.“
Mustapha also explained that “our assessment has also revealed that the foregoing accomplishments and plans notwithstanding, the following challenges continue to pose considerable concern:
“Increased non-compliance with non-pharmaceutical prevention measures;
“Lack of enforcement of necessary guidelines issued to preserve lives; Insufficient engagement by some states with the national response; and a lingering concern about the gap between identified cases and the actual burden of disease.
“Apathy, fatigue and disbelief combining to challenge public enlightenment, compliance and behaviour change.“
The SGF said that to address these challenges, the PTF decided that it was important to ensure that restrictions were not completely relaxed in order to control transmission.
He noted that it was also important that at this Community Transmission Phase of the pandemic, sub-national governments should step up to take more responsibilities by owning the response.
“To sustain gains already made, therefore, the PTF recommended to the President, the retention of the current phase of the response with minor changes to address economic, socio-political and health concerns”.