Despite relaxing the restriction order on places of worship, businesses and other socio-economic activities in the country, the prospects of schools reopening still remained remote as at Tuesday.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which is coordinating Nigeria’s effort to mitigate the impact of the virus, has insisted that schools will remain shut indefinitely, until an appropriate guideline is developed for the sector.
The Presidential Task Force which appears to be facing subtle pressure to reopen educational institutions since it has lifted ban in other sectors of the economy, noted that the probability of the rate of infections escalating beyond control within the academic community remains higher.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, at the usual briefing session in Abuja, used a recent social media picture where some children were caught wearing discarded face mask to buttress his point.
Before the latest restrictions were relaxed, Mustapha had previously complained that citizens were being lackadaisical in their approach to observing the preventive guidelines for the virus.
The PTF chairman also accused frontline health workers of complicity in mismanagement of the virus, saying it behooves them to properly dispose of used Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
He said, “Shortly after the briefing of 1st June, 2020 (yesterday), the social media was trending with the photograph of two children wearing discarded PPE (although it is not certain if the photograph was taken in Nigeria).
“Significantly, that photograph represents a dangerous development. It underscores the need for more risk communication, community engagement and diligence in the disposal of used PPE on the part of our frontline workers and the administrators.
“It also underscores the need to broaden the theme and messages in our communication strategy. Above all, the photograph has left us to imagine what the impact would be, if schools were to be open and they attended school after being exposed so dangerously.
“Those three children represent a clear danger to themselves, family and the immediate community.
“While we take remedial measures to reach out to medical institutions on this, I use this opportunity to call on all our health authorities to make sure that waste disposal is done in such a way that would not create opportunities for increasing the chances of spreading the virus”.
The chairman, however, took a swipe on Nigerians, noting that many have thrown caution to the wind since the Federal Government relaxed restriction of movements and announced that religious centres be allowed to operate.
According to him, the virus was still as dangerous and highly infectious, hence shouldn’t be taken with levity.
“The PTF is conscious of the fact there is a high possibility of members of the public seeing the easing as a signal that COVID is gone. On the contrary, COVID-19 is still virulent, dangerous and infectious. Our lives have changed for good and will never revert to what we used to know.
“That is why we have urged all the employers, employees and leaders of sectors allowed to reopen to diligently comply with non-pharmaceutical measures prescribed in the guidelines and the protocols agreed by state governments.
“As we have always maintained, the fight against this pandemic is not a joke and because the science, data and experiences that drive our national response are constantly evolving, we urge all citizens to religiously implement applicable guidelines at specific phases of the battle,” he warned.
He stated that the PTF will continue to monitor the progress and keep the option of a review open should the need arises.
Boss also urged all sub-national entities which had been collaborating with government to expeditiously factor the guidelines into their decisions and resultant protocols that would be agreed to.
“There is a lot of work to be done and enough for everybody. We must all overcome this challenge together. You must take responsibility,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government said despite the lifting of ban on religious gatherings, it is safer for people to worship at home.
Speaking at the briefing on Tuesday, Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said it is safer for people to worship at home.
Aliyu said due to the nature of religious centres, COVID-19 could spread easily there.
“The Federal Government decided to reopen worship centres under specific guidelines but if you can worship at home, please do so because it is safer to worship at home. It is better to stay at home and worship than to go to a place of worship,” he said.
“Places of worship that do not comply with required measures should not be allowed to operate. State authorities should not allow such churches or mosques to operate.”
Churches, Mosques May Remain Shut In Lagos Over Guidelines
There are strong indications that worship centres, including churches and mosques, in Lagos State may not reopen soon as a result of disagreement on protocols and guidelines between the state government and religious leaders.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Anofiu Elegushi, while fielding questions from newsmen on Tuesday during a Ministerial Press Briefing to mark the first year in office of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the JJT Park in Lagos, said the possibility of reopening churches and mosques in the state had been ruled out.
“Even before the pronouncement by the Federal Government, we had been having meetings with the religious leaders; we even had one with safety commission, looking at the possibility of reopening of religious houses.
“We also had one with the leaders of the two faiths, and I want to tell you categorically that at that meeting, the possibility of reopening religious houses was ruled out totally.
“They claimed that they cannot take such responsibility of ensuring that only 20 or 50 people are praying behind them.
“Like an Imam said, he doesn’t know what is going on behind immediately he is leading a prayer. He said if more than 20 or 50 people are staying at his back, he is not going to take responsibility for their presence,” the commissioner said.
Elegushi added: “So, in the meeting, we ruled out in totality the issue of reopening the religious houses until we have a clear coast for us to do so.”