The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has advised Nigerians not to be afraid to take a test as it noted that being infected by the virus does not amount to a death sentence.
The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who gave the admonition at Monday’s briefing, also listed obstacles to citizens’ efforts to get help over the pandemic.
He said: “As we pursue the Community Engagement and Risk Communication Strategy, the PTF has identified lack of information about case definition protocols, location of testing centres, inability to reach call centres, etc as obstacles to getting needed help.
“The PTF has therefore directed that more awareness be created on the location of test centres and how to get tested especially when you fit the case definition.
“The call centres are also being re-energised for responsiveness. Our messaging on risk communication and compliance by the public will also receive very strong attention. We must develop a national wave of awareness creation to drive home our objectives.
“I, therefore, urge Nigerians to make use of these facilities and get tested.
“Similarly, I implore us not to be afraid of undertaking the COVID-19 test. Testing positive for COVID-19 is not a death sentence, but failure to test, especially when symptoms are evident could result in death as it may be too late once the symptoms become full-blown. The loss of any Nigerian is not only painful but most avoidable provided we seek help early.”
Mustapha revealed that two foreigners were arrested recently for trying to enter the country illegally as he said that the government was mindful of people bringing coronavirus through the borders.
“The PTF is also not unmindful of the possibility of imports, especially through our land borders. For this reason, our men and women of the Nigerian Immigration Service remain vigilant and this has resulted in the apprehension of two foreigners who tried to enter the country illegally over the weekend. This commendable effort is appreciated,” he said.
The task force boss recalled that at the beginning of the month of June, the PTF announced a one month period for the implementation of the second phase of eased lockdown, noting that it has continued to monitor developments nationwide in order to make informed decisions at the end of the month.
While stating that “we have exactly eight days to that point of decision,” Mustapha warned that in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory, citizens must not equate any slow-down in numbers accompanied by loosening of restrictive measures to a reduction in the dangers faced by humanity.
He stressed: “Yesterday, June 21st 2020, Nigeria crossed the threshold of 20,000, with our total number rising to 20, 244 confirmed cases. This signified to the PTF that more testing has been carried out in recent weeks.
“However, we are not deluded that we are getting enough samples to test. I wish to remind all our citizens that the best strategy remains to test, detect, isolate and treat. That has accounted for the massive expansion in the laboratory network and testing centres.
“The PTF has also continued to watch developments from other jurisdictions especially those that have similar climatic and demographics with us. Here Brazil is of particular interest. You would have observed that the number of confirmed cases in Brazil have risen to 1,084,833 thus becoming the second-highest in the whole world and reporting over 50,000 deaths.
“In Africa, WHO has reported that South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana have proportionately been the most affected countries on the continent of Africa.
“All these, combined, represent a serious wake-up call for us all to be responsive and to take full responsibility.
“Ladies and gentlemen, our failure to take responsibility threatens the gains we have recorded which are not good for our large population.
“Let me give you a vivid picture of how this virus has spread across our nation by timelines: April 16 2020: 442 cases; May 16, 2020: 5,621 cases; June 16, 2020:17, 148 cases.”
The SGF remarked that as part of the collaboration with the states, the PTF team visited Plateau, Edo, Lagos and Akwa Ibom States to assess the state of preparedness and control.
According to him, “the visit further gives us confidence that sub-national levels of governments are also taking the necessary actions to ensure that this fight is speedily won.”
Mustapha thanked organisations and agencies that have donated materials and equipment toward the fight against COVID-19, saying that their commitment showed that partnership was the most important ingredient needed to overcome the pandemic.
In his remark, PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said over 50% of people surveyed in the south-east did not believe in the dangers of COVID-19.
According to him, “There is also significant disbelief in the danger and impact of COVID-19 in parts of the South-East where we did a recent survey, 60 per cent did not believe that COVID-19 was an issue. We clearly are not taking the pandemic serious enough.”
He observed that there were also various publications in the social media aimed at putting the sensitisation effort at risk.
Aliyu said attempts would be made to mitigate against the development through sensitization collaboration with other levels of government.