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PTF, INEC Brainstorm On Measures To Stem COVID-19 At Elections

• Says worries remain about schools reopening • Buhari donates PPE worth N67m to São Tomé and Principe

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 is in talks with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on what measures to adopt to stem the spread of COVID-19 during the forthcoming elections.

This is as it has called on party leaders and supporters to be conscious of the deadly nature of the disease as they embark on electioneering campaigns for the polls.

Chairman of the task force and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, stated this during Monday’s briefing, stressing the need to remain alive to enjoy the benefits of democracy.

He said: “The National Response would continue to guide the adoption of sector-specific guidelines and protocols just as the PTF is currently concluding discussions with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on appropriate guidelines to be adopted for elections beginning with the August 8th Bye-Election in Nasarawa State to be followed by those for Edo and Ondo States in September and October respectively.

“I, therefore, wish to use this opportunity to implore party leaders, aspirants, members and supporters to remain mindful of the virulent nature of COVID-19 during electioneering campaigns and other election processes. We need to remain alive to enjoy the benefits of our democracy.”

Mustapa also said even though the education sector is critical to the development of children, reopening the sector has been a concern as schools are strong breeding grounds for the transmission of COVID-19.

He, therefore, emphasized the need to have proper protocols in place before schools are reopened.

The SGF stated: “Just before the Sallah break, the second phase of the eased lockdown was extended by one week. We assured Nigerians that the railway transportation system would be partially opened on Wednesday 29th July with the commencement of the Abuja-Kaduna rail services.

“I am pleased to confirm that the promise has been kept with full compliance with the measures prescribed.

“Similarly, we informed you about the date that exit examination classes in schools would reopen preparatory to the commencement of the examination. I wish to restate that the Education sector is critical for the development of our children and our nation.

“Reopening the sector is also a source of concern based on the fact that the school system remains a veritable ground for increasing community transmission if appropriate protocols are not put in place and more importantly adhered to. In this regard, the PTF wishes to implore stakeholders to ensure that the agreed protocols are put in place and measures strictly adhered to.

“The PTF continues to push forward with the Community engagement, risk communication and support to States. There is on-going surveillance in the high burden Local Government Areas just as we ramp up our precision efforts.

“Similarly, the Federal Government is supporting the States to firm up their Incidence Action Plans preparatory to their accessing the World Bank facility for the fight against COVID-19.”

The PTF chairman announced that President Muhammadu Buhari has donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical supplies worth N67 million to the government and people of Sao Tome and Principe.

He said this was done in consonance with the president’s position as the ECOWAS Champion on the Containment of COVID-19 in the West African Sub-Region.

He said: “I am happy to inform you that, as the ECOWAS Champion on the Containment of COVID-19 in the West African Sub-Region, Mr President made a donation of N67million worth of PPEs and medical supplies to the government and people of Sao Tome and Principe.

“Mr President’s leadership of this regional effort would be more impactful if Nigerians demonstrate that our National Response could be replicable in other West African countries by changing their behaviour.”

Recalling that he had last week disclosed that the PTF will submit its 6th Interim Report to the President, he said subject to his approval, the task force hopes to present the way forward to Nigerians at the next briefing on Thursday 6th August 2020.

Mustapha admonished those who still harbour scepticism about the existence and dangers posed by the virus to imbibe a change of behaviour by complying with the non-pharmaceutical measures prescribed.

“This appeal remains in your own interest and in the interest of your loved ones. Remember, always wear your mask, observe social distancing, avoid large gatherings and maintain proper hygiene,” he said.

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