The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, on Thursday, said the PTF had recommended the phased reopening of schools with the necessary mechanism for assessment and monitoring of compliance with non-pharmaceutical COVID-19 measures by every school.
Aliyu disclosed this at a press briefing held at the international wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja ahead of the reopening of the airspace for international flights.
The phased reopening of schools is part of the third phase of the eased lockdown, which was announced at the briefing.
Aliyu said, “For educational institutions, which include day care, 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 risk assessment to ensure that 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.
“And 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.”
He also said the Independent National Electoral Commission must enforce the no-mask-no-voting policy during elections that would be conducted during the pandemic.
Aliyu said, “For INEC, the PTF continues to work closely with INEC. We are pleased that the last elections that were conducted in Nasarawa State, I believe, were successful. We will continue to partner closely with INEC to ensure that the electoral process does not pose a risk to the spread of COVID-19.
“INEC will ensure compliance with the publicised policy on conducting safe elections in the context of COVID-19 in particular, the mandatory use of face mask – no-facemask-no-voting, provision of hand sanitizers at polling units, temperature checks at polling units and observation of physical distancing in all electoral activities.”
Under the new eased lockdown phase, the PTF modified the 10pm to 4am curfew to 12am to 4am.
The PTF also increased the number of people allowed to attend gatherings and parties from 20 to 50.
It added that nightclubs and bars remained closed.
The PTF asked the National Youth Service Corps to consolidate on safety measures currently being put in place “in preparation of the reopening orientation camps when educational institutions open.”
It said guidelines were being prepared for the reopening.
NUT, ANCOPPS, NAPPS backs school reopening
The Nigeria Union of Teachers, All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools and the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools have expressed satisfaction over the phased reopening of schools by the Federal Government.
However, the Secretary-General, NUT, Dr Mike Ike-Ene appealed to the government to provide all the necessary consumables for teachers and financial motivation too.
Similarly, the ANCOPPS National President, Mr Anslem Izuagie, said the phased reopening of schools was a welcome development and members of the association were ready to resume.
The National President, NAPPS, Yomi Odubela, said, “It is good news for the children, who have stayed at home for too long. They will have opportunity to reunite with their friends and continue with their studies. Staying at home for too long can lead to psychological problems.
“All state governments should ensure safety of all by putting in place safety protocols and guidelines so that teachers and students can be safe. It is a welcome idea”
Buhari approves four-week eased lockdown
Earlier, the Chairman of the task force, Boss Mustapha, announced that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had approved the third phase of the eased lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic for a period of four weeks.
Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said at the onset of the eased lockdown, the PTF drafted a three-phase strategy of easing the restrictions ahead of a full reopening of the economy.
He said in determining what phase of the strategy to move to, the PTF tried to balance the public health and economic considerations alongside data analysis.
He stated, “The PTF believes that while Nigeria is not ready for a full re-opening of the economy, there has been sufficient progress to warrant significant further relaxation of the restrictions applied.
“Accordingly, Mr President has considered and approved the following: transition into the third phase of the national response to COVID-19 for a period of four weeks with effect from 12.01am on Friday, September 4, 2020, in line with amendments to address economic, socio-political and health considerations reflected in the implementation guidelines.”
Task force’s mandate extended till December
Mustapha added that the President considered the fact that the six-month mandate of the PTF would expire this month and therefore extended it till the end of December.
The objectives of the extension, he said, were to sustain a robust multi-sectoral national response; ensure that the nation successfully navigates the community spread stage of the pandemic; and to strengthen Nigeria’s health system and other socio-economic infrastructure to enable them to meet national aspirations.
Mustapha said the global community had made appreciable progress in the development of COVID-19 vaccine, adding that as of August 28, 2020, a total of 173 candidate vaccines were under evaluation.
He said 33 candidate vaccines were under clinical evaluation (eight are in phase three trials), while 143 candidate vaccines were in pre-clinical evaluation.
He said PTF would continue to monitor developments so that Nigeria can benefit from the emergence of an effective vaccine.