COVID-19: FG to bar interstate travels, fumigate cities, enforce containment measures

The Federal Government has said it is considering a ban on interstate and interstate travels,  closure of motor parks and fumigationnof town and cities as part of measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed said at a press conference on Thursday that since many Nigerians continued to flout social distancing and other guidelines,  government would now enforce such rules

He also decried the growing g wave of fake news and information just as he accused some media organisations of scaremongering.

The minister also said 4.370 “persons of interest” were being traced.

Below is the full text of the Press briefing:

Good afternoon gentlemen, and welcome to this press conference, called to update you on the measures being taken by the Federal Government to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic.

2. I want to say straight away that our strategy at containing this pandemic is working, but we still have a long way to go. We know our priorities and we know our challenges. We have taken very bold measures in stopping international flights into the country, and we hail the state governments that have take equally bold measures in
their states, which include the closure of markets and the prohibition
of large congregations.

3. However, we are determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the
measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, such as:
– Social distancing
– Contact tracing
– Testing
– Isolation of suspected cases
– And ensuring that our messaging gets down to the grassroots

4. Gentlemen, I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic. But the truth is
that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively
enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within
which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the
cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.

5. In view of this, we are considering tougher measures to enforce
compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to states that do not
have it and minimize spread. Possible measures include:

– Stopping inter-state/inter-town travels, except for essential services
– Closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations. Already, all
train movements nationwide have been stopped.
– Using fire fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate
cities and towns.

We will be considering and announcing new measures from time to time,
but rest assured that whatever decisions we take will be in the best
interest of Nigerians.

6. Let me announce that we have received donated safety and test
kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China. The supplies are:
– 100,000 Face Masks
– 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
– 20,000 test kits

The face masks and the PPE will be distributed to the front-line
health workers while the test kits will be shared among the five test
laboratories.

7. We are also taking measures to increase the number of bed spaces
for isolation of suspects. The facilities we have now include the
40-bed Facility, the 60-bed Facility, and the 160-bed Facility, all in Abuja,
We are still looking at other
facilities within the Federal Capital Territory.

8. As we said during our last press conference, contact tracing is
very critical to stopping the spread of the virus. Today, we have 51
cases covering 8 states:
Lagos – 32
FCT – 10
Ogun – 3
Ekiti – 1
Edo – 1
Bauchi – 1
Osun – 1
Oyo – 1
Rivers – 1

We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are
tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to
immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support
the authorities in this regard. We are on the verge of reaching the
level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will
record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to
say this.

9. Let me say, without mincing words, that we are not getting the
kind of cooperation that this moment deserves from Nigerians. Many are
busy engaging in meaningless criticisms instead of complying with the
stipulated directives to keep people safe. Some Nigerians who flew
into the country from overseas filled wrong addresses and phone
numbers in their forms, making it difficult to trace them when the
need arises. Some Nigerians defied orders to stay away from large
gatherings while some religious leaders willfully flouted the
directives to ensure social distancing. The government is doing its
best but we need the citizens to do their best too. We have now gone past
the stage of persuasion. It’s time for strong enforcement.

10. This brings me to the rising instances of fake news associated
with coronavirus. The epidemic of fake news is now competing with the
pandemic of coronavirus, and this is not helping the fight against the
disease. Instances of such fake news include
– That there are only two ventilators in Abuja, out of which one has
been commandeered for a top government official
– That a British Airways Flight was due to land in Nigeria on
Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports.
– That President Muhammadu Buhari has been coughing and is now on ventilator.

Fake. Fake. Fake. It’s all fake news.

11. A section of the traditional media has also been engaging in
scaremongering and irresponsible reporting on the disease. It is wrong
to speculate on those who are positive or negative for coronavirus
without any empirical information. In any case, being positive to
coronavirus is not a death sentence, as we can see around the world.
There is no need for the kind of scaremongering we are seeing in a
section of the
media. The danger is that this scaremongering can even discourage some
who may want to come forward for testing. We therefore wish to appeal
to the media to be more circumspect in their reporting.

12. Gentlemen, we have noted the decision of at least five domestic
airlines – Air Peace, Aero and Azman, Dana and Arik – to suspend their flight
operations. The suspension is a boost for the efforts of the
government to check the spread of the pandemic. Some of the airlines have also
announced one form of support or another for the government’s efforts
to tackle the
pandemic. This is very commendable. We are aware of more private sector support
to the FG and will be announcing this after full compilation. We seek
the support and
cooperation of more capable individuals and organizations in order to
defeat this pandemic.

13. Finally, we appeal to Nigerians not to panic. It is said that
panic is our greatest enemy. The Federal Government is determined to
work with the good people of Nigeria to defeat Covid-19. And defeat
the disease we will.

14. I thank you, gentlemen, for your kind attention. I will now take
your questions

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