PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has announced that the gradual easing of the lockdown will be extended by two weeks nationwide till June 1.
Acting on recommendations of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Buhari also further banned all inter-state movements.
The Chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who made the announcement in Abuja, disclosed that an assessment of the last two weeks of the lockdown “showed that non-compliance was rampant.”
Noting that the fight against COVID-19 is not going to end over night, underscored by the fact that no vaccine or cure is expected in the next few months, he said that the PTF relied largely on statistics and lessons from other countries to draw conclusions on the outcome of the last forth-night.
He explained: “For example, our surveillance, infection prevention and control activities identified nine high burden local government areas in the federation reporting high number of cases and accounting for 51 per cent of the total number of infections in the country.
“Though Nigeria’s caseload still lags behind several other countries, our large population and relatively high degree of mobility and urbanization, 50 per cent, places us at an increased risk for high transmissibility.
“Therefore, our consideration of ease of restrictions has to balance lives and livelihoods and the slow and gradually phased approach should be data driven.”
He noted that the country was still far from reopening its economy hence, a “gradual easing of lockdown,” and that signs of the gradual re-opening are indicated in the controlled access to markets and shopping malls, banks and other income yielding activities.
Also, corporations, government offices, some manufacturing, construction and allied sectors, opened either partially or fully so as to facilitate the activities of other sectors, under the condition that adequate precautionary measures were adhered to.
The SGF said that the Government has been implementing various stimulus packages offered to businesses and state governments through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in recognition of the need to positively turn around the nation’s economy.
According to him, “reduction of interest rates from 9 percent to 5 percent for all CBN intervention facilities, restructuring of loans to longer tenors for all companies whose businesses are adversely impacted by COVID-19.”
The stimulus package include “N50 billion facilities to household and businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19 through NIRSAL Micro Finance Bank.
“N100 billion facility to pharmaceutical and health sectors companies to retool their businesses.
“N1 trillion facility to agricultural and manufacturing companies to expand and set up new factories.
“Suspension of repayment of all state governments’ loans for one year to give states ample financing room to pay salaries.”
The SGF claimed that “the transmission of the virus was under control,” and noted an improved healthcare system, which is better equipped to test, isolate and treat every case while tracking every person who came in contact with a positive case.
But despite the successes scored in the increase the number of laboratories from 15 to 26; ramping up of testing to a total of 35,098, Mustapha admitted that, “Nigeria is not where we wish to be in terms of control, ownership, infrastructure and change of behavior. We must do more.
“Going forward, we shall intensify the mobilization of individuals, especially the communities to take ownership of this fight.”