Solomon Chung, Abuja
The Nigerian government has advised citizens to brace up for tougher measures in the days ahead as the government will soon take some drastic yet realistic decisions in a bid to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing a Press Conference on Monday in Abuja, the country’s Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the government at the highest level was strategising and a decision will be made public in the hours or days ahead.
Without ruling out some sort of partial lockdown, the Minister said tougher decisions must be taken for the benefit of all. However such decisions will come with some wise ideas so that activities still runs in some sort of ways.
“We want to appeal to Nigerians to continue to support the efforts of the government at all levels to defeat this coronavirus. We are hoping for the best in our efforts to contain the disease, but we are prepared for the worst.
The truth is that things may yet get worse than it is now, hence the need for all hands to be on deck. Tougher decisions may yet be on the way to contain this disease. But whatever decision is taken will be in the best interest of Nigerians,” Lai Mohammed.
The government also sought the cooperation of all Nigerians in the area of ‘contact tracing’. As you may be aware, health services use ‘contact tracing’ to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, in this case coronavirus.
The Minister said those who have come into close contact with others who have coronavirus are at higher risk of infection, and of potentially infecting others. “For those who will not cooperate by submitting to the authorities, as required, the government will use all lawful means at its disposal to trace and bring them in”.
“Having now shut our gateway airports, the biggest assignment for us is ‘contact tracing’ to find all those who may have come into contact with those who have the disease”, he said.
The Minister also used the opportunity on behalf of the Nigerian government to appreciate the effort of health workers, immigration and other relevant agencies working on the first line of action, sacrificing to keep everyone safe.
“We also thank Nigerians for complying with all the preventive measures being put in place by the government. These include social distancing (deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.
This entails staying at least six feet away from other people), cancellation of events likely to attract large number of people, quarantine, self-isolation, suspension of services, etc,” the minister added.
The Minister revealed further that the Federal Government was aware that some political and religious leaders have either denied the existence of coronavirus or have defied the directives to avoid large gatherings.
“Leaders of all hues must show great responsibility at this time. They must avoid putting the lives of not just their followers but also those of the general public in danger.
Nigerians too must take responsibility, do what they are requested to do to stay safe and stop blaming others. For those who would continue to willfully flout the directives aimed at checking the spread of this disease, the long arm of the law will soon catch them,” Alh. Mohammed stated.
Mohammed also corrected an erroneous impression that COVID-19 does not or cannot affect Africans and younger people.
“There is also the farce out there that the disease cannot affect Africans for one reason or another, or that the young is immune to it. This is not true. Based on what we know so far, no one is immune to this disease.
In New York, for example, 54% of those infected are between the ages of 18 and 49. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, young people are not immune to coronavirus and must avoid socialising and communicating it to older, more vulnerable people.”
The government also urged citizens to be on alert over fake news and disinformation about the COVID -19 virus and related information.
The Government noted that fake news about the virus could be more dangerous than the virus itself.
According to the Minister, “Our efforts to tackle coronavirus are not being helped by the spread of fake news. Suddenly, coronavirus pundits are popping up everywhere.”
He cited instance of some criminal elements using the pandemic to spread falsehood in a bid to defraud people.
“We implore Nigerians to shun these charlatans and follow the directives from the relevant authorities. We are happy that Facebook is cooperating with us. They have asked Nigerians to report any false or misleading report on Facebook and Instagram pages so they can immediately bring them down.
I can report that Facebook has been down flagged posts in this regard. Facebook is also taking preemptive action to remove any false or harmful messages about this pandemic and public health in Nigeria 24/7.
Similarly, Whatsapp is working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to strengthen the capacity to keep the public informed on Coronavirus.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in China sometime in December, On January 31st 2020, the Nigerian Government had set up an Inter-Ministerial/Multi Sectoral Preparedness and Response Committee as well as Presidential Task Force for the Control of the Coronavirus.
So far Nigeria now has a total of 36 cases with one death. However, the government travel restrictions from 15 countries, each with more than 1,000 is in effect.
The countries are; China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the United States, Norway, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden.