President Buhari Orders Face Mask Enforcement Nationwide

President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated the state governments and the FCT to enforce non-pharmaceutical guidelines, primarily the use of face masks, in public appearance and places.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this in Abuja at the 55th joint national briefing of the task force.

According to him, for the past nine weeks (from 2nd June 2020), the government has been running phase 2 of the eased lockdown, which has witnessed two extensions.

He said that these extensions were necessitated by observed lack of compliance with prescribed measures, dangers associated with community spread infections, and the need to strengthen critical areas of the Response Strategy for effectiveness.

Mustapha said that prior to the Sallah break, the PTF informed the nation that the 6th Interim Report and recommendations would be submitted to Mr. President for his consideration and approval.

He added that the PTF team met with the President on Wednesday 5th August 2020 to brief him of the situation on COVID-19 and the next steps.

He said that the recommendations made to the President were borne out of the diligent evaluation of the situation in Nigeria as well as regional and global experiences and that the considerations were also guided by the three thematic areas movement, industry, and labor; and community activities.

“After due consideration of the recommendations, Mr. President approved the maintaining the current phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for another four weeks in line with the modifications reflected in the report; partnering with states and local governments to improve community sensitisation and engagement to the COVID-19 response.

Mandating state authorities and the FCT to enforce non-pharmaceutical guidelines, primarily the use of face masks in public appearance and places; encouraging state governments to collaborate with local government authorities to intensify necessary measures such as contact tracing, grassroots mobilisation and risk communication; and Strengthening of collaboration with other mandate groups at Federal/State levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response, on the short, medium and long-term basis,” Mustapha said.

He added that the PTF, within the same period of reporting, prioritised areas of major focus for the extended Second Phase of the Response; using data and science to inform decision-making; improving the efficiency of response activities; emphasizing personal responsibility of individuals in preventing transmission; and supporting the health care system and strengthening the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions.

He also listed providing technical support for the development of Incident Action Plans (IAPs) for the States; and holding regular consultations with State Governors, Commissioners for Health, and other related sectors.

Challenges

The SGF added that the PTF assessment also revealed that their accomplishments and plans notwithstanding, there were challenges that continue to pose a considerable concern.

According to him, the challenges include the increased non-compliance with non-pharmaceutical prevention measures; and lack of enforcement of necessary guidelines issued to preserve lives; and insufficient engagement by some states with the national response.

Others are a lingering concern about the gap between identified cases and the actual burden of disease; and apathy, fatigue and disbelief combining to challenge public enlightenment, compliance, and behavior change.

“To address these challenges and continue improving our National Response to eventually win the fight against the pandemic, the PTF reached the conclusion that for Nigeria, it is important to ensure that restrictions are not completely relaxed in order to control transmission.

“It is also important that at this Community Transmission Phase of the pandemic, sub-national governments step up to take more responsibilities by owning the response,” he said.

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