Posted by News Express | 12 June 2020 | 1,969 times
By BOLAJI OGUNDELE, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has denied fixing June 21, 2020, as resumption date for air travels in the country.
National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, during the daily press briefing by the task force on Thursday in Abuja, said the PTF did not say airline operations would resume on June 21, but that the Aviation Ministry should prepare itself for reopening and should update the task force on the level of its preparedness on the date.
He also indicated that reopening air travels within the country would also mean a reassessment of inter-state travel restrictions and curfews, adding that whenever air travels resume, it would start with local flights.
“What we said to the aviation authority is this; you need to let us know, from the 21st of June onwards, if you are ready to start opening the skies. We didn’t say 21st of June, skies open, we gave them a window of three weeks to prepare and I believe they are preparing.
“We didn’t ask them for regular updates in terms of how things are going, we expect them to come back to us. As you know, the Aviation Industry is highly regulated, there are certain things they have to do before they start flying, such as retraining of pilots, recalibrating the aircrafts and ensuring safety across the board, as well as measures we need to impose at the airports to make sure that people are safe.
“No, we don’t have an update for that. We expect them to come back to us by the 21st of June and if they come back to us and they say they are ready from the 21st of June onwards, we will open the skies for domestic travels and that’s when we will address the issue of inter-state restrictions and curfew, but for the moment, there’s no plan, right now, to say 21st of June, here we go,” he said.
Answering a question about whether the rising numbers of infections could force the country back to reintroducing a total lockdown of the country, Aliyu said the rise in number of infected persons was not strange as it was just an indication of the fact that more tests were being carried out.
He, however noted that the fact that the numbers had kept rising and had gone beyond the 13,000 mark indicated that the number of persons already infected was far higher, noting that the known number was just about 10% to 15% of those already tested and that there were more people out there yet to be tested, but had already been infected.
“The number of cases we have is a reflection of the number of tests we do. For those of you who look at the NCDC number very carefully, it you look at the positivity rate, it still remains about ten to fifteen percent of the tests that we do that come out positive.
“If you do more tests, you are going to find more. When we say about 13,000 Nigerians are with COVID-19, that’s a minimum, it doesn’t mean that there are only 13,000 Nigerians with COVID-19, it means those are the ones that we have been able to diagnosed as positive.
“Even with the situation we are in, we are monitoring carefully, nothing is off the table. We still have options available, we will continue to work closely with the community because we’ve now gone into community transmission phase. We know that the only thing that will stop this pandemic is behaviour change.
“There is no vaccine, no preventive therapy, therefore we have to continue to work right down at the community level to engage people and ensure they have an understanding of the risks. We will continue to monitor this carefully, but it’s also a reflection of the tests we do. We are not surprised that the numbers have gone up because the number of tests we are doing have significantly gone up,” he explained.
Speaking of the reported harassment of journalists on essential duties by security agents, Aliyu reemphasised the fact that the guidelines and protocols so far issued by the task force had listed journalists as essential services providers and should be accorded free movement by security agents.
He, however, said the task force would write the Inspector General of Police (IGP) again on the matter, adding that the PTF Secretariat would be giving passes to the journalists covering the PTF activities.
“Journalists, particularly those here, will probably have passed, if you don’t have passes, just reach out to us and we’ll see how we can arrange for that because if you have a pass and an ID card, there’ll be absolutely no reason why you should be stopped by police, unless it’s for another reason, but certainly not from the perspective of the curfew,” he said. (The Nation)
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