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COVID-19: FG may stop inter-State, inter-town travels

With the current figure of confirmed cases of Nigerians afflicted with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic at 51, The federal government on Thursday lamented that it is not getting the required cooperation from Nigerians the citizens towards complying with the stipulated directives to keep people safe.

Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told journalists in Abuja that the federal government is considering measures that may lead to a lockdown of the country towards ensuring that Nigerians are safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the federal government Spokesperson, “we are considering tougher measures to enforce compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to States that do not have it and minimise 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, and Using fire fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate cities and towns.”

Stating that new measures will be considered and announced from time to time, the Minister regretted the “meaningless” criticisms of the government, stating that “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.”

The total of the 51 confirmed cases shows that Lagos has 32, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 10, Ogun has three, while Ekiti, Oyo, Edo, Bauchi, Osun and Rivers have one each.

Warning that the federal government is working on stiffer measures to enforce measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, Alhaji Mohammed noted that it is going to increase the implementation of measures including social distancing, contact tracing, testing, isolation of suspected cases and ensuring that messaging gets down to the grassroots.

The Minister again lamented that the epidemic of fake news is now competing with the pandemic of Coronavirus, citing the report that “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. And that President Muhammadu Buhari has been coughing and is now on a ventilator.”

Blaming a section of the “traditional media” for engaging in “scaremongering and irresponsible reporting” on the disease, the Minister noted that 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.”

Alhaji Mohammed commended the five major domestic airlines (Air Peace, Aero, Azman, Dana and Arik) for suspending their operations, he added that “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.”

Mr Mohammed said the federal government is also aware of the support of the private sector and pleaded for the support and cooperation of more capable individuals and organisations in order to defeat the pandemic.

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