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COVID-19: We’re working with Aviation ministry to resume int’l flights – PTF

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has said it is working with the Federal Ministry of Aviation to achieve early reopening of international flights operations.

Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this during Monday’s media briefing by the task force in Abuja, said the arrival protocols for passengers on in-bound flights are already being strengthened.

He said the various functionaries of government would be holding further consultations on this.

“Considering the importance of international air travel to the economy, the PTF and the Aviation Sector are working hard to fast track reopening of the international airspace.

“Most importantly, the arrival protocols for passengers on in-bound flights are being firmed up for seamless testing and detection. Relevant MDAs will be holding further consultations,” he said.

The PTF Chairman also informed that the phase two of the eased lockdown, which ought to have ended on July 29, had been extended by another one more week.

According to Mustapha, the one week extension had been necessitated by the fact the end of phase two coincides with Eid-el-Kabir celebrations.

“We informed you two weeks ago that the process of submitting the 6th Interim Report and recommendations for next steps had commenced. The PTF has reached advanced stages of the process.

“It has also considered that due to the upcoming Sallah (Eid El-Kabir) festivities which coincide with the expiration of the current phase, it would be prudent to extend by one week, from 29th July, 2020 till Thursday 6th August, 2020.

“It has accordingly secured permission to retain the existing guidelines till that date,” he said.

He also tasked Nigerians, especially Muslims, to continue to adhere strictly to the government protocols to curb the spread of the virus, during the coming Eid-el-kabir celebration.

“Similarly, the PTF appreciates the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), who has always been a great champion in the fight against the pandemic for advising Muslims to avoid massive gatherings at Eid grounds and pray at Area Mosques under prescribed protocols,” he said.

Mustapha remarked that the PTF has continued to evaluate the developments as well as the level of compliance nationwide and has “regrettably come to the inevitable conclusion that majority of Nigerians irrespective of status, creed and level of education continue to live in denial on the virulent nature of the virus and consistently breach the guidelines and non-pharmaceutical measures put in place.”

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Citing the increasing cases of COVID-19 around the world, Mustapha pointed out that people of 50 years and above are the most at risk of the virus infection in Nigeria as he, therefore, stressed the need for citizens to comply with prescribed protocols.

He explained: “Our analysis has shown that people over 50 years of age especially those with underlying factors remain most at risk. This position is backed by the fact that 65% of fatalities recorded in Nigeria are in this category.

“That brings me to the need to appeal to Nigerians on the need for a change of behavior and compliance with guidelines and measures put in place. If you do not need to go outside your home, please stay indoors. Avoid large gatherings and observe all the measures.

“In recent times, our risk communication teams have developed messages aimed at resonating very well with different demographic groups. The common string is the message for compliance and the proper wearing of face masks and coverings in public spaces,” he said.

Also speaking at the briefing, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, relayed the protocols and guidelines again for Nigerians to observe, especially during the Eid El-Kabir festivities.

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