The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has warned that the nation might resort to the extreme option of another lockdown, if Nigerians fail to comply with prescribed guidelines and protocols.
PTF National Incident Manager Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, in an exclusive chat with The Nation in Abuja yesterday, however, noted that government would be reluctant in taking such decision, explaining the it would only become necessary when the current spiking rate of infections fail to abate.
According to him, as part of efforts to avert another lockdown, the PTF was working with governors on the enforcement of guidelines and protocols across the country.
“Lockdowns help to minimize people’s movements and it’s very effective because if you don’t go out or if you reduce the degree of your movement, you’ll also reduce the risk of getting infection.
“Lockdown is not completely out of the table. We are monitoring the numbers, we are monitoring the statistics across the country and where necessary, we’ll have to take severe measures.
“For now, the PTF is very much aware of the hardship that lockdown brings along, particularly for low-income earners, for small businesses, for people who have to go out daily to get their daily bread.
So, we are doing everything possible not to have a total lockdown in the country, but for us not to reach that stage, we have to ensure that people take responsibility,” he said.
Explaining the strategy being put together to stave off a possible lockdown situation, Muhammad cited a planned legal framework for the enforcement operations, which he said would include very stringent actions.
“There are plans to introduce these enforcements and what we are doing now at the PTF is trying to identify areas; cities or towns where the infection has been reported to be very high, both in terms of people who have been tested and found to be positive, and also in terms of what we call incidence, which is the number of people that are positive, divided by population.
“We are looking at these and we have identified these areas where we’ll need to implement these stringent measures. We will have teams that will ensure compliance. We are working with state governments to ensure that they set up task forces that will move round to ensure compliance. Mr President has received the recommendation from the PTF and we are waiting for Mr President to accent because it has a legal implication.
“We’ll want to be sure that we are covered even before we start the enforcement. We’ll start prosecuting people who are violating protocols, we’ll also start closing down and locking down businesses, institutions, public places that are not complying to the protocols.
“As I mentioned, if all these do not work, then, we’ll have no option than to introduce the total lockdown. We don’t want to do it, but if our figures and statistics continue to rise, making more people to become vulnerable, there’ll be no option than to ensure that we halt this epidemic by a total cessation of movements,” he said.