• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Five new coronavirus cases force FG, states into frenzied response

Five new coronavirus cases

The confirmation of five new cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria on Wednesday has elicited a raft of desperate responses from the Federal Government, which had until now appeared reluctant to take drastic actions to contain the virus.

The five new cases of coronavirus, which bring the total number of confirmed cases to eight, involve two Nigerians and three foreigners, Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, said at a briefing in Abuja on Wednesday. Of the five new positive cases, three arrived from the United States, while two came in from the United Kingdom.

Following the discovery of the new cases, the Federal Government issued a travel ban on 13 countries, including China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, United States of America, Norway, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.

The restrictions, which will come into effect on March 21 and are expected to last for four weeks in the first instance, are part of Nigeria’s efforts to avoid the pitfalls that greeted late response of countries that now have high cases and wide spread of the virus which they are now battling to control, the government said.

Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation and chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the government was temporarily suspending the issuance of all visas on arrival.
The Federal Government also ordered the immediate closure of all National Youth Corps Service (NYSC) orientation camps nationwide.

The 2020 Batch A Stream One NYSC members arrived at the camp on March 10 and were expected to leave three weeks after.

But Sunday Dare, minister of youth and sports development, on Wednesday said the NYSC members would be released to resume at their places of primary assignment. The closure was a precautionary measure on coronavirus, Dare said in a tweet.

“Today across the country, the NYSC Orientation camps will be closed and Youth Corpers will be paid and sent to their places of primary assignment. This again is a precautionary measure on the part of the government to check the spread of COVID-19. The DG NYSC will provide details,” he tweeted.

The NYSC management also informed of the closure on its Facebook wall, clarifying, however, that “no corps member or camp official has contracted the virus”.

The government is also making plans to close schools nationwide, sources at the Ministry of Education told BusinessDay.

Already, the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) has shifted the commencement date of its 2020 Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) from March 28 to April 24. The examination body was initially billed to kick-start this year’s SSCE with Practical Biology on March 28.

“Series of meetings had being going on by stakeholders in the nation’s educational system with a view to closing all schools nationwide,” a senior Education Ministry official told BusinessDay in confidence on Wednesday.

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“The minister of education, the permanent secretary, directors, heads of parastatals in the ministry, as well as stakeholders and health experts had held meetings between Friday, March 13 and Tuesday, March 17, at the boardroom of the Federal Ministry of Education headquarters, Abuja. The meeting was unanimous on closing down all schools for now so as to prevent escalation of the dreaded disease to our schools nationwide,” the source said, pleading anonymity.

It was also gathered that the ministry’s decision to close down schools had been forwarded to the presidency for ratification.

“In a matter of days from now, presidency decision will be announced,” said the source.
On its part, the Lagos State government has banned large religious gatherings of above 50 people for four weeks as a measure to check the spread of the coronavirus.

Anofiu Elegushi, the state commissioner for home affair, who announced the measure on Wednesday, said it takes immediate effect.

Elegushi said the decision was reached after extensive deliberations with religious leaders, including leadership of the Lagos chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Islamic leaders.

In a communique after the deliberation, the commissioner said the decision was taken in the interest of Lagosians.

The Ogun State government has also announced the immediate ban of all high-density gatherings that would bring together 50 or more persons in the same place, such as social clubs, halls, cinemas, night clubs, restaurants, cafes, and sport arenas.

According to a statement signed and made available to journalists in Abeokuta on Wednesday by Kunle Somorin, chief press secretary to Ogun State governor, this measure would be in effect for the next 30 days in the first instance.

The statement said the restriction has to be enforced without prejudice to people’s fundamental rights to association and movement, because safety of the people and their welfare are priorities that cannot be toyed with.

It said the government would continue to engage all the stakeholders, including religious leaders, to sensitise the populace on the need to maintain social distancing and collective effort to combat the pandemic.

JOSHUA BASSEY, MARK MAYAH, IFEOMA OKEKE, ANTHONIA OBOKOH (Lagos), ONYINYE NWACHUKWU, GODSGIFT ONYEDINEFU (Abuja) & RAZAQ AYINLA (Abeokuta)