The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has warned the nation might resort to the extreme option of another lockdown if Nigerians fail to comply with prescribed guidelines and protocols.
National Incident Manager of the PTF, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, who gave the warning in an exclusive chat with The Nation in Abuja on Wednesday, however noted that government would be reluctant in taking such decision.He explained it would only become necessary when the current spiking rate of infections fails to abate.
According to him, as part of efforts to avert a situation that could make another lockdown mandatory, Muhammad said the PTF was working with Governors on achieving successful enforcement of already issued guidelines and protocols across the country.
“Lockdowns help to minimise 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 advised.
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.”