Govt to Nigerians: battle against virus in your hands

The battle to contain the spread of Coronavirus pandemic and stay alive is now an individual responsibility which Nigerians must take seriously, the Federal Government said on Monday.

Nigerians, the government noted, have a choice to obey the measures developed to fight the pandemic or end up at the treatment centres for COVID-19 patients.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Control, Boss Mustapha, stated this on Monday at the briefing by the panel in Abuja.

Mustapha said Nigerians must work assiduously to reduce the level of transmission of the virus.

He lamented that many Nigerians have refused to take personal responsibility following the easing of the lockdown by the Federal Government.

He said: “If you listen to me conscientiously in the past four weeks, I have spoken about personal responsibility, that it is our responsibility. We are not your front liners anymore. The choice of whether you will get to the hospital is yours.

“You, my fellow people, you are your last liners now. What you do, what you say, your actions, will determine where you will end.

“We have got to a stage where no amount of enforcement will cut this tool for us. It is the choices that we make that will determine what will happen. The governments of subnational will try to do their best but it is the choices of the people that will determine how effective that will be.

“We are the only ones that can work assiduously to ensure that we reduce the level of transmission now that it has been seeded in our own communities.”

He reiterated that the virus was still deadly despite easing of the lockdown.

According to him, nobody should be deceived that Nigeria had reached the peak of the pandemic.

He said Nigeria’s reported cases will continue to rise, adding that the rate will depend on what Nigerians do.

Mustapha said: “COVID -19 is real and because restrictions have been lifted is not a license for carelessness. Yes we will return to a new normal but not the normal of the past.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Control, Boss Mustapha
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Control, Boss Mustapha

“My appeal is that honestly where we are now, it is our individual not collective responsibility that will determine where we are headed. Are figures going to rise? Yes, they are. The quantum in which they rise is dependent on what we do.

“We have not peaked yet and we have never deluded anybody that we have peaked. All the decisions that have been taken thus far was to balance lives and livelihood because we understand our people earn their livings on a daily basis and because we were unable to deal with other issues in our society, we had to take and advice the president on the balance of what he needed to do to take the next step that we took.

“As for the figures, we don’t want to delude anybody; they will rise. The quantum in with which they will rise exponentially or gradually, is dependent on what Nigerians do.

“If we decide to be careless because restrictions have been lifted, then we will have a peak be if we are not careful it can overwhelm our health infrastructure.

“We know where we are now, we know that the responsibility has been shifted to individuals. Let’s not depend heavily on what the governments will do. Dr. Brian was very explicit in his statement that I quoted copiously.

“Basically, what I am saying today is that the battle has been transferred to each and everyone of us. What we do will determine the outcome of our response at the national level.”

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said more Nigerians are indulging in high-risk behaviours which give rise to the cases of COVID-19 infections.

Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu
Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu

He said: “We are all craving for a return to some sense of normalcy, and in the past weeks, people have become very anxious about this. They have really challenged all the norms that we have tried to effect across the country.

“Everywhere around us we see an increase in high-risk behaviour that is inevitably leading to much transmission. We are seeing cases and deaths increase. We know it is hard to completely prevent exposure but we have to do that which is possible for us to do.

“There are many important lessons for us to learn from other countries. If you have watched events out of Brazil in the last few days, you will be worried because we have a lot in common with Brazil. Yet, they have the second-highest death toll in the world right now.

“If you are also interested in learning what is happening in India and other countries that have a lot in common with us, they have the fourth highest number of confirmed cases in the world.

“We are seeing an increased number of cases and we really have to think about this in very clear and unambiguous terms. Yes, our highest number of new cases has been in Lagos State, but we are seeing increasing cases in many states across the country.”

The NCDC boss added: “We have eased the lockdown not because we wanted to but because we had to in order to sustain livelihoods. But we simply have to take more responsibility about three interventions that are in our hands –  wearing of masks, mass gathering and hand washing.

“That a church or mosque decides to open doesn’t make it compulsory for you to attend. Attendance is still a personal choice. That a supermarket in Abuja decides to do a concert doesn’t make it compulsory for people to attend. Attendees are making a personal choice.

“For activities around leisure, those are the things that we need to make personal sacrifices around. Even when travel opens, we all have to think very hard – how important is that trip to us?

“The hardest choice is probably on education because we all know how important education is for children. But we have to do the ones that we can do. We have to make it socially unacceptable to be seen outside the home without your face mask. We must discourage each other from mass gatherings that are not necessary.

“In a mass gathering that happened in Abuja that has been all over social media, there were Nigerians that looked at each other in the eye and said nothing and celebrated each other for being there.

“Not a single person stood up and said – ‘in the context of what is happening, for the sake of my parents at home, let us stop this concert’.

“There will be a lot of discussions about the mall, regulations, flights, but for me, the most disturbing thing is that the people that attended said nothing and enjoyed that day with everyone else.”

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