President Muhammadu Buhari has warned Nigerians not to take the issue of Coronavirus for a joke, saying “It is a matter of life and death.”
This was contained in his address to the nation on the Coronavirus pandemic in the evening of Monday 13th Aril, 2020.
To drive home his message, he cited that “Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.”
As a measure to contain the spread of the virus, the President announced the extension of the lockdown earlier announced for the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States by another 14 days.
The President expressed concern about what he described as the increase in number of confirmed cases and deaths being reported across the world and in Nigeria specifically.
He said: “On 30th March 2020, when we started our lockdown in conforming with medical and scientific advice, the total number of confirmed cases across the world was over 780,000.
“Yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally was over one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand. This figure is more than double in two weeks!
“In the last fourteen days alone, over 70,000 people have died due to this disease.
“In the same period, we have seen the health system of even the most developed nations being overwhelmed by this virus.
“Here in Nigeria, we had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 12 States on 30th March 2020. We had two fatalities then.
“This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty States. Unfortunately we now have ten fatalities. Lagos State remains the center and accounts for 54% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.
While observing that majority of the confirmed cases in Lagos and the FCT are individuals with recent international travel history or those that came into contact with returnees from international trips, thereby justifying the closing of Nigeria’s airports and land borders and putting strict conditions for seaport activities, a measure which he said has reduced the impact of external factors on our country, he however, lamented the increase in the number of States with positive cases which he said is alarming.
He said: “The National Centre for Disease Control has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts.
“So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.”
With regards to measures that will further contain the spread of the virus, the President said “the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus.
“By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.”
While appreciating the attendant difficulties the measures being taken by the government, the President said the government would step up the palliative measures announced “such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.
“I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks.
“This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs.
“A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week.”
Commenting on the impact of the virus on global economy, the President said the pandemic has changed the world, adding that: “The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.
“To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19”.
“The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.
“I am also directing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of this pandemic on our 2020 farming season is minimized.”