Federal Govt okays reopening of airports
By Frank Ikpefan and Moses Emorinken, Abuja
The Federal Government on Monday approved what it called safe resumption of domestic flights. It also relaxed the ban on interstate travel.
But the government warned that such journeys could only be made outside the curfew hours of 10pm to 4am.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control, Boss Mustapha, dropped the hint at the panel briefing in Abuja on Monday.
Mustapha, who is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the latest developments were contained in the Fifth Interim Report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by the PTF team.
He said: “I am pleased to inform you that Mr. President has carefully considered the Fifth Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.
“Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:
- Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the National Coordinator;
- Permission of movement across state borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020;
- Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places;
- Safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations;
- Safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable;
- Publication of revised guidelines around the three thematic areas of general movement, industry and labour; and community activities;
- Provision of technical support for states to mobilise additional resources for the response.
“These guidelines are designed to help us as a nation and drive our response. My appeal to Nigerians is that, like I said the only important and known process that will help us in our fight against Covid -19 is to adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“For now, there is no cure, no vaccine, no drugs. So, what do we do? Let us comply with these non-pharmaceutical interventions. Wear your mask in public places, maintain social distancing, keep yourself clean through hand washing and sanitising your hands, and avoid unnecessary travels.
“Don’t congregate in crowded places. If need be, stay at home as much as you can.”
PTF National Coordinator Dr. Sani Aliyu stated that the lifting of interstate ban on travels was duly discussed with governors before they were removed.
Aliyu explained that the goal of phase two was to sustain the gains recorded in earlier phase or steps taken to curtail the virus.
“The PTF in the past has stated that the aim of phase two was to sustain the gains of earlier steps and phases in terms of the pandemic control, it is also important to state that we relaxed the response partly to enable additional sectors of the economy restart activities.
“In this regard, we seek to consolidate the gains in the areas of the economy while trying to ensure better compliance with the health-based response.
“We have been working with the state governments. In fact, some of the state’s actually approached towards the end of this phase to specifically ask that the borders be opened.
“As we know the percentage compliance level with the restriction has not been as high as we would have wanted it to be; people were still traveling. We will still continue to maintain free travel in terms of goods and essential travel even during the curfew hour.
“But we expect people to plan their travel and to make sure that wherever you are, the curfew of 10pm to 4am remains.”
Aliyu explained that interstate movement will only be allowed between 4am and 10pm.
He said: “Interstate travel, that is, movement across state borders will be allowed only outside curfew times effective from 1st of July 2020, to allow the industry to prepare over the next 24 hours.
“In particular, we expect the transport industry to adhere to the Federal Ministry of Transportation safety protocols and guidelines that will be release specifically in relations to parks and terminals. There will be restricted access with disinfection and sanitisation.
“Waiting areas for passengers must have social distancing measures. There has to be posters and notices on conduct of persons. If you’re not wearing a mask, you will not be allowed entry into the parks and terminals.
“We also expect transporters to arrange for crowd control, and buses should have a maximum of 50 percent capacity. For bus trips, we strongly urge for windows to be kept open particularly for short trips and face mask is mandatory.
“States government through their Commissioners of Transport shall undertake inspection of facilities and confirm compliance as a precondition to resumption of interstate travel. Non-compliance with the guidelines will result in withdrawal of permission to operate interstate mass transit. The PTF expects this to be enforced at the state level.
“For Interstate travel, we will maintain the occupancy level of bosses to be 50 percent and two passengers for taxis, but we will restrict movement in high burdened local government areas to essential travel only. This will be part of the hot spot strategy that will be introduced.
“We are requesting for full compliance by the general public. We have to get this right this time around. We really need to stop playing Russian roll with our lives because if we continue to expose ourselves to COVID-19, there is no doubt that people will die.
“We seek to consolidate the gains in the areas of the economy while trying to ensure better compliance with the health based response.”
Federal Govt okays reopening of airports