By G9ija

The Federal Government on Tuesday revved up its response to the spreading Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with new measures including an immediate ban on foreign trips by public servants.

Government advised Nigerians with non-essential international travel plans, especially to countries with prevalent cases, to shelve such plans forthwith.

On Tuesday, the health authorities announced Nigeria’s third positive case, involving a Nigerian returnee from the United Kingdom.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha announced the new measure at the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Control of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. He is the chairman of the panel.

As part of the new approach, anyone returning from any country must strictly self-isolate for 14 days in their homes with more attention focussed on those returning from high risk countries.

“The designated high risk countries are: China, Iran, South Korea, Germany, Italy, USA, UK, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, France and Japan,” Mustapha said.

Also, “people returning from countries with high community transmission rate especially countries that have recorded a1000 cumulative cases and above, will be actively followed up for 14 days by the health authorities.

Mustapha said: “After due consideration and the trend of the novel coronavirus disease – COVID-19 and the subsequent declaration as pandemic by the World Health Organisation, the committee has decided that we upscale our health emergency system to the highest level and put in measures to curb further spread of the disease.

“So far we have three cases two have tested positive, one negative. We will want to ensure that this does not go beyond this minor figure for now.

“On the part of government we have decided that it has become necessary to advise all public officials in the ministries, department and agencies and the parastatals that government has banned all forms of travels out of the country for whatever reasons, bilateral, multilateral, conferences, seminars, workshops, negotiations, presentations and any form of other ceremonies.

“This ban will remain in place till further notice and until the situation of the coronavirus abets.

“By this notice, any prior approval to travel abroad for official assignments during this period is accordingly rescinded.

The SGF said government would ensure wide publicity for the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines for self-isolation.

“We want to put on notice that the Nigerian government supports the measures taken by the government of other countries particularly high burden countries who have urged their residence to stay home and avoid nonessential travels particularly and inclusive to Nigeria.

“We want to urge the Nigerian people to continue to maintain high level of sanitation and hygiene and respiratory etiquette which has been repeatedly advised. Maintaining social distance and avoiding crowded areas should begin to become our lifestyle.

“We will continue to look at emerging scenarios and on a continuous basis you will receive further briefings. But for now we believe strongly that this particular pandemic is the most important public health emergency of our generation and we must treat it with every seriousness that it deserves”, he said.

Other members of the panel are Dr Sani Aliyu as National Coordinator, Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadia Farouk and Minister of Education Adamu Adamu.

Others are Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, Minister of Environment Muhammed Mahmood, Director General, Department of Security Service Yusuf Bichi, Director General Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu and World Health Organization Country Representative Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu.

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