The federal government Thursday announced plan to reopen schools across the country.
It said state governments and school administrators should start making preparations towards full reopening of the schools.
Schools across the country were shut in the wake of the COVID-19 to curb the spread of the global pandemic.
As a prelude, the federal government okayed the resumption of graduating students August 4, 2020, to write this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination from August 17, 2020, through September 12, 2020.
Announcing the preparatory plan Thursday, National Coordinator Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu told journalists at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja, that the task force had recommended the phased return of students to schools.
“For educational institutions which include daycare, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, educational institutions should begin the process of working towards potentially reopening within this phase.
“However, we strongly recommend that states conduct risk assessment to ensure all schools are at a level of compliance and create a monitoring mechanism to assess, create, and monitor this level of preparedness.
“Meanwhile, all daycares and educational institutions are to remain closed to in-classes until this level of risk is assessed. And if there will be opening of schools, it must be staged and preferably carried out in phases to ensure that this does not pose a risk to the general public and in particular to vulnerable groups that might end up getting infected by students going back home,” Aliyu said.
Also briefing journalists, the PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the country’s advancement to the third phase of eased restrictions.
This, he said, was to address the economic, socio-political and health concerns occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, adding that, the third phase would last till a time when the epidemic is sufficiently controlled in Nigeria.
He said the president had also extended the PTF mandate from September 17 to end of December 2020.
Mustapha said: “Nigerians will all recall that at the onset of the eased lockdown, the PTF drafted a three-phase strategy of easing the restrictions, ahead of a full reopening of the society and economy.
“In determining what phase of the strategy to move to, the PTF tried to balance the public health and economic considerations alongside data analysis. The PTF believes that while Nigeria is not ready for a full re-opening of the economy, there has been sufficient progress to warrant significant further relaxation of the restrictions applied.
“Based on the foregoing, the PTF today submitted its 7th Interim Report to Mr. President for his consideration and approval. The main thrust of the recommendation is that Nigeria advances to the third phase of eased restrictions with further amendments, to address economic, socio-political and health concerns. This will last till atime when the epidemic is sufficiently controlled in Nigeria.
“Accordingly, Mr. President has considered and approved the following: Transition into the third Phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for a period of four weeks with effect from 12.01 am on Friday 4th September, 2020 in line with amendments to address economic, socio-political and health considerations reflected in the implementation guidelines; Continued engagement with States and Local Governments to improve community sensitisation on the response; Maintaining the current non-pharmaceutical interventions nationwide; Urging the State governments to work with Local Government authorities in their states to intensify necessary measures such as contact tracing, grassroots engagement and risk communication; Strengthening the collaboration between the Federal and State organs to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response, in the short, medium and long-term basis; and Introduction of sanctions including the suspension of passports or denial of foreign travels for violation of current provisional travel-related quarantine protocols.”
He said the PTF mandate was extended by the president to sustain a robust multi-sectoral national response, ensure the country successfully navigates the community spread stage of the pandemic, and strengthen health system and other socio-economic infrastructure to enable them meet national aspirations.
He said as Nigeria opens up its sky to international flights on September 5, 2020, the PTF was concerned about the rising number of cases in South Africa and Ethiopia.
The SGF said the concerns stemmed from the volume of passengers from two countries into Nigeria.
“South Africa still has the highest case count in Africa, but has fallen from the fifth to the sixth position in the world. In Ethiopia, the numbers have been on the increase. Both South Africa and Ethiopia are of interest to Nigeria in view of the passenger traffic between Nigeria and the two countries and our plans to reopen the international air space,” he said.