COVID-19: Evacuation of Nigerians ends August 22, says FG

The Federal Government, on Monday, said the ongoing evacuation of Nigerians from abroad as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic would end on Saturday, August 22, 2020.

The Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this during a press briefing in Abuja.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said with the stoppage of evacuation, the nation’s airports would be given sufficient time to prepare for reopening.

He also disclosed that some countries, such as the United States of America, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, had expressed their readiness to repatriate convicted Nigerians, who had been pardoned and paroled.

Mustapha stated, “A number of countries have signified intention to repatriate Nigerians convicted and pardoned and paroled in those countries. They include the UAE, Egypt and the United States of America.

“Coming in the midst of our national response to COVID-19, all relevant agencies of government are taking multi-sector steps to ensure that the process remains within acceptable international protocols and in line with bilateral agreements.

“For the purpose of clarity, this should be distinguished from the normal evacuation flights and we wish to state that all evacuation flights will end on August 22, 2020, after which the airports will be given sufficient time to prepare for reopening.”

Mustapha said the PTF had continued to observe “noticeable decline in fatalities, high discharge rates and consistent under 500 daily cases” for the past four weeks in spite of the huge increase in testing capacity and increase in the number of daily tests conducted.

He, however, said the nation had not attained the desired level that would enable the PTF to make conclusive statements on the rate of infection in the country.

“We must, therefore, continue to do that which is giving us record improvements and desist from actions capable of undermining our successes,” he said.

The PTF’s National Coordinator, Sani Aliyu, however, explained that the August 29 date proposed for the resumption of international flights was not sacrosanct.

Aliyu also said the low level of positive cases did not indicate that the virus had gone.

“We need more people to get tested,” he said.

High level of compliance with protocols by WASSCE candidates

Mustapha added that the PTF noted the “high level of compliance with the protocols” as the West African School Certificate Examination commenced nationwide on Monday.

“As a listening government, we wish to state that education is topmost on the priority list and the reopening of our institutions remains critical within set safety parameters,” he added.

‘We can’t rejoice yet’

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, reiterated that the fewer positive cases of the past few days gave the nation no reason to rejoice or to let down its guards.

He stated, “As we expand and include small towns and rural areas in our testing scope, a more accurate picture of our COVID-19 status will emerge.

“There is good reason to prepare for COVID-19 invasion of rural areas with testing, first aid, ambulance service and commensurate isolation and treatment centres.”

The minister noted that the government’s target was to reduce the fatality rate to less than one per cent.