President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, approved the lifting of restrictions on interstate travel effective tomorrow. He also extended the second phase of the relaxed lockdown by four weeks beginning Tuesday, June 30, 2020 to midnight of Monday, July 27, 2020. Though all schools will remain closed, arrangements would be made for graduating students in Primary 6, JS3 and SS3 to resume and prepare for examinations.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 Boss Mustapha and PTF Coordinator Sani Aliyu made the disclosure in Abuja, yesterday, during the daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
Aliyu said: “All day care and primary schools are to remain closed till further evaluation. Schools should continue with e-learning and virtual teaching. But pupils should proceed to take the National Common Entrance Examination as soon as it is feasible, provided there is compliance with non-pharmaceutical guidelines.
“For secondary and tertiary institutions, all schools are to remain closed till further evaluation. Arrangements are to be made for exiting graduating students in Primary 6, JS3 and SS3 to resume at both day and boarding schools as soon as possible for intensive revision exercises.
“All educational establishments must conduct exhaustive reviews to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 guidelines before they open. Arrangements will be made for students taking WAEC, NECO and NABTEB exams, and all schools must comply with the six recommended steps and required measures to be issued by the Federal Ministry of Education before an institution is reopened in the timeline to be provided.”
Mustapha called for increased adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions, saying in the absence of a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, this alone will save the country. He said the aim of the second phase of the eased lockdown was to sustain the gains of previous efforts to control the pandemic and enable the restart of additional sectors of the economy.
The Federal Government also lifted the ban on local flight operations, even as it disclosed that the industry would benefit from a N2.3 trillion bailout package.
Aliyu said domestic operations could open as soon as practicable but in line with existing international and local guidelines on COVID-19.He noted that passengers must arrive the airport three hours before flight to observe health protocols put in place by the airport authority.
“You must observe social distance, wear a face mask, wash your hands, sanitise them, your luggage must be disinfected, temperature taken and so on.”Mustapha said that given the reality on ground, passengers should expect a review in airfares and other services at the airports. He said with the 100 per cent increase in Passenger Service Charge by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, bills for services would no longer be the same. According to him, this also applies to other government aviation agencies and private businesses in the industry.
Mustapha admitted that the industry was hard hit by huge revenue losses following the cessation of flight operations for over three months. To recoup these, passengers and business owners would have to share the cost, he said.
He said: “There is going to be a maintenance of social distancing, a bit of it inside the aircraft. If an aircraft has a capacity of 150 people, they might now be restricted to about 100 or 75. Flying comes with several components. Aviation fuel is one. Salaries for pilots and cabin crew is another. Every time you see a plane take off, there are attendant costs. Who will bear the cost? It will be shared. The passengers will take part of it while the business owners take the other part.
“Profit is the motivation when going into a business. Flying is not a social service. They will find a way of recouping their money. We must be prepared for this cost.”He assured that the industry would benefit from a stimulus package being put together by the government to cushion the effect of the pandemic.
“As part of the intervention, government, either through the Central Bank of Nigeria or the stimulus package in the economic sustainability plan has N2.3 trillion. I believe that the aviation industry would have a part of that. The minister for aviation would be in a better position to explain how that would be administered.”
Meanwhile, the chairman, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in Kwara, Olayinka Onikijipa, yesterday, applauded the Federal Government for lifting the ban on interstate movement.
Onikijipa described the development as a welcome decision, saying the union has put in place guidelines to ensure drivers and passengers do not disobey government’s directives on preventing the spread of COVID-19.
He said: “We are very happy at the development. This marks the end of hunger caused by the pandemic. We appreciate our President and the Federal Government for lifting the ban and for all they are doing to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have put up our own set of guidelines in accordance with the government’s directives, and we are going to ensure it is adhered to. We have made arrangements for infrared thermometers to be used at all our parks, so that passengers’ temperatures can be checked before they board any of our vehicles.
“We have also told all our members to have alcohol-based hand sanitisers in their cars and that all passengers and drivers must make use of facemasks. We are also going to ensure physical and social distancing in our vehicles and parks.”