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As secondary schools in Nigeria resume Tuesday (today) for the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), the Presidential Task Force on Control of COVID-19 Monday said the second wave of the pandemic would destroy the economy and lead to too many deaths if not prevented.

National Coordinator Presidential Task Force Dr Sani Aliyu said this while speaking to journalists in Abuja.

He said opening up of the economy and other activities should be done safely because the country cannot afford another lockdown.

The federal government had last week directed the reopening of schools across the country from August 4 to enable students in exit classes prepare for their examinations.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the examination would commence August 17.

PTF cautions

Addressing journalists in Abuja on ensuring observance of necessary protocols, PTF national coordinator, Dr. Aliyu urged businesses reopening to ensure precautionary measures were adopted, saying many countries had already imposed a second lockdown following a resurgence of the spread of the disease.

“We urge businesses that are reopening to align themselves to our efforts by establishing and practicing COVID-19 sensitive business precautionary measures.

“We eventually have to reopen, but we can only do so if we reopen safely. It is quite clear, as we can see from the other parts of the world, that certain countries are now going back into lockdown state because of the pandemic coming back again, otherwise called recrudescence or what we call a second wave.

“We really cannot afford to have this happening in this country. It will destroy our economy and it will lead to a lot of deaths. Therefore, we have to reopen safely, we cannot risk another shutdown nor can we risk more lives being lost,” he said.

Aliyu said the PTF would provide data-driven and scientific advisories to make Nigeria safe on the gradual reopening.

He said data analysis had shown that a large population of Nigerians lived in denial of the virulent nature of COVID-19, warning that it would be dangerous to be fooled into complacency.

“With the reopening of the economy, the PTF will continue to provide data-driven and scientific advisories that can protect us from this pandemic. So far, our data analysis shows that most Nigerians continue to be in denial of the dangerous nature of this virus.

“As our airspace and various sectors are opening up, it’s really very easy to forget and be fooled into complacency, but we really shouldn’t.

“We are urging everybody to always follow the approved non-pharmaceutical advisories, such as the use of facemasks all the time and properly, health and respiratory hygiene as well as physically distancing, in order to protect ourselves and our most vulnerable parts of the population.

“We can only win the fight against Coronavirus when our knowledge of prevention translates to our daily behaviours at home, at our workplaces, our religious centres and in fact anywhere, we definitely must embrace this new reality, especially as the world continues to look for a permanent solution to the pandemic.

“PTF will like to appeal to the state governments and religious bodies to proactively prevent transmission of the virus by continuing to advocate and practice the approved preventive measures and guidelines,” he said.

Buhari donates PPEs

Also speaking at the briefing, the PTF |Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha,  said  President Muhammadu Buhari  donated Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) and medical supplies worth N67 million to the government and people of Sao Tome and Principe.

The SGF said the president donated the medical equipment as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Champion on the Containment of COVID-19 in the West African sub-region.

He said the PTF was set to present the sixth interim report on the eased lockdown to the president, the outcome of which would pave a way forward for the PTF.

“I am happy to inform you that, as the ECOWAS Champion on the Containment of COVID-19 in the West African Sub-Region, Mr. President made a donation of N67million worth of PPEs and medical supplies to the government and people of Sao Tome and Principe.

“Mr. President’s leadership of this regional effort would be more impactful if Nigerians demonstrate that our National Response could be replicable in other West African countries by changing their behavior.

“The PTF will submit its 6th Interim Report to Mr. President and subject to his approval, we hope to present the way forward to Nigerians at the next briefing on Thursday 6th August, 2020,” he said.

He said the Presidential Task Force believes that schools remain a veritable ground for community transmission of coronavirus in the country.

“We informed you about the date that exit examination classes in schools would reopen preparatory to the commencement of examination. I wish to restate that the education sector is critical for the development of our children and our nation.

“Reopening the sector is also a source of concern based on the fact that the school system remains a veritable ground for increasing community transmission if appropriate protocols are not put in place and more importantly adhered to. In this regard, the PTF wishes to implore stakeholders to ensure that the agreed protocols are put in place and measures strictly adhered to,” he said.

On Edo, Ondo polls

On the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states as well as similar ones in Nasarawa, Mustapha said: “The National Response would continue to guide the adoption of sector specific guidelines and protocols just as the PTF is currently concluding discussions with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on appropriate guidelines to be adopted for elections beginning with the August 8th bye-election in Nasarawa state to be followed by those for Edo and Ondo states in September and October respectively.

“I, therefore, wish to use this opportunity to implore party leaders, aspirants, members and supporters to remain mindful of the virulent nature of COVID-19 during electioneering campaigns and other election processes. We need to remain alive to enjoy the benefits of our democracy,” he said.

He thanked Nigerians that continue to respond to call for involvement in the National Response initiatives to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“In this regard, we thank the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, for donating four motorized modular fumigators (two each to the PTF and the FCT).

“In the same vein, we want to appreciate the UN Basket and European Union for delivering the second tranche of the PPEs, medical supplies and equipment,” he said.

104 unity schools for inspection

Meanwhile, the federal government has said it will carry out an assessment tour of all unity schools in the country as students in exit classes resume for academic activities Tuesday.

Minister of State for Education Emeka Nwajiuba announced this Monday in a statement by Director of Press and Public Relations Federal Ministry of Education Ben Bem Goong.

He was quoted to have said this at the virtual meeting with the 36 state commissioners of education.

He said the tour, which would be led by him, aims to assess the level of preparedness of the various institutions.

He said the permanent secretary in the ministry, Sonny Echono, and the directors of the ministry would join him in the assessment tour.

“Ahead of August 4, 2020, the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba has announced that all the 104 Unity Colleges are ready to open their gates to exit classes tomorrow.

“Announcing the preparedness of the Unity Colleges at a meeting with Honourable Commissioners of Education of the 36 States of the Federation this (Monday) morning via the Zoom platform, the Minister lauded Principals of Unity Colleges for the comprehensive preparation put in place for resumption.

“Across states, Honourable Commissioners reported varying degrees of preparation and readiness for reopening between August 4 and 10 for virtually all schools within their jurisdictions.

“From today (Monday), the Honourable Minister of State for Education, Permanent Secretary and Directors will embark on an assessment tour of all Unity Colleges to ascertain and confirm the reports they have received from the Principals of Unity Colleges.

“Similarly, Federal Education Quality Assurance Directors deployed to the States have been directed to monitor compliance in their respective states. Honourable Commissioners from the States were enjoined to embark on assessment tours in their jurisdictions to ascertain the level of preparations for reopening.

“While most schools will reopen tomorrow (Tuesday), others will continue to fine-tune their preparations in the coming days for reopening. Education Minister, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, is asking all schools to communicate their specific reopening dates to their parents and students in order to avoid chaos in the system.

“All returning students are to undergo temperature checks among other protocols before being admitted into their schools,” the statement said.

Kwara distributes facemasks

And ahead of schools’ resumption, the Kwara state government Monday gave out 65,000 facemasks for distribution across schools ahead of Tuesday’s resumption of students preparing for the secondary school certificate examinations.

The facemasks are to be distributed to senior secondary class three (exit) students as part of the government’s efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission in the state.

Announcing the distribution in Ilorin, the state capital, Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi told reporters: “On behalf of the Kwara State Government and His Excellency AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq I present these face masks to the Honourable Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development (Hajiya Bisola Ahmed) for onward distribution to our SS3 students as they prepare to resume academic activities. This is just the beginning as they will get more and more of our support.

“This is the first phase as we are also giving out sanitisers while the ministry of education, working with the committee and stakeholders in the sector, has been mandated to ensure that safety rules are adhered to.”

In her response, Hajia Ahmed said the state government was making every effort to adhere strictly to the preventive measures as directed by the Federal Ministry of Education for the safety of our students.

“Our SS3 students will resume this week, precisely on Wednesday. We have 65,000 face masks here which will be distributed to schools across the three senatorial districts of the state. The face masks are now being distributed through the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS). This is the first phase of what will be provided to schools,” she said.

“We have spoken with the principals of the schools and they are ready to support the state government and we assure you that all the preventive measures as directed by the Federal Ministry of Education will be provided as the schools resume.”

The commissioner said only the SS 3 students are to resume on Wednesday for now, adding that other exit students would be communicated on their date of resumption ahead of their own examinations.

Also in a remark, president, Kwara chapter of the All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPPS), Mr. Toyin Abdullahi commended the government for the proactive steps.

“I want to assure the government that the face masks will be distributed to the SS 3 students while ANCOPSS will complement the efforts of the government to ensure safety in our schools,” he said.

Kaduna schools open August 10

In a related development, the Kaduna state government has directed secondary schools to open from August 10 to enable SSS 3 students write their final examinations.

The state Commissioner for Education, Mr Shehu Makarfi, said in a statement  made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Monday in Kaduna that the directive was in compliance with the FMoE’s resolution for schools to open beginning  August 4.

He said:  “Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i has approved Monday, Aug.10 as the resumption date for the SSS 3 students that are expected to begin their WAEC examination slated for Aug. 17.

“Therefore, the Ministry of Education is directing all school principals to arrange to receive SSS 3 boarding students on Aug. 9 and day students on Aug. 10.

“All administrators of public and private schools are to note that the one-week period commencing from today is to allow for necessary preparations and arrangements to meet COVID-19

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