The Federal Government has said that it is considering to stop inter-state and inter-town travels in the country.

In a statement on Thursday, the Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says that the nation’s strategy at containing the pandemic is working, adding that the country still has a long way to go.

While stressing that he does not mean to spread panic, the minister noted that bold measures have been taken and more steps of such nature need to be taken to ensure that Nigeria beats the virus.

Lai Mohammed’s communique partially read:

“Gentlemen, I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic. But the truth is that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.

“In view of this, we are considering tougher measures to enforce compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to states that do not have it and minimize spread. Possible measures include:

“Stopping inter-state/inter-town travels, except for essential services. “Closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations. Already, all train movements nationwide have been stopped.

“Using fire fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate cities and towns”.

The minister who had earlier told Nigerians to brace up for tougher measures in the efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic told newsmen that the government knows its priorities and challenges.

He hailed the state governments that have taken bold measures to ensure that people are safe, including the closure of markets and the prohibition of large congregations.

Mr Mohammed, however, noted that the Federal Government is determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

Below is a full statement by the minister for information and culture.

TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE HON MINISTER OF

INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, IN ABUJA ON THURSDAY, 25 MARCH 2020

Good afternoon gentlemen, and welcome to this press conference, called

to update you on the measures being taken by the Federal Government to

tackle the Coronavirus pandemic.

  1. I want to say straight away that our strategy at containing this

pandemic is working, but we still have a long way to go. We know our

priorities and we know our challenges. We have taken very bold

measures in stopping international flights into the country, and we

hail the state governments that have take equally bold measures in

their states, which include the closure of markets and the prohibition

of large congregations.

  1. However, we are determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the

measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, such as:

– Social distancing

– Contact tracing

– Testing

– Isolation of suspected cases

– And ensuring that our messaging gets down to the grassroots

  1. Gentlemen, I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic. But the truth is

that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively

enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within

which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the

cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.

  1. In view of this, we are considering tougher measures to enforce

compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to states that do not

have it and minimize spread. Possible measures include:

– Stopping inter-state/inter-town travels, except for essential services

– Closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations. Already, all

train movements nationwide have been stopped.

– Using fire fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate

cities and towns.

We will be considering and announcing new measures from time to time,

but rest assured that whatever decisions we take will be in the best

interest of Nigerians.

  1. Let me announce that we have received donated safety and test

kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China. The supplies are:

– 100,000 Face Masks

– 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

– 20,000 test kits

The face masks and the PPE will be distributed to the front-line

health workers while the test kits will be shared among the five test

laboratories.

  1. We are also taking measures to increase the number of bed spaces

for isolation of suspects. The facilities we have now include the

40-bed DSS Hotel, the 60-bed Medical Centre in Zuba and the 160-bed

Women Development Centre in Abuja, We are still looking at other

facilities within the Federal Capital Territory.

  1. As we said during our last press conference, contact tracing is

very critical to stopping the spread of the virus. Today, we have 51

cases covering 8 states:

Lagos – 32

FCT – 10

Ogun – 3

Ekiti – 1

Edo – 1

Bauchi – 1

Osun – 1

Oyo – 1

Rivers – 1

We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are

tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to

immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support

the authorities in this regard. We are on the verge of reaching the

level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will

record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to

say this.

  1. Let me say, without mincing words, that we are not getting the

kind of cooperation that this moment deserves from Nigerians. Many are

busy engaging in meaningless criticisms instead of complying with the

stipulated directives to keep people safe. Some Nigerians who flew

into the country from overseas filled wrong addresses and phone

numbers in their forms, making it difficult to trace them when the

need arises. Some Nigerians defied orders to stay away from large

gatherings while some religious leaders willfully flouted the

directives to ensure social distancing. The government is doing its

best but we need the citizens to do their best too. We have now gone past

the stage of persuasion. It’s time for strong enforcement.

  1. This brings me to the rising instances of fake news associated

with coronavirus. The epidemic of fake news is now competing with the

pandemic of coronavirus, and this is not helping the fight against the

disease. Instances of such fake news include

– That there are only two ventilators in Abuja, out of which one has

been commandeered for a top government official

– That a British Airways Flight was due to land in Nigeria on

Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports.

– That President Muhammadu Buhari has been coughing and is now on ventilator.

Fake. Fake. Fake. It’s all fake news.

 

  1. A section of the traditional media has also been engaging in

scaremongering and irresponsible reporting on the disease. It is wrong

to speculate on those who are positive or negative for coronavirus

without any empirical information. In any case, being positive to

coronavirus is not a death sentence, as we can see around the world.

There is no need for the kind of scaremongering we are seeing in a

section of the

media. The danger is that this scaremongering can even discourage some

who may want to come forward for testing. We therefore wish to appeal

to the media to be more circumspect in their reporting.

  1. Gentlemen, we have noted the decision of at least five domestic

airlines – Air Peace, Aero and Azman, Dana and Arik – to suspend their flight

operations. The suspension is a boost for the efforts of the

government to check the spread of the pandemic. Some of the airlines have also

announced one form of support or another for the government’s efforts

to tackle the

pandemic. This is very commendable. We are aware of more private sector support

to the FG and will be announcing this after full compilation. We seek

the support and

cooperation of more capable individuals and organizations in order to

defeat this pandemic.

  1. Finally, we appeal to Nigerians not to panic. It is said that

panic is our greatest enemy. The Federal Government is determined to

work with the good people of Nigeria to defeat Covid-19. And defeat

the disease we will.

  1. I thank you, gentlemen, for your kind attention. I will now take

your questions

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