Nigeria is hoping for the best in its efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, but it is also prepared for the worst, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has said.
The minister also urged Nigerians to be prepared for tougher directives that the government may put in place to tackle the disease.
Mr Mohammed said this on Monday at a press briefing in Abuja on the federal government’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“The truth is that things may yet get worse than it is now, hence the need for all hands to be on deck. Tougher decisions may yet be on the way to contain this disease. But whatever decision is taken will be in the best interest of Nigerians,” he said.
The federal government has already shut all schools and all international airports to prevent the spread of the disease. Many states have also put in place directives to limit public gatherings.
On Monday, Mr Mohammed assured that the federal government is prepared to take on and defeat the pandemic.
“President Buhari has assured Nigerians that the government is on top of the situation and that there is no cause for panic. This is not the time to engage in name-calling, second-guessing the government or playing politics”.
He urged Nigerians to come together as one to stop coronavirus dead in its tracks, as the virus just like Ebola does not select its victims on the basis of their political party affiliation, religion or ethnicity.
He commended the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Immigration officers and others at the ports of entry as the first responders.
“We also thank Nigerians for complying with all the preventive measures being put in place by the government,” he said.
Having shut the country’s airports, the minister requested the cooperation of the general public in the area of ‘contact tracing’.
“As you may be aware, health services use ‘contact tracing’ to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, in this case, coronavirus.”
He said an Inter-Ministerial/Multi-Sectoral Preparedness and Response Committee set up by the federal government on January 31 has been responsible for the formulation of many of the containment measures so far rolled out.
The committee was set up to put in place an action plan for joint response, in the event that the importation of the disease occurs, to ensure its containment.
He also recalled that President Buhari on March 9 set up a Presidential Task Force for the Control of Coronavirus, especially to check the disease’s potential of causing significant disruption to health services in the country as well as impacting negatively on the economy.
“Our efforts to tackle coronavirus are not being helped by the spread of fake news,” Mr Mohammed lamented.
He said the news going around that the virus cannot affect Africans for one reason or another, or that the young are immune to it is not true.
“Based on what we know so far, no one is immune to this disease. In New York, for example, 54 per cent of those infected are between the ages of 18 and 49.
“As the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned, young people are not immune to coronavirus and must avoid socialising and communicating it to older, more vulnerable people.”
He also said the prescription of chloroquine (which has not been approved for treating coronavirus), garlic, hot bath, etc, as the cure-all for the virus, should be shunned.
He said Facebook has been bringing down flagged posts in this regard and Whatsapp is working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to strengthen the capacity to keep the public informed on coronavirus.
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He also said a message being circulated on social media claiming that the federal government has agreed to pay N8,500 to each citizen to stay at home for one month starting from March 3, is fake.
The message also asked Nigerians to enter their voter’s card number or national identity card number and other details on a certain website link in order to access the money.
He urged Nigerians not to fall for the scams.
“An audio recording that is being circulated on social media, especially on WhatsApp, has made some bogus claims, including that Nigeria is seeking to buy used protective gear from China, waiting for money from the WHO before doing anything, that Nigeria has no funds to tackle the disease because the foreign reserves have been exhausted and funds were stolen, that Nigeria is understating the figures of those infected, etc.
“This is a most irresponsible, inaccurate and definitely orchestrated job by a charlatan and should be disregarded by all Nigerians. It is obvious that this hatchet job is aimed at distracting the hard-working health officials and misinforming Nigerians in order to create panic,” he said.