The Federal government yesterday warned top government officials and Very Important Persons, VIPs, not to approach airport terminals with their aides or personal assistants, saying such privileges will no longer be entertained once the operation of domestic flights commences tomorrow.

Giving the warning during the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said only the person traveling will be allowed within the terminal, in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.

Sirika also revealed that social distancing will be observed on occasions where there was available space, adding that normal seating arrangements won’t be out of place as aircraft cabins remained some of the safest places.

“We are going to sequence our arrival and departure so as to know the number of passengers entering the terminal building.

“Furthermore, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that top government officials, top military personnel, members of national and states assemblies, governors and judicial officers, among other VIPs, are not allowed to enter airport terminals with their aides or PAs as they will no longer be allowed once flight operations commence on Wednesday, July 8.

“We are going to commence domestic flight operation on Wednesday July 8, with Lagos and Abuja having passed the test of operation. Kano is also ready for operation, while Port Harcourt and Owerri are going to be ready shortly.

“If there is space in the flight, social distancing will be observed but if otherwise, people will have to seat normally because COVID-19 protocol risk of contamination is reduced while seating in cabin.

“For emphasis, people should get to the airport early enough, so they can be observed for the symptoms of COVID-19 along with other protocols. Wearing of face mask is going to be mandatory. If you don’t wear face mask, we are going to consider you as being rude and not worthy to board the flight.”

Speaking further, Sirika, said food would no longer be served on domestic flights when operations resume, explaining that the decision is part of efforts to control the spread of coronavirus on flights.

“For domestic operations, there will be no food. No food will be given to reduce contamination level and we will allow you to come with your mask.

“Like the MD of FAAN said the other day, we see it as your private thing. So, you have to bring your mask, they don’t have to be the fancy ones.”

On how cabin crew came into existence, he said the cabin crew’s job was not to offer tea to passengers.

He said: “They came into the industry because of people who were getting air-sick so we thought we would be putting nurses in the airplane to look after those people who are sick. Since then, they metamorphosed and became something new.

“They want to now give you tea because many people don’t get sick anymore, they will give you coffee, offer you food and drinks and so on. So the main purpose of the cabin staff is to ensure that we all remain safe for your welfare and your health.”

In his presentation, Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, urged political parties and politicians to embrace mass communication tools to reach prospective electorate rather than encouraging mass physical gathering.

He said: “As we all know that COVID-19 virus thrives in mass gatherings, we need to encourage use of mass media as tools for soliciting votes because the virus will not realize that we are having election. So we need to think of the lives of electorate first, their existence is more important than any vote you may get.

“We have new online courses for health care professionals; the online courses bring infection control to your door steps. If you have challenges in your office and want to learn how to decontaminate your facilities after an event, the online programme will be of help.

“The idea is to transform how people relate with infection control. Over 15,000 health workers across the country have been trained so far and the training will be ongoing.”

On his part, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said that half of the total fatality of Nigeria COVID-19 was recorded in the month of June.

He said: “As of today, we have recorded 28,711 confirmed cases in the country, while in June alone 15,532 cases were confirmed positive from 74,580 tests with 380 deaths. Half of the total fatalities since inception of this outbreak in the country occurred in the month of June.

“We plan to boost sample collection by making public hospitals sample collection centres. The more we test, the more confirmed cases we will record and the earlier we can put those vulnerable patients under medical attention, the better the outcome.”

Osagie emphasized that only accredited hospitals, whether government or private, are allowed to treat COVID-19.

“COVID-19 positive patient should not take invitation to isolation as punishment, it is in the interest of all of us. Government runs testing for COVID-19 and it is free, we hereby call on the general public to report anybody that demands for money,” he said.

He urged religious and traditional leaders to drive home the message of COVID-19 prevention, saying “we want the knowledge of Nigerians to improve in terms of signs and symptoms of COVID- 19.

“Religious and traditional institution should encourage compliance with protocols, such as face masks, social distancing, hand washing and sanitization, disinfecting of gathering venue, among others.

The government also advised Nigerians against repeating the mistakes of 1918 when people let down their guards, following the ease of the lockdown that was imposed during the Spanish Flu.

It warned that the attitude of Nigerians in the coming days would determine whether there should be a need for another round of lockdown to be imposed on the country.

Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said the Task Force would not shy away from recommending another lockdown to be imposed on the country should the need arises.

He said: “As to whether we would advise Mr President to consider another lockdown, I have said it here that lockdowns might not be popular but what will happen in the preceding weeks will determine. ‘’Madagascar has imposed a lockdown in spite of its herbal cure. About 39 states in the US, because of the Thanksgiving Holiday and their National Day celebration on the 4th of June, have begun to see spikes in their figures and the speed with which they were considering the ease of lockdown, a lot of states have slowed down.

“We have now isolated 11 local governments. We started with 20 but the dynamics of figures that keep jumping every week, there are now about 11 local governments that we have advised the sub-nationalities to consider precision lockdowns in these areas. I believe as the days and weeks ahead would present, I will not be speculative as to what would happen in the future, but we will do everything within our mandate to ensure the safety and the protection of the well-being of the people of Nigeria. If that would require a recommendation of a lockdown, this Task force will not shy away from its responsibilities. We will take that decision. We will make our recommendations to Mr President who will finally decide.”

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