Coronavirus: Nigerian govt. to engage Christian, Muslim leaders on social distancing
The Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus epidemic (Covid 19) has set up a sub-committee to engage faith based organisations from both Islam and Christianity on social distancing measures at preventing the disease.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this on Wednesday while giving update on Covid-19 on a Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) programme, Good Morning Nigeria.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports other guests that appeared on the programme are the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnibe Mamora, the Director General of National Orientation Agency, Garba Abari and the Provost, College of Health Science, University of Africa, Abdusalami Nasidi.
Mr Mohammed said government did not intend to impose social distancing directive on faith-based organisations without consultations.
“When the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 met yesterday, one of the recommendations is that there is the need to strengthen collaboration among the federal, states, local governments, faith based organisations, partners and donors.
“One of the decisions taken is that a sub-committee of the team should engage faith based organisations from both sides.
“If Saudi Arabia can cancel all conventional prayers, nothing stops us from doing so, if that will help in containing the pandemic.
‘We will, however, not take this measure without engaging all the concerns
“It was decided that the next meeting of the National Council of State, the Minister of Health will brief all the governors on the need to take ownership of the disease,” he said.
The Minister said the government information agencies including NAN, NTA, FRCN and VON had been actively involved in information dissemination on the disease.
He said he would be inviting Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) on the need for their private sector members to see the disease as national emergency which they must assist by giving air time.
Speaking on imposition of travel ban, Mr Mohammed said government would not hesitate or shy away from taking any measure that will protect Nigerians from the virus.
“You can see that even the cancellation of the national sports festival is part of the decision the government has taken to protect Nigerians.
“The committee also banned all travels by all government officials whether it is seminar or meetings
“It gives travel advice to Nigerians that unless it is very essential, they should postpone all travels at this time
“Government also directed that anybody coming from high index risk countries should self-isolate while government will do follow up
“Therefore, we are watching the situation and monitoring them very closely.
“We are not unaware of actions from some countries that have posed travel ban, but for us I think there are certain things that we need to do before it gets to that stage,” he said.
He recalled that when the first index case was reported, there were panic and attacks on the Chinese that they should go and test themselves, whereas the victim was not a Chinese, but an Italian.
The minister further underscored the need for all Nigerians to take ownership of this epidemic.
“Some people today are behaving as if the disease is not their concern but Coronavirus is not a respecter of anybody whether you are a minister or a cleaner.
“We have to be conscious and adhere to the guidelines for prevention such as personal hygiene and social distancing and listen to our doctors and experts,” he said.
In his contribution, Mr Mamora similarly stressed the need for every Nigerian not to be complacent.
“It is everybody’s concern; we must not be complacent because the price of complacency is huge.
“It is better for everyone to see one’s self as a potential carrier of the disease; So that we will be very careful.
“What we fear most is community transmission of the disease.
“We do know that 80 per cent of those who contacted the virus are asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) or they manifest mildly,” he said.
He noted that if the people do not take necessary precautionary measures the government may be compelled to impose extraordinary measures in terms of limiting the rights of association, movement.
Mr Garba, on his part, said that NOA would continue to disseminate information from the city to the grassroots in local languages educating people on the virus.