The Federal Government has released a 52-page set of guidelines for the reopening of schools in the country as it continues to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it listed several conditions that must be met, the government, however, did not give a specific date as to when schools would reopen.
It also warned Nigerians against flouting the COVID-19 safety protocols, specifically stating that meetings by government establishments shall continue to be by virtual means where participants are more than four.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who gave the charge at yesterday’s briefing of the task force in Abuja, equally urged politicians in Edo and Ondo states to be circumspect in their dealings, ahead of the forthcoming governorship elections in both states.
He said: “The pandemic would not go away by a wish, neither would it go away if we refuse to keep safe. All government offices shall continue to hold virtual meetings in their offices, especially where participants exceed four persons and suspend all unnecessary travels for meetings.
“For corporate organizations, Board members, etc, the reopening of the domestic flights should not be misconstrued. The PTF strongly encourages virtual meetings as well.
“We still urge places of worship to cautiously follow the guidelines on public gatherings; and we urge members of the political class, particularly in states where elections are scheduled for September and October to exercise utmost circumspection in their gathering for whatever reasons.”
He said the level of carbon emissions in Abuja has drastically reduced following the initial lockdown imposed on the city and the current partial restriction which has led to fewer people driving on the roads.
Reopening of schools
On reopening of schools, Mustapha said the Federal Government would not do anything to compromise the safety of students and pupils.
He said: “The PTF has assessed the circumstances and has put in place necessary guidelines to be followed while the managers of the sector have the responsibility for drawing up the protocols and determining the dates. We urge Nigerians to follow closely the critical steps being taken by the Federal Ministry of Education in conjunction with other stakeholders.
“Further to this, the Federal Ministry of Education has released Guidelines for Schools and Learning Facilities reopening after COVID-19 pandemic closure. The guidelines clearly spell out major things to consider before schools and learning facilities shall reopen, the reopening process, sequencing and scheduling of safe reopening, and decisions about schools reopening. The Minister of State for Education will elaborate on this.
No Nigerian cure yet
“The PTF recognizes the efforts of our innovators, researchers and research institutions in working to get a solution to the COVID-19, especially its cure. However, we refrain from misleading the public into believing that a cure has been found or certified when indeed the validation processes were still on-going.
“This call is necessitated by the recent publication that a cure for COVID-19 had been listed by NAFDAC. The agency has debunked the claim and we advise Nigerians to be vigilant.”
Guidelines for Schools
Also speaking, Minister of State (Education), Emeka Nwajiuba, who did not give a specific date as to when schools would be reopened said the guidelines contain what managers of schools have to do before they can be reopened and also what they must do to remain open.
In the guidelines obtained by Vanguard, the Federal Government gave conditions for the reopening of schools. Part of the guideline states: “The federal and state governments should be guided by recommendations, advice, or directives from the World Health Organisation, WHO, Federal Ministry of Health, FMoH, and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, for effective risk avoidance and mitigation of the effect of COVID-19.
“Decision making should also involve all major stakeholders, including government at all levels, communities, and civil society. This is to ensure that decisions and planned actions are based on comprehensive analysis, consensus, and adequate consideration for context.”
Also to be considered is the level of community transmission nationwide and level of compliance with the safety guidelines. A team of Readiness and Compliance Assessors would also be dispatched to schools with a checklist to determine their suitability for reopening.
Questions to be answered before schools should reopen
The Federal Government listed several questions that must be answered before schools should reopen in any part of the country. Some of the questions are: “What is the level of compliance by the public with the guidelines? There has to be evidence that this compliance can translate to the education community when schools reopen.
“How much capacity has Nigeria developed for national testing? What is the capacity to test, trace, isolate, and support the schools when cases are suspected? Does Nigeria have the capacity to test all returning staff and learners in (boarding) school facilities?
“What is the capacity of the healthcare systems nationwide to promptly detect and contain an upward surge in the number of coronavirus cases if a second wave occurs? Are schools able and ready to implement infection prevention and control measures?
“What is the capacity of schools and learning facilities nationwide to maintain safe school operations (such as social distancing) to mitigate risks? For example, size of classroom compared to a number of learners; cross-ventilation in classrooms/TLCs; availability of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) amenities, including latrines, hand-washing facilities with soap and water?
“How does the school population travel to and from school? What’s the risk of using public transportation for teachers, education personnel, and learners?
What are the community-related risk factors to reopening schools for both teachers and learners, considering epidemiological factors, public health and healthcare capacities, population density, and adherence to social distancing and good hygiene practices?
“Federal and states Ministries of Education should decide when to reopen after due consultations with the Presidential Task Force PTF on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control NCDC, and other critical stakeholders, including non-state education providers, teachers’ unions, PTAs, and school-based management committees (SBMCs). It is equally crucial that consultations are held and communicated exchanged with parents, teachers, learners, and communities to understand and address common concerns.
“Decisions on safe reopening should be contingent on meeting the requirements set out in these guidelines and on a case-by-case basis for each school and learning facility. To this end, a multi-sectoral approach comprising of education, health, environment and, Emergency Operation Centres (EOCs) should use the Joint Assessment for Safe Reopening of Schools and Learning Facilities to determine when each school should reopen.”
183,294 tests so far
Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed that about 183,294 Covid-19 tests have been conducted so far, adding that the ministry is encouraging all health facilities not to reject patients but to refer them to other institutions where such cases cannot be handled at those levels.
“Nigeria has now carried out 183,294 COVID-19 tests, 28,296 of them within the week since my last briefing. 32,558 persons in total have been confirmed positive. The high figures within the past week compared to the previous weeks, suggest an increase in the pace of testing but also in infection incidence.
“From reports of the activation of sample collection sites in FCT, the laboratory throughput will increase, as will the number of positives until, the curve flattens at a yet unknown time. This strategy is to be replicated in other states of the Federation. Increasing bed space at State levels will continue to be advocated.”
No int’l flights yet
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika also stated that the Federal Government has not decided on when to reopen the airspace for international flights, saying the ministry is observing the trend in other countries including those in the region.
He said: “Certainly, you are aware that there are so many countries that have placed a ban on countries and we cannot fly into those countries. Also, in Nigeria we have placed a ban on other countries and who cannot also come in here because everybody is trying to keep safe.
“These and many other reasons will make us to be cautious and to liaise with stakeholders and then decide on when we will reopen international flights.”
In aviation, we personally want to open like yesterday because we are losing revenue, we are bleeding but we must remain alive first before we are able to make money. So, we have to ensure that everybody is safe and whatever decision we are taking has to be in the interest of humanity in general. So, this is the guiding principle and we will continue to observe developments internationally and we also have an economic community within which we live, which is ECOWAS. We will also liaise with them and see what is good for us as a country and we will reduce the risk of contaminating our people”.