FG lifts ban on interstate, air travels, partially reopens schools

From Our Correspondent

The Federal Government, on Monday, partially lifted the ban on interstate movement but extended the second phase of the eased lockdown by four weeks.

Mr Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, announced this at a press briefing Abuja.

Mustapha said that within this extended phase, there will also be a safe re-opening of schools to allow graduating students back to classes, while interstate movements would only take place outside curfew hours.

The SGF, who announced the new measures, said that President Muhammadu Buhari “has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase II of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, through Midnight of Monday, July 27.

“Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:

Maintaining the current phase of the national response for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatriated by the National Coordinator;

Permission of movement across State borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July 2020;

Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places; Safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations and;

The safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable”. Only pupils in Primary Six and students in Junior and Senior Secondary III would be allowed back to classes to write their terminal examinations.

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Mustapha lamented the continued and general non-compliance with safety measures, noting that Nigeria could experience a resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

He said: “The PTF also escalated its activities around risk communication to Nigerians but we have observed with growing concerned the non-compliances with these measures designed to prevent transmission and protect vulnerable segments of the population.

“We hold the strong view that if such actions do not abate, experiences of the resurgence of the virus from other jurisdictions including China, the U.S., Brazil and across Europe may emerge in Nigeria and we run the risk of erasing the gains made in the last three months”.

According to him, the spread has entered the community phase which only states and local governments should drive, adding that the inaction of a particular State could endanger its neighbours and compromise the entirety of the response.

The SGF added that the Federal Government will predicate its resource deployment to States on the level of compliance and the extent of collaboration received on this public health emergency.

On increased airfares, SGF remarked that there is a general increase in the prices of goods and services, saying airlines would have to increase their fares to remain afloat.

“I think there is a general increase in everything, not only air tickets; if you go to the market now, the prices prior to COVID-19 are different from what you get in the market now.

“That is the difficult thing that is going to confront us as a people. Because of the protocols that are going to be introduced in the whole business of aviation, you would definitely expect an increase in the fares.

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“The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria FAAN has already increased its customer service fare by 100 per cent.

“It used to be ₦1000 but now it is ₦2000 even before the operations start.

“So, it is not just the airlines, even the government institutions who have the responsibility of managing the aviation industry will review their charges because that is the nature of what COVID-19 has thrust on the people of the country and all over the world.

“Also, there is going to be some bit of social distancing in the aircraft; if an aircraft has the capacity of 150 people, they might now be restricted to about 100 or 75.

“Flying comes with components of cost; Aviation fuel is one of them; salaries for the pilot and cabin crew are part of it and services that are paid to the aviation industry institutions are there.

“The costs have to be shared by the passengers and the business owners because nobody runs a business at a loss.

Profit is the motivation for going into business. Flying is not a social service”, he declared.

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