From Our Correspondent
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 on Thursday urged Nigerians to prepare for difficult days ahead as cases of coronavirus infections continue to rise.
The Chairman of the Task Force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who spoke with newsmen in Abuja, that Nigeria is not out of the woods yet.
Mustapha also raised the alarm that 80 per cent of infected persons were not in isolation centres.
He warned that the effect of increased transmission of the dreaded disease would be seen in three weeks through increased death figures as a result of the pandemic, adding that the risk of infection is now higher.
According to him, Nigeria has recorded 17,735 while 469 people have died from the deadly virus.
Mustapha said that Nigerians must cooperate with government to tackle the challenge of resistance to change.
“When we started it was one (case) on the Feb. 27, but today, we have a recorded over 17,000 and it is still counting.
“And the truth of this matter is that the adverse effects of these numbers will not be seen now until three weeks ahead.
“That is when you will begin to see the projections of the mortality, because it takes that length of time to go through the processes of incubation and the adverse effect of it.
“We have got hard days ahead; we have got tough days ahead and we need everybody to understand that we are not out of the woods yet.
“Sometimes, when I am coming to the office in the morning I see people casually put their masks under their chin, that’s when they care to carry it and people go about their businesses as if there is nothing to dread.
“There are more difficult days ahead, there are harder times ahead as our figures begin to rise.
“We have not finished with the first wave; we have not even peaked.
“So don’t talk about the second wave, but rather, let us deal with the first wave because there is so much work to do,” Mustapha said.
The SGF noted that 80 per cent of infected persons are not in isolation centres because of fear of stigmatisation.
He projected that the government was taking care of only 20 per cent of patients who showed up at isolation centres after developing critical symptoms.
Mustapha said: “You may care to know that almost 80 per cent of people that are infected are in no form of isolation centre or hospital.
“We are just caring for about 20 per cent that has decided to show up or provide themselves when they are critically ill for the management and care.
“Most people, one of the reasons they decide to avoid the isolation centres or don’t present themselves until it is late and complications begin to develop is because of this simple reason of being rejected and of being treated differently.
“My appeal to all of us as Nigerians is that there is no point stigmatising anybody because he is infected with the coronavirus.
“It is a disease that has defiled boundaries, the high and mighty are afflicted, the low and downtrodden are afflicted, the rich are afflicted, and the poor are afflicted.
“It has no respect for anybody either gender, creed or nationality.”
On resistance to change, Mustapha said that the greatest challenges were human resistance to change, stigmatisation, mental health, scepticism, culture, religious belief, rising incidents of domestic violence and a host of others.
“There is a resurgence of the second wave in countries like China and the United States and this should put all of us on alert, knowing that this virus can only be eliminated if we all agree to play our part.
“This call becomes more pertinent as we go fully into the rainy season that ordinarily brings with it cold, catarrh and other COVID-19 mimicking illnesses. Our call to take personal responsibility cannot be more strident than now.”
While recalling the terms of reference given to the committee, Mustapha enumerated some of what he called the modest achievements it has recorded within the period.
According to him, COVID-19 pandemic is certainly the greatest invisible public health emergency that has threatened humanity in modern history.
“As at the last recorded numbers on Wednesday, June 17, global figures of confirmed cases were 8,408,203, resulting in 451,463 deaths in 213 countries.
“Unfortunately, as at the same period, Nigeria accounts for 17,735 and 469 fatalities,” he said.
The SGF warned that the risk of contracting the virus was higher than before, saying “there’s no doubt that a lot of community transmission is happening and it continues to increase across the states.
“Now, more than ever before, if you go out, you are more likely to get COVID-19 than before.
“Your risk of acquiring COVID-19, because of the numbers we have now is more than three, four weeks ago when we had the lockdown.
“So, there isn’t any room for relaxation at this point”.
He explained that the reason why the government had to relax the lockdown was in order to sustain the livelihoods of Nigerians, particularly those who depend on the daily income for survival, “as well as to sustain our economy.
“It wasn’t because the COVID-19 is gone, or because we should be more relaxed in terms of our prevention measures”.