TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE HON MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, IN ABUJA ON THURSDAY, 26 MARCH, 2020.
Good afternoon gentlemen, and welcome to this press conference, called to update you on the measures being taken by the Federal Government to tackle the #Coronavirus pandemic.
- I want to say straight away that our strategy at containing this pandemic is working, but we still have a long way to go. We know our priorities and we know our challenges. We have taken very bold measures in stopping international flights into the country, and we hail the state governments that have take equally bold measures in their states, which include the closure of markets and the prohibition
of large congregations.
- However, we are determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, such as:
- Social distancing
- Contact tracing
- Isolation of suspected cases
- And ensuring that our messaging gets down to the grassroots
- Gentlemen, I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic. But the truth is that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.
- In view of this, we are considering tougher measures to enforce compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to states that do not have it and minimize spread. Possible measures include:
- Stopping inter-state/inter-town travels, except for essential services
- Closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations. Already, all train movements nationwide have been stopped.
- Using fire fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate cities and towns.
We will be considering and announcing new measures from time to time, but rest assured that whatever decisions we take will be in the best interest of Nigerians.
- Let me announce that we have received donated safety and test kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China. The supplies are:
- 100,000 Face Masks
- 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- 20,000 test kits
The face masks and the PPE will be distributed to the front-line health workers while the test kits will be shared among the five test laboratories.
- We are also taking measures to increase the number of bed spaces for isolation of suspects. We are still looking at other facilities within the Federal Capital Territory.
- As we said during our last press conference, contact tracing is very critical to stopping the spread of the virus. Today, we have 51 cases covering 8 states:
Lagos – 32
FCT – 10
Ogun – 3
Ekiti – 1
Edo – 1
Bauchi – 1
Osun – 1
Oyo – 1
Rivers – 1
We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are
tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support
the authorities in this regard. We are on the verge of reaching the level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to say this.
- Let me say, without mincing words, that we are not getting the kind of cooperation that this moment deserves from Nigerians. Many are busy engaging in meaningless criticisms instead of complying with the stipulated directives to keep people safe. Some Nigerians who flew into the country from overseas filled wrong addresses and phone
numbers in their forms, making it difficult to trace them when the need arises. Some Nigerians defied orders to stay away from large gatherings while some religious leaders willfully flouted the directives to ensure social distancing. The government is doing its best but we need the citizens to do their best too. We have now gone past the stage of persuasion. It’s time for strong enforcement.
- This brings me to the rising instances of fake news associated with coronavirus. The epidemic of fake news is now competing with the pandemic of coronavirus, and this is not helping the fight against the disease. Instances of such fake news include
- That there are only two ventilators in Abuja, out of which one has been commandeered for a top government official
- That a British Airways Flight was due to land in Nigeria on Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports.
- That President Muhammadu Buhari has been coughing and is now on ventilator.
Fake. Fake. Fake. It’s all fake news.
- A section of the traditional media has also been engaging in scaremongering and irresponsible reporting on the disease. It is wrong to speculate on those who are positive or negative for coronavirus without any empirical information. In any case, being positive to coronavirus is not a death sentence, as we can see around the world.
There is no need for the kind of scaremongering we are seeing in a
section of the media. The danger is that this scaremongering can even discourage some
who may want to come forward for testing. We therefore wish to appeal to the media to be more circumspect in their reporting.
- Gentlemen, we have noted the decision of at least five domestic airlines – Air Peace, Aero and Azman, Dana and Arik – to suspend their flight operations. The suspension is a boost for the efforts of the government to check the spread of the pandemic. Some of the airlines have also announced one form of support or another for the government’s efforts
to tackle the pandemic. This is very commendable. We are aware of more private sector support to the FG and will be announcing this after full compilation. We seek
the support and cooperation of more capable individuals and organizations in order to
defeat this pandemic.
- Finally, we appeal to Nigerians not to panic. It is said that panic is our greatest enemy. The Federal Government is determined to work with the good people of Nigeria to defeat Covid-19. And defeat the disease we will.
- I thank you, gentlemen, for your kind attention. I will now take your questions