Four members of the Presidential Task Force on the control of novel coronavirus pandemic, who attended the burial rites of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, briefed journalists Monday amidst concerns raised by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and others.
They are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha; National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu; Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama; and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq.
NUJ raises concerns
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) council of the NUJ had in a statement in Abuja, asked the PTF members that attended Kyari’s burial to excuse themselves from the daily briefing and commence the mandatory 14-day self-isolation stipulated by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Federal Ministry of Health and global medical and health institutions.
Speaking at the daily briefing on the status of COVID-19 in the country, PTF Chairman, Mr. Mustapha said mistakes were made during the burial of the late CoSi, stressing however they were unintentional mistakes.
“The PTF recognises, regrettably, the unintentional violation of the principles and protocols that form the core of our messaging to Nigerians, at the funeral of the late Chief of Staff. These principles for emphasis include: i. the guidance provided on mass gatherings; ii. social distancing; iii. personal hygiene; and iv. restriction of movements,” he said.
The SGF also said lessons had been learnt and appropriate measures taken to close all gaps, even as he assured Nigerians of their safety and the determination of the PTF to combat the pandemic.
He also warned that COVID-19 outbreak was far from over in Nigeria, saying the increase in number of COVID-19 patients was worrisome.
“The significant increase in the number of cases and distribution across states underscore the importance of remaining focused as citizens and as a nation because of the enormity of the challenges ahead.
“This is the time for all hands to be on deck so that the PTF can improve on its delivery. We must all come together because we face a common enemy and potential risk. We must flatten the curve at all cost and restore our country to full activity,” Mustapha further said.
Also speaking, another attendee at the burial and PTF national coordinator, Dr Aliyu, apologised for the mistakes made during the burial of the late Chief of Staff.
“The PTF will like to acknowledge and apologise for the mistakes that were made regarding the burial of the late Chief of Staff. We realised that crowd control failed, we have learned from this and we will ensure that future events are adequately regulated and follow the task force’s protocols,” he said.
He said the Gudu Cemetery where the deceased was buried had since been decontaminated, and personal protective equipment discarded at the site burnt in line with NCDC guidelines.
“I’ll like to further clarify the issue of COVID-19 and the burial processes. Contrary to what is on social media, the body of the late Chief of Staff was properly prepared for burial, according to NCDC guidelines and the Islamic faith.
“The bodies of persons with COVID-19, as stated clearly by the WHO guidelines “except in cases of viral haemorrhagic fever and cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious. To date, there’s no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to the bodies of persons who had died of COVID-19.
“Therefore, we will like to further assure the public that we will continue to follow the guidelines and protocols we had produced. The NCDC guidelines are very much reflecting the WHO guidelines.
“We’ll also like to assure the public that the task force takes its presidential mandate seriously and is committed to executing it to the best of its ability. We ask for the public to continue holding us accountable for our actions. We read your comments on social media, we listen to you and also acknowledge the issues that might arise, please continue to do so, it is the only way we can continue to improve and fight this big challenges we have.”
Paying tribute to late Kyari, he said: “The task force will like to acknowledge the prime role that the Chief of Staff played in establishing the Presidential Task Force, he fired the first shot against COVID-19. We will continue to honour his memory and we will continue to do everything possible to overcome this pandemic.”
On whether the PTF would extend the privileges granted during Kyari’s funeral to other families that might request same, Aliyu said: “Like the chairman said, the incident over the weekend was not intentional, it was a crowd control issue, no privileges were given.
“In a pandemic situation, you cannot differentiate between the rich and the poor, you cannot differentiate between nationalities and neither can you differentiate between races because the virus itself does not differentiate.
“The Presidential Task Force is committed to making sure as we move forward, that necessary steps are taken so that this sort of episode does not happen again.”
‘We can’t self-isolate’
On why those of them who attended the burial were not on self-isolation as directed by the presidency,” he said: “In terms of self-isolation, we have clear cut guidelines for isolation: If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, we’ll have to isolate you when we test.
“If you have had contact with a case of COVID-19, we’ll isolate you, if you are coming from an area that is of high prevalence, we will isolate you. So these guidelines in terms of self-isolation and quarantine are very clear.”