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Fed Govt exempts banks from restriction

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COMMERCIAL banks were on Monday exempted from the restriction on movements and activities in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The exemption, announced by the Boss Mustapha-led Presidential Task Force on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, came hours to the enforcement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 24-hour lockdown in the two states and FCT.

The announcement was made at a news conference at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) in Abuja.

It also came on the heels of news that the President has appointed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as head of an Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC).

Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who is a member of the PTF, disclosed at the conference jointly addressed by his ministry and that of the OSGF, broke the news on the second COVID-19 death.

Mustapha explained that the exemption granted banks was to ensure that banks provide skeletal services while the restriction lasts.

On the operations of the newly constituted ESC, Mustapha said the terms of reference would be made available subsequently.

He, however, appealed to all Nigerians for understanding, especially because of the inconveniences that would come with the measures being introduced to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19.

The SGF said: “For economic sustainability, Mr. President has, today, approved the constitution of a committee to be chaired by His Excellency, the Vice President. The terms of reference of the committee will be announced soon.’

“Similarly, Mr. President has approved the exemption of the financial services sector from the restrictions, to allow skeletal operations in the financial system and money markets to keep system in light operations during this period.

“Let me use this medium to appeal to all Nigerians, through you, for full understanding, unity of purpose and in the interest of humanity, to observe all measures put in place, remain vigilant and cooperate with security and other agencies who are toiling day and night to keep us safe and alive.

“The response strategy of the PTF shall remain focused on testing, detection, contact tracing, containment, slowing down the spread and management of coronavirus.

“A lot of questions have been asked by the public about testing and the PTF is always willing to provide relevant information and clarifications.

“The PTF remains the Strategic Decision and Coordinating Body for the National Response on COVID 19. It is important to state that a National Response Strategy for COVID-19 has been developed and is being constantly reviewed as dictated by developments.”

Speaking after the SGF, Dr. Ehanire said the second COVID-19 death was recorded over the weekend, adding that the deceased was suffering other illnesses.

He disclosed that the Ministry of Health had intensified efforts at contacts tracing, adding that the strategy remained prompt detection of suspected cases.

The minister said: “Till date, three persons have been discharged after successful treatment, but sadly, another fatality was recorded over weekend in the person of a patient who has severe underline illnesses.

“We have intensified contact tracing and our strategy remains to promptly detect cases, isolate them and follow up with their contacts and also isolate and treat in other to reduce the spread of the infection.

“As of today, the 30th of March 2020, we have recorded 111 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, out of  which 68 are in Lagos, 21 in FCT, seven in Oyo, three in Ogun, two in Bauchi, two in Edo, two in Osun, two in Enugu and one each in Benue, Ekiti, Kaduna and Rivers states.

“Majority of them are persons who came from overseas and others have been traced as close contacts of such returnees.

“The high number of cases in Lagos and Abuja is due to their function as country gateways for air travel.”

He said that the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) had also been empowered to expand its capacity to test for COVID-19.

“The NCDC is working round the clock to improve turn-around time for testing in all our six molecular laboratories. We aim to scale up to 13 laboratories in next three weeks. In progress- Abakaliki, Maiduguri, Kano, Sokoto, Port Harcourt, Jos and Kaduna,” the minister said.

He, however, reminded Nigerians that testing for the virus is free of charge.

Source: The Nation Online

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