Nigeria: Prospects Of Lifting COVID-19 Restrictions Soon Bleak, Buhari Braces For Stimulus Package

Nigeria is not likely to lift the coronavirus restrictions too soon even though a greater majority of the citizenry are experiencing severe pains.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says countries that want to lift restrictions must meet a row of conditions to prevent another surge of infections.

WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in his weekly address to Geneva-based diplomats on Thursday, says easing social and economic curbs “must be done extremely carefully. If done too quickly, we risk a resurgence that could be even worse than our present situation.”

Already, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration says it is working out a stimulus package that will hedge Nigeria’s economy from global recession and to the path of positive growth by 2021.

Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister, Zainab Ahmed, made this known on Thursday while answering questions from State House Correspondents after the meeting of the Economic Sustainability Committee presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

According to her, the global economy will go into recession in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic now ravaging countries of the world.

She says the prediction of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that Nigeria will go into a negative growth of -3.4 per cent next year was based on the assessment of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the country.

“But if we take all these measures that we are planning now, we will be able to by 2021 go back into positive growth. That is why this is very important”, she says, adding that the stimulus package being worked out by the Economic Sustainability Committee, will be approved by President Buhari before it will be announced.

“But remember that the president had already announced an initial package of N500 billion. So now, how that N500 billion will be used and subsequent intervention, which we will be rolling out when funds from multi-lateral institutions come in, is what this committee is working on. 

‘’We are looking at various ways and means to support each sector of the economy, providing within clear interventions that would be designed for the primary purpose of creating jobs and ensuring that businesses stay afloat during these difficult times”, the minister said.

She, however, pointed out that the committee will in the next couple of days finalise its report before submitting to the president for approval.

In the meantime, the WHO big boss says, first of all, governments must ensure that the spread of the novel coronavirus is under control.

According to new WHO guidelines, this means health authorities must know the origin of every single case and cluster of infections.

National health systems must also be able to find, test, isolate and treat every new case, and all recent social contacts of every infected person must be tracked down. Also, Tedros stressed that countries that want to ease their curbs must minimise infection risks in hot spot settings such as hospitals and nursing homes.

On the fourth condition, he said preventive measures must be in place in workplaces, schools and other essential locations. These include physical distancing, hygiene etiquette and, possibly, temperature measurements, according to the new WHO guidelines.

While countries ‘’ must’’ also manage the risk of importing new cases from abroad by detecting infected travellers and quarantining those who arrive from hot spot countries, Tedros also said it is important that “communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the new norm’” of behaving in ways that prevent new infections.

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