The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has blamed governors, traditional and religious leaders for allowing crowds to gather and break safety protocols during electioneering in Edo State and burial of Senator Buruji Kashamu in Ogun State.
The PTF, at its national press briefing on Monday, said it was dismayed by the development.
Kashamu, who died on Saturday at the First Cardiology Consultants Hospital, Lagos, from COVID-19 complications, was buried in his Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, home on Sunday, with a large crowd in attendance in deviance to safety protocols.
Both the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party have also held campaign rallies in Edo State ahead of the September 19 governorship election.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, was asked about the large crowds at the campaigns and at the burial, where social distancing rule was broken and many people failed to wear face masks.
Responding, Aliyu said, “I must say that we are dismayed with the level of compliance, when it comes to some of these activities.
“The issue is; we know that COVID-19 does not act like a proper pandemic. If you have a proper pandemic like Ebola, as I have always said, you will have dead bodies on the streets, people bleeding to death; that sharp factor is there and we do not need to do anything further to convince people to protect themselves and to do the right thing.
“We are faced with a pandemic that is an invisible enemy; we are faced with a pandemic where the majority of us would probably not have come across somebody with COVID-19.”
Aliyu said leaders in the respective states failed to ensure compliance with protocols at the events, urging them to ensure more enforcement of safety guidelines.
Aliyu also stated, “When it comes to wearing of (face) mask for instance; when you wear a mask, it is actually an act of kindness and caring. What you are saying is that you care about the people that you will meet; you don’t want to infect them with COVID-19.
“The same thing applies when it comes to social distancing. It is much easier to be proactive. It is much easier for civil authorities, leaders and governors to make sure that those situations that pose a risk of mass gathering are avoided.”
He said Nigeria was lucky that it had not recorded the high number of deaths that other countries had recorded.
Aliyu stated, “Nevertheless, a lot of people have died – close to a thousand Nigerians have died – that would have still been with us today if not for COVID-19.
“We certainly have to continue to engage Nigerians, enlighten them and encourage them to take those simple steps that are necessary to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
The National Coordinator said the PTF would continue to urge the states to step up their enforcement of safety protocols and guidelines, especially those who had established mobile courts to try offenders.
Responding to a question on a World Bank credit facility to Nigeria in the fight against the pandemic, Aliyu said the $114m approved by the global bank was a credit facility to the Federal Government but would serve as a grant to the states.
The Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, disclosed that 85 local government areas in the country had so far not conducted any COVID-19 test.
As a result of this, he said the affected local government areas in the 20 states had not reported any case of the virus.
He added that five states still account for 60 per cent of confirmed cases while 50 per cent of all cases were in 20 per cent local governments.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on his part regretted that Nigeria had lost 945 persons to the COVID-19 infection.
He said, “The figures show that Nigeria is also sadly approaching the symbolic 1,000 number of fatalities, a grim reality that should be a wake-up call for us.
“Many more Nigerians today personally knew a person who succumbed to COVID-19, and so I ask that we remind ourselves today that COVID-19 is still with us and will be for a long time.
“Until there is a vaccine, the only options we have to protect ourselves, are still the non-pharmaceutical measures that are proved to be cheap and effective, such as the appropriate use of face masks, physical distancing and avoiding crowds. If we do not adhere, there could be regrets. “