The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic has raised an alarm over the practice of some Nigerians picking face masks from dumpsites to recycle and sell.
The chairman of the task force and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who warned on this during the task force briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, said it was not only harmful to the individuals picking them, but also to those buying from them.
He said: “Particularly, the PTF has become aware of the ongoing practice of sharing masks and picking of masks for recycling from dumpsites. This places a lot of responsibilities on all of us to be self-educated and to educate others.
“The following points are emphasized: With the exception of fabric masks, every disposable used mask is a hazardous medical waste and should be disposed of properly, preferably by burning. It is very risky to share masks as the virus is capable of remaining on surfaces for several hours and you could get infected; the unhealthy practice of picking up disposed masks for whatever purpose is harmful to both the individual picking it and whoever procures it later.”
The task force chairman reminded high-risk people such as the elderly and those with certain conditions to wear masks or face covering and avoid crowded places.
He further advised: “As we reminded you earlier, please keep grandchildren away from their grandparents to avoid any transmission. Most importantly, emphatically say no to stigmatisation.
“Let me say once more that the primary responsibility of government is to protect the lives and property of all citizens. On the other hand, citizens have a duty to collaborate with the government by shunning risks and actions capable of jeopardising the protection provided.
“We shall continue to put in place strategies and measures targeted at flattening the curve of this coronavirus while at the same time urging and persuading you to comply.”
The SGF pointed out that given the impact of the pandemic on the world economy and Nigeria’s income, government alone cannot bear the burden.
He, therefore, reminded citizens that as efforts are on to learn the lessons from COVID-19 by fortifying Nigeria’s health systems and infrastructure against present and future pandemics, there is still a lot to be done and investment to make.
He added: “The PTF mentioned at the briefing on Monday 11th May 2020 that it had commenced focus on community ownership, guidance, acceptance and implementation in the control of COVID-19. This certainly requires a great deal of investment in strengthening our primary health care system, the manpower and the infrastructure.
“I, therefore, call on other corporate citizens and public-spirited individuals to play significant roles by injecting the much-needed investment into the rural health infrastructure. Given the impact of the COVID-19 on the global economy and our national income, it has become obvious that the government alone cannot bear this burden.
While noting that the world is in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, he stressed that one key solution to it is collaboration and partnership.
According to him, the power and benefits of partnerships have been vividly demonstrated in the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s support, the UN One Basket Fund, the interface with other nations, the intervention by individuals and corporate citizens within and outside Nigeria.
Mustapha noted that even though the world is not expecting a COVID-19 vaccine until the end of 2012, Nigeria is in a hurry to have a home-grown one.
However, he appealed to researchers to be patient and to follow the laid down protocols to get approval for their solutions.
He said: “Since the recording of the index case, Nigerians have clamoured for research into homegrown solution to COVID-19. The PTF, as part of its mandate, has continued to promote research and wishes to repeat its appeal to all our researchers to go through the validation process so as to enable humanity benefit from their hard work and they in turn benefit from the intellectual property rights associated with such research.”
On the rising number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, he said that it does not scare the task force as it is the outcome of the ramping up of tests.
“Rising figures doesn’t scare us because that is the intendment,” he stated.
Mustapa reiterated that the movement of Almajirai across the country goes against the spirit of the interstate restrictions but noted that the measure can only succeed where there is a universal application of the directive.
While noting that the movement of Almajirai is not an essential service, he also said more than a few people cannot be allowed to accompany agriculture products vehicles, saying: “We allow movement of food but not with large persons.”
Mustapha urged state governments to align their actions and enforcement with the guidelines provided for the containment of the disease.