The Federal Government has said it is cautious in lifting restrictions on the gradual reopening of the economy in order to avoid dragging the nation back to the beginning of the pandemic.

The government said that although the country moving towards further relaxation of the lockdown, the government said it was not convinced that the time has come in terms of the impact of the pandemic to further relax those restrictions.

National Coordinator of the presidential task force on COVID-19, Dr. Aliyu Sani disclosed this at the briefing of the task force on Tuesday.

President Muhammadu Buhari, had during one of his national broadcast placed restrictions on movements and banned mass gatherings in order to contain the spread of the virus.

After about five weeks of stay-at home – order placed on residents of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, the President eased the restriction and ordered a gradual phasing of the lockdown with new guidelines.

They include the compulsory use of face mask, enforcement of physical and social distancing, washing of hands with water and soap as well as the use of hand sanitisers.

Last Sunday marked the end of phase one of the eased lockdown directed by president Buhari in April.

The PTF, on Monday, announced the extension of the easing of lockdown to allow a gradual reopening of the economy in six weeks.

Dr. Sani said: “The PTF certainly appreciates the adverse impact this is having on people’s livelihood but as I keep on saying, we are trying to balance saving lives with saving livelihood. We are in the process of moving towards further relaxation of the lockdown but as far as the next two weeks are concerned nothing has changed.

“We have been given approval by Mr. President to extend those same conditions we had two weeks ago for very good reasons. One, being that we are not convinced that the time has come in terms of the impact of the pandemic to further relax those restrictions.

“As we all know, the level of compliance with some of those guidelines we have provided has been limited at best in some areas and we have to make sure that whatever we do in terms of taking actions or decisions we do not drag ourselves back to the beginning of the pandemic again. We do appreciate this. It is one of the things we will continue to consider as we monitor the next two weeks.”

Sani said that the extension was to provide the public with the window of opportunity to start adjusting and preparing for new life with COVID-19 infection.

The national coordinator also said that the extended conditions for the gradual easing was to prepare and make sure that Nigeria continues to slow down the pandemic so that there is no rebound.

Dr. Sani noted that all guidelines issue during the first phase of the eased lockdown remain.

He said: “The purpose of the extension is to provide the public with the window of opportunity to start adjusting, to start preparing for the new life with COVID-19 infection. We are in for the long haul, this pandemic is not going to end in the next few days or few weeks, it is going to be with us a little longer.

“Therefore, the easier we start putting in place measure to adjust our lives and behaviour the faster we will be able to get back to normal. We also extended the conditions for the gradual easing to prepare and make sure that we continue to slow down the pandemic so that we do not have a rebound.

“Now is the time to intensify efforts in terms of the safety advisories we have provided, in particular, wearing mask and staying at home as much as possible.

“There is no doubt that community transmission is intensifying and the speed at which we implement the safety advisories that we have provided will also determine how fast we can come out of this pandemic.

“In terms of the guidelines on the lockdown, the existing easing of the lockdown remains largely the same for the two week extension. In particular, interstate travels except for essential travels and transport of essential services remain restricted, the ban on passenger flight will remain in place.

“Religious places, schools, clubs, bars, pubs, sporting and gaming centres remain closed. We must continue to maintain physical distance of two meter at all times. Mass gathering of more than 20 people in the work place remain restricted.”

He urged state governments to come up with their own specific initiatives to fight the pandemic.

Sani said: “We are encouraging states to come up with their own state specific initiatives. This pandemic is going to be with us for a little longer. It cannot continue to be driven primarily from the federal level.

“We have to ensure that state governments start taking ownership. Our responsibility is to provide guidance to the states and make sure that those decisions that we have taken at the federal level are being implemented in one way or the other by the state governments.

“As we all know, the key responsibility of any government is to ensure the health and wellbeing of the people and I am use the state governors are doing the same as well and they are very much aware of these responsibilities.”  THE NATION