FG set to lift interstate lockdown

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The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, has commended long distance passenger transport owners, whose business were suspended due to the two-month long ban on inter-state travels, for drafting and submitting a set of safety guidelines ahead of envisaged easing of restriction.

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), made the above commendation during PTF’s daily press conference in Abuja on Thursday.

He also disclosed that it was done under the aegis of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA).

According to Ihekweazu, the measures cited by PTONA were in alignment with the task force’s advice to various groups, to take responsibility in their respective areas, towards fighting the pandemic.

He advised other organisations to follow suit, and do as the transportation body has done.

“PTONA members have drafted their own guidelines for reopening safety. And they have sent it to us for review and to advise them on the measures they are now recommending on how to manage their loading centres, their buses and their engagement with their customers at the point when we may allow them to re-open," he stated.

He remarked, “And this is really what we have been advising every society, every organisation, every community; be it faith-based, be it culture based, be it professionally based, to come up with guidelines for themselves.

We are happy to advise, we are happy to engage, but this needs to be owned by the leaders of those various organisations.

“We need every bit of society to take responsibility for that part where they own and manage. It is only by working through this that we will be able to come out of this pandemic. But, like Chair of the Task Force {Boss Mustapha} so eloquently said a few minutes ago, the society will not be same in the near future, and we have to learn to adapt.”

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Some of the recommendations by the leadership of PTONA were that all passenger operations shall be carried out from designated organised/standard bus terminals, and not from road sides; and that terminal shall designate a staff as ‘health officer’ who shall be acquainted with all Covid-19 prevention/management protocols, in addition to liaising with appropriate NCDC official in the state of operation.

The letter signed by PTONA President, Isaac Uhunmwagho of Efex Executive/Efosa Express, and Frank Nneji, of ABC Transport Plc, committed to ensuring that each station has a washing station with water storage bucket, receiving bowl and liquid soap, for the use of customers/passengers entering the premises.

“There shall also be provided a hand sanitizer in a standard dispenser. Both washing station and sanitizer have to be placed in strategic locations for the use of all customers. An infrared thermometer must be provided by the company at each departure terminal.

“At the entrance of the premises, there shall be a staff responsible for monitoring the temperature of everybody using a standard ultraviolet thermometer. The normal body temperature of healthy individual is 36MOC. Any temperature above 37.50c shall be reported for appropriate action.”

The transport owners also pledged to ensure that both staff and customers in their premises, wear appropriate face masks covering the nose and mouth, while each terminal must be decontaminated two times daily, before resumption of work and at the end or work each day. Each vehicle is also to be sprayed inside, and the seat handles wiped down using sodium hypochlorite 3.5 percent.

The PTONA members further assured that each vehicle would to be provided a hand sanitizer to be dispensed to passengers prior to boarding and re-boarding of buses, while operators shall for the purpose of physical distancing, reduce the number of passengers per row to two

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For instance, according to the memo, a typical 15-seater bus shall now convey nine passengers, including the driver, while a 59-seater bus shall convey only 28 passengers. AII vehicles shall operate without air-conditioners to allow free flow of fresh air.

"PTONA shall have a task force to work jointly with designated representative of the government, like the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to ensure compliance to all the protocols listed above,” the transport owners stated.

There was, however, no word from the PTF on when the ban on long distance passenger transportation would be reversed in response to the commended initiative of PTONA.