Harry Awurumibe, Head, Abuja Bureau
Determined to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic which is yet to record a casualty in Nigeria, the Federal Government today ordered the indefinite postponement of the much advertised National Sports Festival code-named Edo 2020.
This piece of information was made public today in Abuja by Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare and the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olurunimbe Mamora who briefed journalists after a crisis meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking to the State House Correspondents on the postponement, Dare said, “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development because of the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival, has been in close touch and consultation with the ministry of health – particularly with both the minister of health and the minister of state, health. We’ve also being in consultation with the governor and deputy governor of Edo State, the LOC, and the MOC but we have had the Ministry of Health take the lead. Based on daily review on developments, we got assurances that we could go ahead. But because we are dealing with a dynamic situation, this morning, we had a meeting at the Ministry of Health in the office of the Minister of Health with the Minister of State, Health present, myself, the Permanent Secretary and the Director General of NCDC. Shortly after the meeting which lasted for about 45 minutes, we proceeded to the Presidency to brief Mr President. After briefing Mr. President, Mr Presdent took the initiative and gave the directive that the National Sports Festival, christened Edo 2020 should be postponed as a precautionary measure against the press of COVID-19. A new date will be communicated late based on development around COVID-19”.
The Minister continued, “Let me also add that for the benefit of the sporting community, the ministry of youth and sports recognises the fact that a lot I resources, a lot of efforts on the part of our athletes has gone into preparing for Edo 2020 – 36 states and the FCT, but we think that staying healthy to be able to compete in not just Edo 2020 bit other sports and tournaments, is very important. So the interest of the health of our sports men and women is paramount at this time. But beyond that, we are looking at 11,500 people in Edo State for two weeks and we think that, that is a huge number, we think that we should go by just what the Minister of State Health has said, we have done extensive review and we just want to say, we have the interest and the welfare of our sports men and women at heart and we know that not too far from now, we will be able to re-enact the festival in Edo”.
Also speaking at the briefing, Minister of State Health (Mamora) said, “You’ve listened to the Honorable Minister of Sports, the only thing to add is that yesterday, I had the privilege to brief the press on the update on COVID-19 in Nigeria, and I did say at that briefing around this time yesterday (Monday) that because of the dynamic nature of what we are dealing with, inspire of listening to advise or guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO), each country still has the liberty to take decision in the best interest of that country and of course, taking onboard the country’s experience and reality on ground.
“I did say that as at that time, if the situation happening thereafter, dictates that certain action be taken, we would not hesitate to take such and so it was against that background that we also had a meeting this morning with the Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports and we felt that in the overall interest of Nigerians and national health security, it is better to err on the side of caution and therefore, we conveyed to Mr President our thought and Mr President thereafter kindly agreed that it was best for us to have this postponement.
According to him, “one of the things that we need to give attention to is the posponment is the possibility of people carrying the virus even without knowing – what we called A-Symptomatic – that is they carry it but they don’t even know because they are not manifesting symptoms. And what we need so far is that up to 80 to 81 percent of people would either be A-Symptomatic – that is not showing any symptoms or where they show symptoms, the symptoms may just be mile and moderate and this is a major source of what we call community transmission. So the principle of social distancing has to be respected. That is preventive or advising against congregation of large number of people starting from the national sports festival which stands postponed.
That also extends to religious gathering or any other gathering that would have a large number of people. It is not advisable at this point in time”.