Nigeria to ease lockdown despite high number of coronavirus cases

Nigerian President Muhamadu Buhari easing lockdown on key cities; Online Photo

By Ash Kings

Following President Muhammad Buhari’s directive during his Monday night broadcast, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Nigeria has issued the guidelines to be followed after the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun is eased from Monday.

Mr Buhari said that from May 4 to 17, there would be a phased easing of the lockdown in the three states including an 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. daily curfew.

This, he said, was to ease the hardship of lockdown on Nigerians and prevent layoffs as well as reawaken economic activities, although under strict restrictions

While some have welcomed this directive, others have questioned the timing, because Nigeria has recorded over 500 cases in the last three days, with total cases over 2170, deaths above 65, and more than 351 recoveries.

Concerns have even increased with how, within days of easing its lockdown, West African neighbour Ghana confirmed coronavirus cases surged to over 2,000, a 24 per cent increase.

Lockdown easing directive

The fifth week of lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun is to be relaxed Monday. The guideline for this, signed by the chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, mandates anyone in public spaces to use non-medical face masks.

It also prohibits interstate travels -save for essential travel services as well as gathering of more than 20 people outside of a workplace.

“Social distancing of 2 metres must be maintained between people in workplaces and other public spaces,” the directive read, while also stating that ban on all passenger flights and religious gatherings will continue.

“Movement between LGAs (except metropolitan areas) is strongly discouraged unless for critical reasons such as healthcare and work,” Mr Mustapha wrote in the document.

“All inter-state travel for supply chain & services allowed, such as: goods, agro-products with a limited capacity of accompanying personnel, petroleum products, relief items, supplies, construction supplies, registered courier services (DHL, FedEx, etc) and security services.”

Although people may go out for work or buy food and exercise, public buses have been asked to reduce their occupancy by half; taxis to 4 persons; and tricycles to 3 persons, the driver inclusive.

Also, civil servants in grade level 14-17 will now go to work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 8.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m., the same time banks are to open.

Schools were also encouraged to continue e-learning and virtual teaching as they will remain closed till further evaluation.

“The level of compliance with these guidelines will be reviewed in 2 weeks before additional guidelines for phase 2 is issued,” the document concluded.

Lagos remains the hotpot of the infection in the country, but Kano has seen a surge in cases in the last five days, a time within which its figure tripled to over 210 as of Thursday night. The two states are Nigeria’s largest city with over 30 million combined population.

Lagos, Kano and Abuja account for about 70 per cent of the country’s cases of the disease.

The directive comes almost at the same time when Paul Kagame President of Rwanda announced adjustments in the 45 Day lockdown which will start on Monday.

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