FG Eases Lockdown on Religious Centres, Banks but Schools still locked


Nigeria has moved to the second phase of the ease of lockdown in the effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as more restrictions have been lifted in the gradual move to fully reopen the economy.

The new measures, which will be in place for the next four weeks, include the reopening of places of worship provided they have the necessary non-pharmaceutical measures in place for the prevention of the spread of the virus.

But many of the existing restrictions remain in place including the ban on interstate movements except for goods, agricultural produce and essential services.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on the COVID-19 pandemic and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, during a briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday, disclosed that these are part of the new measures approved by President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle coronavirus in the country.

While noting the factors considered before the new measures were introduced, he said President Buhari approved the recommendations submitted by the PTF for implementation for the next four weeks.

The measures approved include a ban of gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace; relaxation of the restriction on places of worship based on guidelines issued by the PTF and protocols agreed by state governments and managed access to markets and locations of economic activity to limit the risk of transmission.

Expatiating on the measures in the next phase of the ease of lockdown, the National Coordinator of PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the nationwide curfew will remain in place but reduced to 10 pm to 4 am.

He announced the full reopening of financial institutions, saying that banks can now work full time from Monday to Friday while observing established protocols.

Dr Aliyu explained that the lifting of restriction of places of worship applies only to regular churches and mosques services.

He added that no further evacuation of Nigerians abroad will be undertaken while the aviation industry can begin work on protocols that will enable domestic flights to resume safely by June 21.

He also noted that normal working hours will apply for offices except government offices with the offices expected to operate only at 75 per cent capacity, adding that artisans can now operate while adhering to social distancing protocols and hygienic measures.

He also said that schools will remain closed while exiting students should however be prepared for their exams as he affirmed that funeral ceremonies remain restricted to a maximum of 20 family members.

Other measures are a ban on inter-state travels except for the movement of agricultural produce, petroleum products, manufactured goods and essential services; mandatory use of non-medical face masks in public places; mandatory provision of handwashing facilities/sanitisers in all public places; and extensive temperature checks in public places.

The PTF chairman reiterated maintaining two metres between people in public places; strengthening infection prevention and control at healthcare facilities; isolation of vulnerable populations (elderly and those with underlying health conditions); and massive information and education campaigns.

He affirmed the deepening of collaborative efforts with the community leaders, civil society, faith-based organisations, traditional institutions, and continuous mobilisation of state governments to take up a greater role in the implementation of the guidelines and advisories provided by the PTF.

The SGF stated that there will be the continued provision of support by the NCDC to states through guidelines to shape decision-making in responding to high burden local government areas and wards.

He also announced the easing of the total lockdown of Kano State and introduction of phase one of the eased lockdown.

Mustapha said in arriving at the decision to introduce the latest measures, the PTF took into consideration the advisory of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

These, he said, include a balance of lives and livelihoods, follow a slow and phased approach that is data-driven; apply Public health measures in every community and at every phase of the response (i.e. surveillance, case finding, testing, isolation, tracing and quarantining contacts.); and evaluating the economic and social aspects of the society, which will play a role in progressing or hindering any efforts for the response.

He further said: “It is the consideration of the PTF that while Nigeria’s confirmed cases have increased in the period under review, the following factors should inspire confidence in the response: a majority of the confirmed cases are in a handful of local governments in the country; 20 out of the 774 LGAs nationwide account for 60 per cent of the cases.

“There is an opportunity to concentrate efforts in these high-burden areas.

“Federal agencies and state governments are working together on the promotion and utilisation of guidelines on case management (e.g. home care for relatively well patients); “There is increased capacity to detect, test and trace those infected
with the virus; 29 testing laboratories have been activated, with Bauchi being the latest addition while the test count nationwide has exceeded 60,000; and a shift in focus to community engagement and enhanced risk communication.”

While noting that the NCDC will list the names of the 20 high burden local governments areas, he added: “Notwithstanding the foregoing, PTF considers it necessary to restate to Nigerians that: Nigeria has not reached the peak of confirmed cases; the battle against COVID-19 is a long term one.”

He, therefore, advised that Nigeria should pursue a strategy that will aid the sustainable control of the spread of the disease; risk communications and community engagement should remain a top priority, and a precision approach to containment and management
should be adopted.

“Based on the overall assessment, including available data on the public health considerations and resultant economic impacts, the PTF is of the opinion that Nigeria is ready to allow Science and Data determine her cautious advancement into the second phase of the eased lockdown for a period of four weeks,” the PTF declared.

Reported by: Vincent Paul

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