The Federal Government of Nigeria has relaxed total lockdown it imposed on the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The government, in the new guidelines it issued on Wednesday, stated that markets selling food would open from 10am to 2pm every other day.
lso, supermarkets and pharmacies are to open from 10am to 4pm every day, but must maintain a high level of hygiene.
The new guidelines also ban bus services during the lockdown. It adds that a mass gathering of more than 20 people is not allowed.
The Federal Government reviewed the lockdown on Wednesday just as COVID-19 cases rose to 174 with 35 new cases.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had on Tuesday put the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country at 139.
Following the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country, the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Sunday ordered lockdown of the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states.
He ordered residents of the FCT and the two states to stay at home during the 14-day lockdown, which began in Lagos and Abuja at 11pm on Monday.
The President, however, exempted health personnel, journalists, workers of telecommunication and power companies from the stay-at-home order.
On Monday, Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, and some prominent lawyers, including Mr Femi Falana, SAN, disagreed with the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, over the legality of the lockdown.
In the new guidelines released to journalists by the National Coordinator for the fight against COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, during a press conference organised by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, supermarkets, food stores, pharmacies and markets are exempted from the lockdown, but must operate under strict rules
He said all residents of the two states and the FCT would be confined to their homes, except for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining essential goods or service or seeking medical care.
The coordinator also said, “Borders linking the two states and the FCT to the rest of the country will be shut during the period of the lockdown, except for the transport of persons on essential duties, transport of food, fuel, manufactured goods or donated relief items. Security agencies are please invited to note these.”
According to him, gatherings are prohibited, except for funeral services as guided by infection control and prevention regulations, for which social distancing rules still apply and crowds are limited to not more than 20 persons.
He also said, “Movement between and within the two affected states and the FCT is restricted, except for workers involved in the delivery of essential services, duties, foods and goods.
“Retail shops and malls must be closed except where essential goods are being sold. Shops and malls that are opened for this reason must enforce social distancing and hygienic measures in line with issued guidelines.
“Any business or organisation providing essential goods and services must identify the workers who will perform these activities.
Commuters services between cities and states, including passenger services, bus services, e-hailing services, maritime and air passenger transport are suspended for the period of the lockdown in the affected states and the FCT.”
He, however, noted that limited transport services would be allowed for the movement of workers, services and goods in response to COVID-19 and for the purpose of seeking medical attention or provision of essential services.
Such transport services, Aliyu said, must implement social distancing and hygienic measures.
He stated, “With regard to the carriage of passengers, we must ensure spacing in between passengers, clean and disinfect frequently touched parts, including door and window handles, steering wheels and dashboards and encourage passengers to perform hand hygiene frequently.”
According to him, all owners of supermarkets must not allow anybody with high temperature to enter their premises, adding that customers and staff must wash their hands.
He added, “All deliveries of supplies and products for these supermarkets and food stores must be made between the hours of 5am and 9am.
“Porters should wash their hands before offloading products and goods. Store opening hours shall be between 10am and 4pm daily for customers. At any point in time, the total number of customers inside each store must not on average exceed a third of the store’s maximum capacity.”
The national coordinator added, “For pharmacies, the rules as per supermarkets apply, except that for pharmacies that run 24-hour schedules, they will be allowed to operate as usual.
“In order for markets to operate, state and local government authorities, as well as leaders of market associations, must take a full responsibility for strict compliance with the following protocols:
“Only shops and stores selling food and groceries shall be allowed to open to customers between the hours of 10am and 2pm, every other day or less frequently.”
Buhari has approved the release of 70,000 metric tons of grains for the poor and vulnerable amid the restrictions to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, Boss Mustapha, stated this at the press conference addressed by the task force.
He said Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory would receive the first tranche of the grains.
He stated, “The first tranche of about 6,000 metric tonnes will go to Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, while the remaining will go to other frontline states in the fight against COVID-19.”
According to the SGF, the new guidelines will be widely circulated to all the security agencies and will be discussed with the sub-national entities for the purposes of building synergy in the fight against the virus.
He added that the guidelines and policies would also be published in the national dailies and broadcast on the news network for more awareness.
The Presidential Task Force also announced that it had yet to receive any financial contributions for its work.
The National Coordinator of the PTF, Aliyu, explained that the items received from Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, had been distributed.
Prominent Nigerians, including the African richest man, Aliko Dangote,have pledged donations to fight the virus.
At the press conference, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, refused to disclose the location of the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who tested positive for coronavirus.
Kyari had disclosed in a statement on Sunday that indeed he had been infected by the disease and that he would be seeking treatment in Lagos State but would not be using tax payers’ funds to treat himself.
However, the Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, had said on Tuesday that he did not know Kyari’s location thereby sparking reports that the President’s aide was not in any isolation centre.
Responding to a question during the Presidential task force briefing, the health minister said Kyari’s location was not important, adding that the President’s chief of staff had a right to privacy.
Ehanire also said over 2,000 people had so far been tested for the disease. He added that seven laboratories in the country could test for COVID-19.
The Osun State Commissioner for Health, Dr Rafiu Isamotu, told The PUNCH that the state had recorded fresh nine cases of COVID-19.
He explained that out of 127 returnees from Côte d’Ivoire, 71 results had been obtained out of which nine had returned positive to coronavirus.
The Oyo State Government on Wednesday said it might make the use of masks compulsory as part of measures to check the spread of COVID-19.
The state Governor, Seyi Makinde, who disclosed this in a telephone interview on Fresh 105.9FM, Ibadan, however ruled out total lockdown of the state.
Explaining that total lockdown might plunge a section of the public into a crisis of survival, the governor said the option was at the bottom of the list by his administration.
The governor, who stressed the need for a logical approach to the issue, said, “Everything that can be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo State is on the table. We will continue to assess the situation and take additional measures where necessary.
“I have been watching CNN and the most successful place right now in containing this is the Czech Republic. And, one of the things they brought out is that they made a law that if you must leave your house, you must wear a mask. It may be the route for us to go.
“I have asked them (Oyo officials) to start evaluating that. If we must make that law and say everybody that must go out must wear a mask; then, how about those who cannot afford it. Can we make masks locally? Can we get our artisans and our tailors to commit to that with the government supporting? So, those are the type of solutions we are looking for.”
Confirmed cases for coronavirus around the world headed toward one million mark on Wednesday after 915,525 were reported.
According to an online medium, wordometer.info/coronavirus, China, where the virus originated, reported a sharp drop in the number of new cases, after 36 new cases were reported on Wednesday.
It said out of the 81,554 people infected in the country, 76,238 people had recovered fully, with 3,312 people reported to have died of the virus since it was first reported in the country in December 2019. The country currently has 2,004 active cases in its treatment facilities.
Worldometer said that in all, coronavirus had killed 45,541 people around the world, while 675,198 cases were still active in various countries around the world as at Wednesday.
The United States led as the country mostly affected with 205,036 cases, after recording 16,506 new cases.
The online medium reported that Italy had the highest number of fatality with 13,155 deaths recorded out of 110,574 confirmed cases.
The BBC also reported on Wednesday that in the United Kingdom, death toll rose to 2,352 while Spain recorded a record daily death toll after 864 people died in 24 hours. It said France reported that 509 people died of the virus over the last 24 hours (as at Wednesday), bringing the total number of deaths in hospitals as a result of coronavirus in the country to 4,032.
As at Wednesday, South Africa led in Africa with 1,380 confirmed and five deaths. Fifty two infected persons have so far recovered in the country. SurgeZirc SA reported that among the deaths was a prominent scientist, Gita Ramjee, who was known for her work in finding prevention for HIV.
The NCDC via its Twitter handle, @NCDCgov, on Wedensday said the country had recorded nine new confirmed cases each in Lagos and Osun; two in Edo, one each in Ekiti, Bauchi and Kaduna, five in Akwa Ibom as well as seven in the FCT,
“As of 08:00 pm 1st April there are 174 confirmed cases of #COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Nine have been discharged with two deaths,” the NCDC said.
With the latest cases, Lagos now has 91 cases; the FCT, 35; Osun, 14; Kaduna, four; Oyo, eight; Enugu, two; Edo, four; Bauchi, three; Ekiti, two; Akwa Ibom, five and Ogun, four.