From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Chioma Okezie Okeh
Federal Government, yesterday, announced fresh COVID-19 guidelines detailing regulations, restrictions and protocols aimed at checking the resurgence of the pandemic.
Among them are closure of most public places and social events, including religious, occupational and recreational activities. It also directed all staff on GL.12 and below to stay at home for the next five weeks while schools are to remain shut until January 18. All persons above the age of 60yrs and/or with comorbidities are to be encouraged to stay at home and avoid crowds while all non-essential travels – both domestic and international during the holiday season are seriously discouraged.
Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, told the media that President Muhammadu Buhari has authorised the decisions.
He explained that Buhari had directed state governments, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to immediately assume responsibility for the enforcement of the re-introduced restrictions and measures.
This is even as he disclosed that his family members that tested positive to COVID-19 is a one-year-old and his four of his children.
The SGF who described the past one week as be traumatic, reiterated earlier warnings that the youthful population were not exempted from being infected with the virus.
The PTF chairman said recent Epidemiology records confirmed that “Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world. Particularly, Lagos, Kaduna and the FCT have emerged as the new epicentres during this period, with over 70% of all confirmed cases.”
“In line with the authorisation, the PTF wishes to issue the following advisories to sub-national entities for implementation over the next five weeks because these activities are considered super spreader events: Close All bars, night clubs, pubs and event centres, and recreational venues; Close all restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents; takeaways, home deliveries and drive-ins shall remain closed; Restrict all informal and formal festivity events including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events shall be restricted to not more than 50 persons; Limit All gatherings linked to religious events to less than 50% capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing; mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced; Where more than 50 persons are attending, any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only; Public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50 percent of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules and to enforce compliance with NPI protocols especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces.”
Mustapha said to reduce overcrowding in public spaces, markets, shopping centres, offices and schools states are advised to encourage virtual meetings in government offices. The leadership of such offices are to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated offices, and encourage staff to work from home where possible.
“A lot of discussion is still going on around the calls for the restriction of international travels due to the discovery of new strains of the virus in certain countries. The PTF, Aviation and health authorities including the WHO , are assessing the situation closely and would take a position as soon as cogent scientific basis are established. The protection of Nigerians remains our primary concern and we reassure Nigerians of our resolve not to relent,” he said
He said the the PTF will submit its end of year Report to the President today and Nigerians shall be kept abreast of developments in this regard.
This came as government mulls imposition of travel ban to and from certain parts of the world.
Speaking in Abuja, yesterday, Minister of Information and Culture and member of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Lai Mohammed, said while government appreciates the negative economic impact of another lockdown, it would not rule out restriction on movement to and from certain parts of the world.
“We are more concerned about the new strain of COVID-19 which is manifesting itself in the UK; that is the mutated strain. It is difficult to detect, it spreads faster and people have been known to die of it within a very short period of its detection.
“This season, many students are coming from the UK in particular, to come and join their families in Nigeria.Besides, many of our people, because of the traditional link we have with UK may want to go there for business or family re-union. It is a very testy time and it might be another dangerous period to transmit this new variant of COVID-19.’’
He said many European countries had banned flights to and from the UK.
According to Mohammed, the Federal Government will not hesitate in giving the directive if it was the only way Nigerians can be protected from the agony of the new variant of COVID-19.
Sanwo-Olu awaiting clearance
Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, says Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu is feeling much better and is awaiting a complete clearance of the virus before resuming public activities.
Abayomi disclosed this through tweets on his official Twitter account @ProfAkinAbayomi on Monday, while giving an update on the COVID-19 status of the governor.
However, no fewer than 200 persons had been arrested by the Lagos State Police Command for defying the recent lockdown measure announced to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Parading the suspects at the state command headquarters, Ikeja, Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, warned that any one found outside without a face mask will be arrested.
According to him, it is now a crime to move around the state without face mask.