To prevent the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 has reintroduced some restrictions on movement and social interactions in the country.
LEADERSHIP reports that the PSC may have imposed the restrictions as a precaution to avert the experience of India, Pakistan, Thailand, Brazil and Turkey where the relaxation of COVID-19 protocols and return of religious and political activities has led to massive rise in infections and deaths.
With Eid el-Fitr at hand, this restrictions may have been a reminder for celebrants and other Nigerians to take precautions and adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.
Hence, it imposed a nation-wide curfew from 12am to 4am starting from today, May 11, 2021.
This was revealed by PSC coordinator, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, as part of the fourth phase of the eased opening of the society after the near total lockdown of the economy that followed outbreak of COVID-19 in the country last year.
Speaking at the PSC briefing on COVID-19, Dr Muhammad said: "For land and rail transport, there are no limitations anymore on inter and intrastate travel but service providers must abide by status stipulations from the Federal Ministry of Transport and ensure that PPEs (personal protection equipment) are used and, where applicable, physical distancing is observed.
"The night curfew is now from 12am to 4am, except for essential service providers and international passengers who just arrived the country or travelling out of the country."
He further stated that in terms of working arrangements for the private sector, "we will allow the private sector to determine the optimal working capacity within their offices while ensuring enough physical distancing and preserving the health care of workers in their employ.
"For the public sector, we are maintaining the restriction and encouraging the work-at-home policy for staff below the level of grade level 12. Those at grade level 12 and above will be allowed to come to work.
"For the hospitality and entertainment industry, hotels will continue to remain open but observing all non-pharmaceutical interventions."
According to him, amusement parks, gyms and cinemas can open but they must be at half capacity of the facility.
For event centres that provide outdoor spaces, he said, they can open but not indoor event centres.
"Eateries and restaurants can only open for outdoor services and we will make sure this is complied with. Bars and nightclubs to remain closed until further notice.
"Each of authority within the state can provide additional guidelines for minimizing risk in the state as it relates to these facilities and industries.
"For gathering including wedding, parties, meetings, we are expanding the limit to 50 people, preferably outdoors - not in enclosed spaces, and those attending must wear face masks and they must ensure proper sanitisation of their hands and maintain physical distance," he said.
On his part, the minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said even though the case fatality rate of COVID-19 has reduced since the beginning of May, Nigerians should still be vigilant and cautious to avoid being infected.
At the briefing yesterday, the minister said, "We should rather increase our commitment to reducing the spread of the disease as well as fatalities therefrom.
"Although COVID-19 positive cases have continued to drop even with sustained testing, we must remain on our guard. The experience of other countries shows the unpredictability of this disease, such that countries in Asia such as India, Pakistan and Thailand have been badly shaken by the enormity of the new wave of infections. We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to our friends in India, and take this opportunity to renew our caution in this COVID-19 pandemic response."
While calling for caution, the minister said the lessons to be learned from the cases in India, Pakistan and Thailand are to "avoid crowds and mass gatherings for whatever reason, whether for politics, religious, commercial or social occasions; wear your masks at all times; when you are outside your house, do not accept to chat or do business with anyone not wearing a mask; wash or sanitise hands frequently and cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
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"Take your vaccination when invited to do so, without hesitation. It is our best chance of escaping infection if we come in contact by mistake with an infected person."
Also, while speaking on the Eid el-Fitr, the minister said: "As we approach the Salah holidays, it is of particular importance to remain aware of risks involved in traveling, gathering, celebrating and generally letting down our guards.
"I urge everyone to take responsibility for their personal and their family's safety from COVID-19 infection. Experience from India and other countries show us that the terrible third wave that has caused so much loss of human lives was facilitated and fuelled by events immediately related to political campaigns, elections and religious gatherings. These contributed greatly to the explosion of cases that India is currently battling with today.
"As we celebrate the Sallah days ahead, let us remember this warning and ensure that we avoid all situations that tempt us to forget COVID-19 preventive measures and lifesaving non-pharmaceutical measures. Above all, we must keep our elderly and vulnerable populations safe by encouraging them to stay indoors and avoid crowded places, wear their facemasks, ensure physical distancing and observe appropriate hand hygiene."
1.69m Persons Have Received COVID-19 Vaccine - SGF
Meanwhile, the PSC on COVID-19 has said that, as of date, 1,690,719 persons have received the first dose of the vaccine in Nigeria, representing 84 per cent of the targeted persons for this phase.
Speaking at the briefing of the PSC in Abuja yesterday, the chairman of the PSC and the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, called on state governments to ensure that the vaccination programme continues.
He said: "The PSC has also considered several pre-emptive measures to be taken to mitigate the likely impact of the variants of concern should they get imported into Nigeria. This step has become compelling in view of the fragile state of our health systems, the disruption to the vaccines delivery and the lack of compliance with the extant public health measures and social measures contained in the coronavirus disease health protection regulations 2021.
"The PSC has therefore considered it imperative to re-institute the various public health measures that were put in place under the health protection regulations.
"In taking this step, the PSC requests the state governments to please step up to play lead roles in the area of enforcement and sanctions. Similarly, our appeal goes to traditional, religious and community leaders to take up more ownership and responsibility for risk communication and community engagement on the virulent nature of the pandemic, concerns over the variants of concern and the need for compliance."
Speaking on the violation of COVID-19 protocol, the PSC chairman said "the PSC has received reports of some returning foreign passengers who violated the mandatory quarantine requirement under the advisory by escaping from the facilities. We deprecate such violation of the laws of our land and our hospitality.
"The PSC is awaiting the report of on-going investigations and we wish to assure Nigerians that appropriate sanctions would be imposed on the violators.
"As you are all aware, the PSC has already issued a Travel Advisory which took into consideration the utility of travel restrictions, outcomes of epidemiological risk assessment, factors that aid transmission as well as control measures that could be deployed. In the advisory, additional requirements were placed on passengers from India, Turkey and Brazil."
The PSC also said: 'the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government has fixed the cost of COVID-19 testing, whether PCR or otherwise, at $50 at all Points of Entry with effect from May 17, 2021. This is to ease travel and trade among citizens of ECOWAS States traveling within the region."