Nigeria: Govt Reintroduces Covid-19 Restrictions, Closes Bars, Recreational Centres

(file photo).
11 May 2021

The federal government has reintroduced COVID-19 restrictions across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with effect from the midnight of today (Tuesday).

Under the new restrictions, the federal government has shut bars, recreational centres, set limits to public gatherings and also introduced the nationwide curfew from 12 a.m to 4 a.m. with effect from the midnight of May 11, 2021.

The National Incident Manager of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC), Dr. Mukhtar Muhammed announced the new measures as contained in the new guidelines on Phase Four of Ease of Lockdown.

Speaking at the PSC media briefing in Abuja yesterday, he said the federal government embarked on the new measures as a response to the concern about the non-compliance to public health and social measures contained in the Health Protection Regulation of 2021.

He said further to the recommendation and effective from 0001 hours of Tuesday, May 11, 2021, this phase four of the eased on restrictions on movement shall come into effect.

He urged citizens to refrain from non-essential movement and comply with NPIs and guidance.

The PSC also advised that only essential travels are encouraged on most international and domestic travels, while travellers are to abide by all existing protocols.

Also, security agencies are to enforce the use of NPIs in the transport sector, including the use of face masks, temperature checks and hand sanitisers.

He stressed that each state government had been advised to set up a mobile tribunal for the prosecution of violators while security agents were empowered to make arrest for violations under the Health Protection Regulations.

Under the new guidelines, the PSC said it would maintain restriction on mass gathering outside work settings with no more than 50 people allowed in any enclosed place.

In addition, there would be the enforcement of the mandatory requirement of seven-day quarantine for all international passengers arriving from foreign destinations , while institutional quarantine will apply for in-bound passengers from Brazil, Turkey and India.

He added that access to government and commercial premises would be denied to any person not wearing face mask.

, while government said it would continue to maintain restriction on the resumption of work for the government staff on GL 12 and below.

"These safety protocols only provide a baseline from which state government may further build on to strengthen their responses based on their local circumstances. States should continue to consider the minimum guidelines required to ensure an acceptable level of epidemic control.

"State governments have been asked to institute mobile court to help enforce or impose fines and close premises that violate these provisions. These measures are to enable government to prevent the acute cycle of the resurgence of the pandemic," Muhammed said.

He added that the PSC made the latest recommendations in line with established thematic areas of movement, industry, labour and community activities, saying they will help consolidate the gains made so far and position the country to effectively overcome the pandemic going forward.

The guidelines will also limit government meetings to virtual platform as much as possible while maintaining restrictions on physical meetings including official trips, oversight visits and board meetings.

Event centres, bars and night clubs shall remain closed until further notice, while all recreational facilities, gyms and indoor facilities are to close until June 11 when the situation would be reviewed.

Also, hotels are to remain open but must ensure NPIs, while schools must consider Antigen-based Rapid Diagnostic Tests as recommended in the guidelines. Religious gatherings should be limited to less than 50 per cent capacity to ensure physical distancing and use of face masks is mandatory for all worshippers.

Gatherings like weddings, parties and meetings should also comply with the not more than 50 persons provided.

However, Muhammed said that non-contact outdoor sports like golf, polo and lawn tennis are not affected by the guideline.

Meanwhile, the PSC Chairman, Mr. Boss Mustapha has noted that the new restrictions were taken as pre-emptive measures to mitigate the likely impact of the new but deadly COVID-19 variants from being imported into Nigeria in view of the fragile state of the country's health systems, the disruption to the vaccines delivery and the lack of compliance with the extant public health measures and social measures.

He noted that as a result of the challenge of vaccine nationalism compounded by the production situation in India, the PSC was already exploring other options to get Nigerians vaccinated.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation revealed that 1,690,719 persons have received their first dose of the vaccine in Nigeria representing 84 per cent of the targeted persons.

Mustapha also stated that authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and government has fixed the cost of COVID-19 testing at $50 at all points of entry with effect from May 17, 2021 in order to facilitate travel and trade among citizens of ECOWAS states traveling within the region.

Also the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib has said that the PSC has approved the commencement of the second dose of AstraZeneca vaccination in all states of the federation, including the FCT.

Meanwhile, the federal government has said that its ambitious plan to set up a COVID-19 vaccine production company was being hampered by failure to acquire the necessary technology for its take-off.

The execution of the project, which was being facilitated through a public-private sector joint venture outfit known as Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited is said to have been delayed due to the inability to secure the needed technology from the foreign partners.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who responded to a question on the state of the project at the media briefing yesterday, explained that the Indian technical partners working on the project had temporarily withdrawn to give attention to resurgent of COVID-19 pandemic in their home country.

"Bio-Vaccine Nigeria Limited is a revival of the former vaccine Plant that the federal government used to have in which the private was invited to join under a joint venture to bring in resources and then partner with the federal government to bring the technology to run a vaccine plant.

"This plan was conceived even before COVID-19 pandemic. But the joint venture project was stalled or delayed during the period of lockdown because nobody could move. With the outbreak of COVID-19, everybody was looking forward to a vaccine, including Nigeria.

"In our own case we thought we could find a foreign partner to import the technology to produce our own vaccines here, and the National Assembly earmarked N10 billion to facilitate that. I can assure that money is intact, not one Kobo has been spent from it. But it has not been so easy to import that technology to start producing COVID-19 vaccines locally and so that aspiration has not been fulfilled," he said.

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