President Muhammadu Buhari (File pix)

By Our Correspondents

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures imposed one month ago on the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Abuja, as well as Lagos and Ogun States effective from Monday, May, 4, 2020 as part of measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Federal Government has also imposed a 10-hour curfew from 6am-8pm in the three locations, which have the highest number of cases of persons infected with the virus as well as mandatory use of face masks. Meanwhile, the President announced the imposition of 14-day total lockdown on Kano State, which has in the last few days recorded several cases of deaths suspected to be connected to the COVID-19 virus.

In a nationwide address, the President noted that based on prevailing circumstances and the advice of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, the Federal Government reviewed the impact of the total lockdown on citizens’ means of livelihood, which had been negatively affected since the lockdown began about one month ago.

This has led to partial relaxing of the lockdown and the introduction of new measures designed to cushion the effect on businesses in the country and the introduction of new measures to stem the spread of the virus.

Highlights of the new nationwide measures include partial operation for selected businesses and offices from 9am to 6pm, overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am, which implies that all night movements will be prohibited during this period except for those on essential services.

Other measures include a total ban on non-essential inter-state passenger travels until further notice while partial and controlled interstate movement of goods and services will be allowed to allow for the movement of goods and services from producers to consumers and strict enforcement of mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public places in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene.

Under the new measures, the restrictions placed on social and religious gatherings will remain in force till further notice even as State Governments, corporate organisations and philanthropists were encouraged to support the production of cloth masks for citizens.

The Presidential Task Force is however expected to provide sector specific details and timing guidelines to allow for preparations by governments, businesses and institutions.

While admitting that the government was worried by the recent developments in Kano, noted that the relaxed measures are not applicable to Kano and some other northern states with increasing and worrisome cases of deaths.

The President said: “Based on the above and in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the various Federal Government committees that have reviewed socio-economic matters and the Nigeria Governors Forum, I have approved a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos and Ogun States effective from Saturday, May 2, 2020. For the avoidance of doubt, the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States shall remain in place until these new ones come into effect.

“These revised guidelines will not apply for to Kano State. The total lockdown recently announced by the State Government shall remain in force and will be enforced for the full duration. The Federal Government shall deploy all the necessary human, material and technical resources to support the state in controlling and containing the pandemic.

“In Kano, and indeed many of other States that are recording new cases, preliminary findings show that such cases are mostly from interstate travel and emerging community transmission. 

“Drawing from these, I implore all Nigerians to continue to adhere strictly to the advisories published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC. These include regular hand washing, social physical distancing, wearing of face masks/coverings in public, avoidance of non-essential movement and travels and avoidance of large gatherings remain paramount.

“However, this will be followed strictly with aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures while allowing the restoration of some economic and business activities in certain sectors”.