Disturbed by the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government has announced the reinstitution of all extant control measures aimed at mitigating the impact of the deadly scourge.
Accordingly, the Presidential Steering Committee PSC on COVID-19 has reimposed the nationwide curfew earlier put in place to control the spread of the virus. It has also limited gatherings especially in enclosed spaces to a maximum of 50 persons, urging state governments to inaugurate mobile courts to try offenders.
Speaking at a media briefing Monday in Abuja, Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF and Chairman of the PSC, Mr Boss Mustapha said the committee 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. “Accordingly, the PSC has produced a new Implementation Guidelines being Phase IV of our Eased restrictions of COVID-19 Lockdown in the Country.
“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 (COVID-19) 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”, the SGF stated. He added that the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government has fixed the cost of COVID-19 testing, whether PCR or otherwise, at $50 (Fifty US Dollars) at all Points of Entry with effect from 17th May 2021. The decision, he said, is to ease travel and trade among citizens of ECOWAS States travelling within the region.
PSC’s Head of Technical Secretariat, Dr Mukhtar Mohammed said persons without facemasks will no longer be allowed into government institutions while it directed security agencies to enforce the use of such masks and other non-pharmaceutical interventions in the transportation sector. Most government meetings are also now held virtually while only essential international travels are encouraged and that all protocols must be adhered to. Mohammed was however emphatic that there are no restrictions on intra-state travels.
“The PSC continues to reinforce the surveillance system at the country’s points of entry. While our vaccine rollout has begun, there is a shortage in global supplies affected by the current situation in India. This translates to a delay in vaccinating a large proportion of the population and therefore a risk of a large outbreak especially in the context of poor adherence to the recommended public health and social measures. “The level of adherence to the use of facemask, physical distancing, temperature checks in public spaces, handwashing and limits on large gatherings remain very poor. In some areas, these are even nonexistent.
“In line with the increasing risk of a surge in cases, the PSC is therefore maintaining the enforcement of the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations. This is to mitigate the risk of a spike in new cases while the nationwide vaccine rollout continues. “Further to these recommendations and effective from 0001hours of Tuesday, 11th May 2021, this Phase 4 of the phased restriction of movement shall come into effect. We shall maintain restrictions in mass gatherings outside work settings with a maximum number of 50 people in an enclosed space. Approved gatherings must be held with physical distancing measures and other non-pharmaceutical interventions in place. Enforcement of a mandatory requirement of a seven-day quarantine for all international passengers arriving from foreign destinations while institutional quarantine for international passengers arriving from the three countries of India, Brazil and Turkey.
“Enforced temperature checks and no mask, no entry policy in all public settings; workplace buildings, businesses and places of worship etc. Access to Government and commercial premises should be denied to persons without facemasks. “The nationwide curfew will be imposed tonight at midnight and it will run through till 4 am. No formal restrictions on movement within the country even as citizens are encouraged to refrain from non-essential movements and comply with all non-pharmaceutical interventions and guidelines.
People who are above 60 and or with comorbidities are encouraged to stay at home. Only essential international travels are encouraged”, Mohammed added. He said while hotels are to remain open, they should adhere to all non-pharmaceutical interventions while schools are to deploy the use of antigen-based rapid tests as recommended in the guidelines by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC.
Mohammed added that all indoor recreational facilities and gyms are to close until 11th June 2021 when the situation will be reviewed. “However, non-contact outdoor sports such as gulf, Polo, tennis etc are not affected”. The PSC said it 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 ongoing investigations and we wish to assure Nigerians that appropriate sanctions would be imposed on the violators”, said Mustapha.
He said closely associated with the control measures is the issue of vaccine access and administration. According to him, given the challenge of vaccine nationalism compounded by the production situation in India, the PSC is exploring other options to get Nigerians vaccinated. “As of date, 1,690,719 persons have received their first dose of the vaccine in Nigeria representing 84% of the targeted persons for this phase. We appeal to States, especially those high burden areas, to push ahead with the vaccination programme”.