Last week, The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 published a document outlining a series of updates to the country’s lockdown restrictions. In the statement released on the 30th of June, the administration announced the commencement of further lockdown relaxations including reopening of schools for graduating classes (Primary 6, JS3, SS3) and the resumption of domestic aviation services and interstate travel. This is part of its extension of phase two of eased lockdown.
The country went on lockdown at the end of March when the Federal government first introduced restrictions on the country’s most hard-hit areas. The lockdown was characterized as “a matter of life and death.” The restrictions were however relaxed in May after only five weeks and amid rising case numbers, a move condemned by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) as premature.
The Presidential Task Force, however, said these relaxations were necessary and were the first phase of its Gradual Easing of Lockdown plan. The second phase was put in place to last from the 2nd of June till the 29th of June. Last week, the Federal government further extended it by 4 weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020, to midnight of July 27, 2020.
This comes as the nation has seen a spike in Coronavirus cases following its relaxation of lockdown rules.
The document which was put out by the office of the Secretary To The Federal Government Of The Federation includes updates on its phase two guidelines on movement, working hours, educational and religious gatherings, etc.
Below is an outline of the current guidelines for eased lockdown.
Interstate Travel And Domestic Flight
- While the government has continued its 10 pm to 4 am curfew, it has allowed interstate travel.
- Airports are to commence domestic flights “as soon as practicable, in line with existing international and local guidelines on COVID-19.”
- Precautionary measures such as face masks for Aviation workers and passengers, temperature checks at points of entry and departure, constant decontamination of cargo and logistics areas, and efficient tracking of all travelers, are also in force.
- For interstate travel by road, which officially commenced on the 1st of July, vehicles are required to board only up to half of their usual carrying capacity.
- Transport companies are to ensure temperature checks and keep handwashing facilities at bus parks.
- Transport staff and passengers are required to wear masks at all times. All bus parks are required to operate a policy of “no mask, no entry.”
- The movement to and from high burden Local government areas are to be restricted to “essential travel” only.
Industry and Labour Regulations
- Government offices/other corporate offices are to operate from 9 am-2 pm, Monday to Friday.
- Public servants below grade level 14 are advised to work from home where possible. Those on Grade level 14 or above are essential staff and allowed back to work.
- Banks are allowed to operate at normal working hours.
- They are required to provide PPE to all their workers, reduce staff by 25% to allow physical distancing and ensure temperature checks.
- Manufacturing and other allied industries have to follow similar restrictions. That is, reduce their staff to allow for physical distancing, provide temperature checks, and ensure mandatory use of facemasks.
- Mechanics, artisans, hair salon operators, etc. who own their workshop/workstations are required to provide hand sanitizers to customers. They are also required to wear facemasks when selling their goods or providing services.
- Hotels are allowed to operate but are required to adhere to mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions.
- Restaurants and eateries can open but are still to adhere to strict takeaway system.
Education And Examinations
The relaxation of lockdown rules as it pertains to the Education sector is perhaps the most controversial.
- The government has moved for primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions to administer revision classes for graduating students.
- Arrangements are to be made for students partaking in NABTEB, BECE examinations, WAEC, NECO and sub exams to resume school.
- Teachers have been classified as essential staff and so are allowed to go back to work.
- Schools “must comply with the six recommended steps and required measures issued by the Federal Ministry of Education” before opening.
Religious And Other Social Gatherings
- Churches and mosques are allowed to open but based on state-specific protocols.
- They are to ensure the supply of running water and soap/alcohol-based sanitizer.
- They are also to administer temperature checks at all entrances.
- Worshippers are to use facemasks always and observe physical distancing.
- Funerals and weddings are allowed but attendance is limited to just 20 people including close family members.
- Hospital visitations are allowed but limited to immediate family.
- Restrictions on communal sports and use of recreational parks are still in place.
Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Are Rising
Coronavirus cases in Nigeria continue to rise. There are now almost 29000 cases with a little about 12000 cases discharged. 645 Nigerians have lost their lives to the pandemic as of 5th July 2020. The lockdown initially imposed by the government on 30th March was not allowed to achieve any substantial reduction in infections. The government eased it due to economic strains and failure to provide palliatives to encourage compliance.
Of the 28,711 confirmed cases of coronavirus, more than 15500 of those were in June alone. This is according to data from the Nigerian Center For Disease Control (NCDC). It is unclear what the government’s plan to bring down Nigeria’s rising case numbers is. Secretary to The Government, Boss Mustapha reiterated that the government remains “committed to striking a delicate balance between lives and livelihood.”
Phase 2 of eased lockdown will last till the 27th July 2020 after which further guidelines will be issued.