…Limits gatherings to 50 persons
By Omeiza Ajayi
Disturbed by the resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government yesterday announced reintroduction of all extant control measures aimed at mitigating the impact of the deadly scourge.
Accordingly, the Presidential Steering Committee, PSC, on COVID-19 reimposed nationwide curfew earlier put in place to control the spread of the virus.
It 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 in Abuja, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and chairman of the PSC, Mr Boss Mustapha, said the committee 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 new Implementation Guidelines, being Phase IV of our Eased Restrictions of COVID-19 Lock-down in the country.
Why restrictions are coming back — PSC
“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 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 Authorities 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, was to ease travel and trade among citizens of ECOWAS States traveling within the region.
PSC’s Head of Technical Secretariat, Dr Mukhtar Mohammed, said persons without face masks 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.
According to him, most government meetings are also now to hold virtually, while only essential international travels are encouraged, with adherence to all protocols.
‘No restrictions on inter-state travel’
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 roll-out has began, 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 face masks, physical distancing, temperature checks in public spaces, hand-washing and limits on large gatherings remain very poor. In some areas, these are even non-existent.
“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 roll out continues.
“Further to these recommendations and effective from 0001hours of Tuesday, May 11, 2021, this Phase 4 of the phased restriction of movement shall come into effect. We shall maintain restrictions on mass gatherings outside work settings with a maximum number of 50 people in any 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; work-place buildings, businesses and places of worship, etc. Access to government and commercial premises should be denied to persons without face masks.
Curfew runs from 12 midnight till 4am
“The nationwide curfew will be imposed tonight at midnight and it will run through till 4am. 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 co-morbidities are encouraged to stay at home. Only essential international travels are encouraged,” Mohammed added.
He said while hotels were 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 June 11, 2021, when the situation would 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 on-going 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.’’