The Federal Government on Monday restricted gatherings at worship centres and banned night clubs as parts of measures aimed at preventing the spread of devastating strains of COVID-19 into the country.
Amid concern about the strains of the virus in India, South Africa, Turkey and Brazil, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 at its press briefing in Abuja reintroduced some measures which were put in place during the second COVID-19 wave in the country.
Eminent virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, and a virologist at the University of Ibadan, Prof David Olaleye, in separate interviews with The PUNCH supported government’s actions.
They warned Nigerians that India’s COVID-19 crisis was an indication that there could be a resurgence of the virus in Nigeria.
Recall that the World Health Organisation Regional Virologist, Dr Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, said B.1.351 variant of the coronavirus, first found in South Africa, was spreading in 23 African countries.
According to him, the African countries include Kenya, Cameroon, Cote D’ ívoire, Malawi, Mauritius, Togo, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Ghana, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles and Tanzania.
As of Sunday, Africa had recorded 4,673,466 cases. South Africa with 1.59 million cases has the highest number of infections in the continent.
Nigeria has so far recorded 165,419 cases of the virus out of which 2,065 have died while 156,300 have been discharged.
India, whose cases have attracted global attention following shortage of oxygen and hospital spaces, has recorded 22,991,927 infections.
To prevent a similar occurrence in Nigeria, the National Incident Manager, Mukhtar Mohammed, who rolled out preventive measures on Monday, said a nationwide curfew would be introduced from midnight of Monday.
He said the curfew would run from 12 midnight till 4am daily.
He also said gatherings for worship or weddings should not be more than 50 per cent capacity.
He said security agents had been saddled with the responsibility of enforcing all the non-pharmaceutical measures put in place by the government.
Mohammed said, “Further to these recommendations and effective from 0001hours of Tuesday, May 11, 2021, this Phase IV of the phased restriction of movement shall come into effect.
“We shall maintain restrictions of 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.”
He stated that there would be enforcement of a mandatory requirement of a seven-day quarantine for all international passengers.
Mohammed added that there would be “enforced temperature checks and no mask, no entry policy in all public settings; workplace buildings, businesses and places of worship. Access to government and commercial premises should be denied to persons without face masks.
“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.”
According to him, hotels are to remain open while adhering 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.
He added that indoor recreational facilities and gyms were to close until June 11 when the situation would be reviewed while non-contact outdoor sports such as gulf, Polo and tennis were not affected.
He added, “In terms of working arrangement, virtual meetings should be encouraged to take place as much as possible. We should avoid large meetings, decongest offices and ensure they are well ventilated.
“States have been asked to institute mobile courts to help enforce on the spot fines and close premises that violate these prohibitions.
“On communal services, markets and stores, they should ensure that there are spot checks of commercial premises and observed or mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions. Facility owners and managers and store owners are to ensure that physical distancing is observed.
“All mass gatherings remain restricted to 50 persons except where explicit permission has been granted by the state governments. Hotels are to remain open, but they must observe or non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“Schools have already opened. However, they should consider the use of approved antigen based rapid diagnostics tests as recommended by the NCDC.
“All religious gatherings should be limited to less than 50% capacity to ensure physical distancing and use of face masks are mandatory.
“All recreational venues, gyms and indoor sports facilities are to close until June 11 when the situation will be reviewed. However, non-contact outdoor sports such as golf, polo and tennis are not affected by these.
“Gatherings in weddings, parties and meetings should also comply with 50 persons. Mass political gatherings, gatherings in the open, a large number of people are strictly to adhere this COVID-19 protocol.”
“Event centres, night clubs shall remain closed until further notice. Restaurants are to provide eat-in at 50% capacity and provide takeaways where available.”
The Chairman of the PSC, Boss Mustapha, lamented that some returning foreign passengers escaped from isolation facilities, violating the mandatory quarantine requirement under the advisory earlier issued.
He said the committee frowned on such act, adding that appropriate punishment would be meted out to anyone found culpable upon the completion of their investigation.