The Federal Government has directed the “restrictive opening” of worship centres but with a caveat that relevant containment protocols against the Covid-19 be respected in line with the agreement reached between the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19 and the state governments.
The PTF which disclosed this on Monday during its daily briefing also announced the second phase of its eased lockdown which would be in place for four weeks.
The initial six-week eased lockdown would end by midnight of Monday, but the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19 said the pandemic is still very potent as Nigeria has not reached the peak of infection.
The new phase of the lockdown also places a ban on interstate movement, gatherings with more than 20 people among others.
While it said the states can relax the restrictions placed on religious houses, the PTF however reviewed the 8 pm to 6 pm curfew imposed on the country to now take place between 10 pm and 4 am.
It said since the transmission has gotten to the community level, and that it is expected that states and local governments now drive the process in their areas of responsibility.
The PTF also announced the full opening of banks and the financial services sector but stated that schools remained closed until medical experts give the nod for reopening.
It added that the aviation industry is taken steps to see how domestic flights can commence as of June 21.
Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha in his remarks noted that “Nigeria has not reached the peak of confirmed cases. We are still in the first wave. We haven’t even reached the peak of the first wave. The basic question that most Nigerians will ask now is; are we going to see an increase? Yes, we are going to see an increase and I am saying it will all sense of responsibility because we are putting infrastructure in place that will now tell us exactly what is happening. We are ramping up the tests”.
He said the battle against COVID-19 is a long term one and that Nigeria has to pursue a strategy that will aid the sustainable control of the spread of the disease.
He said; “Risk communications and community engagement should remain a top priority; and a precision approach to containment and management should be adopted.
“Based on the overall assessment, including available data on the public health considerations and resultant economic impacts, the PTF is of the opinion that Nigeria is ready to allow Science and Data to determine her cautious advancement into the second phase of the eased lockdown for a period of four weeks.
“After considering all factors mentioned above, the PTF submitted its recommendations and the President has approved the following for implementation over the next four weeks spanning 2nd – 29th June 2020, subject to review. Cautious advance into the Second Phase of the national response to COVID-19; Application of science and data to guide the targeting of areas of on-going high transmission of COVID-19 in the country;
“Mobilisation of all resources at State and Local Government levels to create public awareness on COVID 19 and improve compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions within communities;
“Sustenance of key non-pharmaceutical interventions that would apply nationwide and include: ban of gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace; relaxation of the restriction on places of Worship based on guidelines issued by the PTF and Protocols agreed by State Governments.
“Managed access to markets and locations of economic activity to limit the risk of transmission; ban on inter-state travels except for the movement of agricultural produce, petroleum products, manufactured goods, and essential services”.
Mustapha said the above is in addition to all other measures including the mandatory use of non-medical face masks in public places, social distancing, and others.
The PTF however announced the easing of the total lockdown of Kano State and the introduction of Phase One of the Eased Lockdown.
The Taskforce expressed worries that the global epicenter of the pandemic has shifted from China to Europe, then to the United States of America, and is now showing significant impact in South and Central America.
“This shift to South America with virtually similar climatic and demographic similarities with Africa is a cause for concern when we consider the fact that earlier projections pointed to Africa as likely to be the worst hit continent, by the pandemic.
“Countries have continued to record significant daily increases, capable of overwhelming our fragile healthcare systems if there is a consistent surge. This calls for caution, planning, multi-sectoral investment in institutional and human capacity, scientific and methodical approach as well as citizens’ commitment to the control of the pandemic”, Mustapha stated.
According to him, no country has been able to survive the virus just by embarking on a lockdown, saying the people have to own the fight and protect themselves by adhering to safety protocols.
The SGF also disclosed that the government has been able to interrupt the transmission and situate the pandemic largely within 20 out of the 774 local government areas in the country which now bear 60 percent burden of the Covid-19.
According to him, “the majority of the confirmed cases are in a handful of local governments in the country. Twenty out of the 774 LGAs nationwide account for 60% of the cases.
“There is an opportunity to concentrate efforts in these high-burden areas. Federal agencies and State Governments are working together on the promotion and utilization of guidelines on case management (e.g. home care for relatively well patients)”.
Minister of State, Education, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba again restated the decision of the ministry not to reopen schools, saying the government would not expose its children to the virus.
National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu who announced the reopening of the financial services sector also urged security operatives to respect all the exemptions as announced in all its guidelines.
He said; “The next four weeks is to balance public safety with protecting livelihoods as well as allowing the full restoration of economic activities across the country.
“Effective from Tuesday, June 2, 2020, the easing of the lockdown will be characterized by the following; the Nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will reduce to 10 pm to 4 am. Just to clarify, the purpose of the curfew is to limit social interactions and therefore reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.
“Persons that are on essential duties including but not limited to those involved in the provision of healthcare services, media services, and critical infrastructure are exempted from the curfew.
“All interstate travels by individuals remain prohibited except for essential travel and the movement of goods and services. All restrictions on the free movement of goods and services are now removed in this phase.
“There will be the full opening of the financial sector with banks now allowed to operate normal working hours, five days a week.
“The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of a workplace or places of worship remains prohibited.
“Restricted opening of places of worship will be based on state government’s protocols and with strict guidelines on physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions. This will apply to regular church and mosque services only”, he added.
According to Aliyu, the temporary halt in the evacuation of Nigerians from other countries remained suspended until further notice.
Aliyu added that the aviation industry has been requested to start developing protocols for domestic flights to possibly resume from June 21.
Aviation minister, Hadi Sirika said the ministry would consider both the technical and health aspect of the impact of the Covid-19 before reopening the airports.