With a Low COVID-19 Infection of 10,578, 299 Deaths, Nigeria Eases Lockdown to Spark Galloping Infection

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With the current 10,578 COVID-19 positive cases in Nigeria and the prospects of the virus exceeding 20,000 by the end of this June, the authorities say the country is yet to reach the ‘’peak’’ of the virus infections.

This then implies that the COVID-19 run in Nigeria at the moment is just a mere tip of the iceberg. It seems the authorities are expecting the scourge to infect the citizenry in hundreds of thousands, and abort lives in tens of thousands.

That prospect will be happening as the Nigerian government on Monday began phase two of easing its lockdown by gradually reopening the ailing economy.

Nigeria’s 2020 budget was pegged on the presumption of oil selling at $57 per barrel. COVID-19 crisis has dragged the budget into a large deficit. Presently, the price per barrel fluctuates between $20 and $29. 

Nigeria’s revenue is 80 percent oil receipts. The oil market plunge is further exacerbated by the oil production rift between Saudi Arabia and Russia, two countries who have for some years led efforts to balance World Oil Prices, through the OPEC+ arrangements between OPEC members and non-OPEC oil producers. 

The production rift stemmed from Russia’s non-alignment with OPEC’s (Saudi Arabia-led) proposal to cut down on oil production (reduce supply) to cushion the plunging of oil prices below the International benchmark of about $66 per barrel. 

This production rift may lead to Russia’s reneging on the OPEC+ arrangement, which has the effect of removing the cap on production, allowing OPEC and non-OPEC oil-producing states increase production to volumes as can be commercially viable.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the Nigerian economy advanced by 2.55 percent in the last quarter of 2019. 

Arguably, if the pandemic is not contained, and the oil price continues to plunge, the Nigerian economy may worsen. The overwhelming dependency on oil receipts has plunged the economy into a recession.

In the meantime, while no date has been fixed for the reopening of schools, banks were given an immediate go-ahead to operate fully. Hotels got the green light to reopen “but must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical intervention”.

Even when businesses were under lockdown, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Monday confirmed 416 new cases with 12 deaths as the total number of cases jumped to 10578 across the country.

The figure, however, represents the second-highest daily numbers since Saturday, when Nigeria reported 553 confirmed positive cases on the rampaging virus.

While the disease control agency reports that 3122 patients have been discharged, it also announced that 299 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Lagos is still holding strongly to the lead table with 192 cases, Edo 41, Rivers 33, Kaduna 30, Kwara 23, Nasarawa 18, Borno 17, Abuja 14, Oyo 10, Katsina seven, Abia five, Delta five, Adamawa four, Kano four, Imo three, Ondo three, Benue, Bauchi, Ogun have two each, and Niger one.

Interestingly, the government has approved a “restrictive opening” of worship centres. But, it is doubtful if they will adhere strictly to the relevant containment protocols against the COVID-19. 

Theoretically, they are expected to respect the containment protocols in line with the agreement reached between the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 and the 36 states.

The initial six-week eased lockdown ended midnight on Monday. But, the PTF on COVID-19 says 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 inter-state movement, gatherings with more than 20 people among others.

Businesses, on Monday, got a new lease of life as government commenced phase two of the ease of lockdown by gradually reopening the economy.

National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Aliyu Sani, who announced the reopening of the financial sector, insisted that restricted opening of worship centres will be granted by states subject to the PTF guidelines.

The aviation industry is also to be reopened this month. Airlines and other stakeholders in the industry have been given till June 21 to work out all necessary plans and preparations for the resumption of domestic flights.

Sani says: “The goal of phase two over 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.

“We are not opening places of worships across the board. We are saying that opening is conditional and it is based on these clear-cut guidelines and would only cover regular church and mosque services.

“Effective from Tuesday (today) the 2nd of June, 2020, the easing of the lockdown will be characterised by the following:

“The nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will be reduced to 10pm to 4am. 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 duty, including but not limited to those involved in the provision of health care services, media services, and critical infrastructure are exempted from the curfew.

“All interstate travels by individuals remain prohibited except for essential travels and the movement of goods and services. All restrictions on the free movement of goods and services is now removed in this phase.

“There will be a 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 the workplace or places of worship remains prohibited.

“There will be controlled access to markets and locations of economic activities. But local authorities will continue to guide on opening times.

“Restricted opening of places of worship will be based on state government protocols and restrict guidelines of physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions. This will apply to regular church and mosques services only.

“In terms of general movement, persons may go out for work, go to buy necessary food and for exercise provided that they abide by the curfew hours.

“Movement between local government areas is strongly discouraged unless for critical reasons such as healthcare and work.

“I will like to emphasize that it is still safer to stay at home and avoid crowds. The pandemic is not over in this country and the relaxation of some of the rules doesn’t mean that it is safer to go out. If you do not need to go out please continue to stay at home.

“Hawking and trading are also prohibited and we will be looking into this in later details with state authorities.

“The aviation industry requested to start developing protocols to allow for domestic flights to resume anytime from June 21 onwards. Airlines must ensure physical distancing by reducing passenger capacity, ensure the provision of hand sanitizers, and appropriate personal protective equipment as well as carrying out temperature checks at points of entry and departure and ensuring that airports are not congested by either non-travellers or by airport staff.

“With interstate travels, movement across state borders remains restricted other than the free movement of goods and essential travels. Security services are requested to please cooperate with members of the public and ensure that goods are provided with the free passage as this particular phase is directed at ensuring the economy starts moving again.

“With intra-state travel, we will implement new travel processes for areas of the country with high burden local government areas and this will be restricted to essential travel but for the moment with intrastate travel, all the prior guidelines will remain, including reduced occupancy for buses and taxis, the need for a temperature check and where available, the provision of handwashing facilities and the maintenance of physical distancing.

“For the industry and labour sector in terms of working hours, normal working hours will apply to offices other than government offices provided this is kept within the curfew hours of 10pm to 4am.

“Offices are to maintain working at 75 per cent capacity while maintaining the two-metre physical distancing.

“For government offices, they can open between the hours of 9am to 2pm. So, no change in opening hours but can work from Mondays to Fridays. Before this, we allowed a three-day working week. However, only persons that are within the grade level of 14 and above at both the federal and state government levels will be allowed to come into work. We will encourage staff to continue to work at home if possible, including the business and private sector, making the best use of technology that is now available.

“Hotels may reopen but must observe all mandatory non- pharmaceutical interventions.

“Restaurants, other than those in hotels must remain closed for eat -ins but are allowed to prioritise and continue practising the takeaway system.

“The Federal Ministry of Education has been instructed to work with school owners to prepare students that require exiting exams to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown.

“State governments and security agencies are enjoined to ensure effective and strict enforcement of these guidelines while respecting the exemptions that have been approved by Mr. President.”

 

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