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Nigeria orders closure of bars, night clubs, restaurants over COVID-19 second wave

...public officers on Level 12 and below to stay at home for the next 5 weeks

The Federal Government of Nigeria on Monday ordered the closure of all bars, night clubs, pubs, event centres, and recreational venues as part of moves to curtail the spread of the second wave of the coronavirus.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 containment, Boss Mustapha, announced this at the regular national briefing in Abuja.

To reduce overcrowding in public spaces, markets, shopping centres, offices and schools, the Federal Government advised all government staff on GL.12 and below to stay at home for the next five weeks, while the permanent secretaries and chief executives are to be held accountable for enforcing NPI rules in their domains with frequent spot checks.

Mustapha advised government offices to encourage virtual meetings in offices, while the leadership of such offices are to ensure that all offices are well-ventilated, and encourage staff to work from home where possible.

The PTF, on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Education, expects that schools would have vacated from December 18, 2020 and remain closed till at least January 18, 2021 to enable the measures introduced to take effect.

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The government also advised persons above the age of 60 years and/or with comorbidities to stay at home and avoid crowds.

“All non-essential travels, both domestic and international, during the holiday season are seriously discouraged,” Mustapha said.

“All restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents, takeaways, home deliveries and drive-ins shall remain closed,” he said.

The government insisted that informal and formal festivity events including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end-of-year events shall be restricted to not more than 50 persons.

These directives are coming on the heels of increasing dangers associated with the new coronavirus.

Other measures put in place to curtail the spread include limiting all gatherings linked to religious events to less than 50 percent capacity of the facility of use during which physical distancing and mandatory use of face masks shall be strictly enforced.

“Where more than 50 persons are attending any such events, the gathering should be held outdoors only. Public transportation systems are to carry passengers not more than 50 percent of their capacity in compliance with social distancing rules,” the PTF said.

The government also directed relevant agencies to enforce compliance with NPI protocols, especially the advisory on wearing of face masks in public spaces.

The Federal Government had noted that recent epidemiology records confirm to the PTF that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.

The PTF listed Lagos, Kaduna and the FCT where the virus has emerged as the new epicentres during this period, with over 70 percent of all confirmed cases.

“From our assessment, the current situation are clearly the consequences of certain occurrences and events of the last few weeks,” the PTF said.

The PTF blamed the current spike on the sudden increase in social gatherings involving large congregations from different parts of the country, and the world, at events such as weddings, religious activities, political rallies, conferences and end-of-year celebrations.

“These events, classified globally as ‘supers-spreader events’, make the risk of a single infection causing a large outbreak among attendees significantly higher.

“Furthermore, as we reopened the economy, we experienced increased economic, social and religious gatherings and activities all of which have combined to play a part in viral transmissions,” Mustapha said.

The Federal Government said with the opening of the international airspace in September 2020, which gave rise to an average number of daily imported infections into the country in the last 90 days to be about seven cases compared to 100-150 reported new infections in the community since the beginning of community transmission, the test positivity rate in travellers arriving Lagos has recently doubled to 6.3 percent.

It said the resumption of schools has also seen outbreaks, as well as the resumption of NYSC orientation camps, which it said has been mitigated by ensuring that all NYSC members were screened for COVID-19 prior to admission to camp, but confirmed cases have still been identified through tests carried out.

The PTF chairman said government will strengthen risk communication and community engagement activities over the next five weeks, while encouraging states to engage community and religious leaders, arrange town hall meetings (ideally set outdoors) to address concerns, intensify public messaging activities leveraging on existing government and partner assets, reach out to youths and younger adults with health promotion activities and invest in local face mask purchase and distribution to the general public to encourage use.

Where applicable, the PTF said it shall also implement these authorisations, including working with the Nigeria Immigration Service to impose sanctions on all in-bound travellers who violated the travel protocols and endangered the lives of their loved ones and other citizens by refusing to take the post-arrival test.

The PTF will similarly work with the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to implement aspects related to the Public Service.

Mustapha noted that a lot of discussion is still going on around the calls for the restriction of international travels due to the discovery of new strains of the virus in certain countries.

He said the PTF, aviation and health authorities including the WHO, are assessing the situation closely and would take a position as soon as cogent scientific basis are established.

“The protection of Nigerians remains our primary concern and we reassure Nigerians of our resolve not to relent.

“Tomorrow, Tuesday 22nd December, 2020 at 3.00pm, the PTF shall be submitting its end of year (2020) Report to Mr. President and Nigerians shall be kept abreast of developments in this regard,” he said.

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