The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has extended the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states by an additional 14 days to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Buhari had, on March 29, ordered the lockdown for an initial period of 14 days, while several states had also introduced similar restrictions.
The President, who made the announcement in a televised speech on Monday evening, maintained that the Federal Government had a two-step approach to tackling the virus.
According to him, the approach is, first, to protect the lives of Nigerians and residents living in the country and, second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
He said, “With this in mind, and having carefully considered the briefings and report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the FCT for another 14 days, effective from 11.59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020.
COVID-19, is a matter of life and death, not a joke – President
“I am, therefore, once again, asking you all to work with government in this fight. This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square.
“The famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.”
Buhari stated that the previously issued guidelines on exempted services should remain, adding that, though it was a difficult decision to take, he was convinced it was the right one.
According to him, the repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable.
The President noted that no country could afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy.
I am aware of daily income earners’ pain – Buhari
He said, “I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers.
“For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions.
“In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.”
3.6m households to receive palliatives
Buhari said he had directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks, adding that a technical committee, which was working on the programme, would submit a report to him by the end of the week.
The President said, “As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.
Ministers to develop COVID-19 economic policy
“To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the ministers of industry, trade and investment, communication and digital economy, science and technology, transportation, aviation, interior, health, works and housing, labour and employment and education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a ‘Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19’.
“The ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.”
Buhari also directed the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; the National Security Adviser; the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council; and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of the pandemic on the 2020 farming season was minimised.
Social distancing: Irresponsibility of few can lead to death of many, says Buhari
Buhari also appealed to Nigerians to follow the instructions on social distancing, saying, “The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people’s rights begin.
“The response of our state governors has been particularly impressive, especially in aligning their policies and actions to those of the Federal Government.”
He assured Nigerians that, in the coming weeks, the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force, would do whatever it takes to support them “in this very difficult period.”
The President added, “I have no doubt that, by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic.”
While recognising the “incredible work” of health care workers and volunteers across the country, especially in frontline areas of Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Buhari said the nation was on the right track to win the fight against COVID-19.
He said, “You are our heroes and as a nation; we will forever remain grateful for your sacrifice during this very difficult time. More measures to motivate our health care workers are being introduced which we will announce in the coming weeks.”
Buhari commended the members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, saying the patriotism shown in their work was exemplary and highly commendable.
The President appreciated the legislature for its support and donations, saying the collaboration was critical to the short- and long-term success of all the measures that had been instituted in response to the pandemic.
He also recognised the “massive support” from traditional rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.
Buhari noted that the Federal Government had achieved a lot in the first 14 days of the lockdown, including the implementation of comprehensive public health measures that intensified case identification, testing, isolation and contact-tracing capabilities.
He added that 92 per cent of all contacts had been identified, while doubling the number of testing laboratories in the country and raising testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day.
“We also trained over 7,000 health care workers on infection prevention and control, while deploying the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control teams to 19 states of the federation. Lagos and Abuja, today, have the capacity to admit some 1,000 patients each across several treatment centres.
“Many state governments have also made provisions for isolation wards and treatment centres. We will also build similar centers near our airports and land borders. Using our resources and those provided through donations, we will adequately equip and man these centres in the coming weeks.
“Already, health care workers across all the treatment centers have been provided with the personal protective equipment that they need to safely carry out the care they provide,” the President said.
He expressed concern over the increase in confirmed cases and deaths in the country, adding that the increase in the number of states with positive cases was alarming.
According to him, the majority of the confirmed cases in Lagos and the FCT are individuals with recent international travel history or those that came into contact with returnees from international trips.
Buhari stated that, by closing airports and land borders and putting strict conditions for seaport activities, the impact of external factors on the country was reduced.
He said, “On 30th March 2020, when we started our lockdown in conforming with medical and scientific advice, the total number of confirmed cases across the world was over 780,000.
“Yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally was over 1,850,000. This figure is more than double in two weeks! In the last 14 days alone, over 70,000 people have died due to this disease.”
The President noted that, on March 30, Nigeria had 131 confirmed cases in 12 states and two fatalities.
He added, “This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty states. Unfortunately, we now have 10 fatalities. Lagos State remains the centre and accounts for 54 per cent of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.
“When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71 per cent of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. Most of our efforts will continue to focus on these two locations.
“The NCDC has informed me that a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.”
NCDC confirms 20 new COVID-19 cases
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Monday announced 20 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 343.
The NCDC via its Twitter handle, @NCDCgov, said, “Twenty new cases of COVID19 have been reported as follows: 13 in Lagos, two in Edo, two in Kano, two in Ogun and one in Ondo.
“As of 09:50 pm 13th April, there are 343 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 91 have been discharged with 10 deaths.”
The NCDC added that the disease has spread to 19 state and the Federal Capital Territory.