Nigeria's President Eases COVID-19 Restrictions, Citing Economic Hardship

Osagie Ehanire

Osagie Ehanire

President Muhammadu Buhari during a live broadcast on coronavirus pandemic.

Nigeria's president announced late Monday that a more than four-week lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus would be gradually eased beginning May 4.

"Selected businesses and offices can open from 9am to 6pm and there will be an overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am".

Buhari said "the federal and state governments have jointly and collaboratively worked hard on how to balance the need to protect health while also preserving livelihoods, leveraging global best practices while keeping in mind our peculiar circumstances".

The state government acknowledged the deaths but said they were caused by complications from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria and not the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buhari, however, noted that the phased and gradual easing of the lockdown will be strictly followed with aggressive reinforcements of testing and contact testing measures while allowing the restoration of some economic and business activities in certain sectors.

Three states; the capital, Abuja, the commercial hub of Lagos and Ogun in the south-west, are now in the fourth week of a lockdown, extended from an initial two weeks.

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He addressed the nation again on COVID-19 on April 13 extending the lockdown.

"Partial and controlled interstate movement of goods and services will be allowed for the movement of goods and services from producers to consumers".

Since the lockdown, Nigeria has recorded a total of 1,273 cases, 239 recoveries and 40 fatalities.

But the Nigerian Medical Association had advised the government to extend the lockdown by two more weeks, raising concerns a spike in the spread of the contagion if the country reopens now.

"State governments, corporate organisations and philanthropists are encouraged to support the production of cloth masks for citizens", Buhari appealed.

The restrictions on social and religious gatherings will also remain in place, according to the president.

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