The Nigerian government yesterday unveiled plans to restart the economy that has been paralysed for more than four weeks due to measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also outlined operational guidelines in furtherance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast on Monday to relax the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States from next Monday.
According to Secretary to the Nigerian government, Boss Mustapha, the reopening of the economy will be done in phases, spanning a total of six weeks and broken into three tranches of two weeks each.
As part of its easement process, the federal government has limited the total operational hours for all commercial banks nationwide, starting from Monday, to only six hours per day from 8 a.m to 2 p.m.
All arrivals in Nigeria will now undergo mandatory supervised isolation for at least 14 days.
The Nigerian government also announced its decision to purchase 107,000 cartridges to be used in the deployment of the GeneXpert machine already configured for the testing of people for the virus.
Speaking further in Abuja during the media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha also said the phased reopening of the economy was designed to reduce the pains of socio-economic disruptions.
He explained that the overnight curfew imposed by Buhari during the broadcast is applicable nationwide from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, effective from Monday.
“In line with Mr. President’s directive in paragraphs 38-41 of his broadcast, the PTF has developed sector-specific guidelines. The gradual reopening of the economy will span a total of six weeks broken into three tranches of two weeks each,” he said adding: “This phased strategy is designed to reduce the pains of socio-economic disruptions while strengthening our public health response, which would ultimately reduce the recovery of our economy and provide succour to the poor and vulnerable.”
He called for collaboration with the state governments. Asking them to coordinate market and transport associations to implement the directive of the president.
He directed the security agencies to strictly enforce the new measures that had been pronounced by the federal government.
Mustapha also said there would be mandatory supervised isolation of persons arriving from outside the country for at least 14 days.
He said all state governments in collaboration with security agencies and relevant trade associations had been advised to ensure the strict enforcement of the measures.
Unveiling other details of the guidelines for the gradual easing of the lockdown, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said the federal government had limited the total operational hours for all commercial banks nationwide, starting from Monday, to only six hours per day.
Aliyu said all banks would be allowed to operate only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., together with other preventive measures in place, such as not having more than 20 persons in the banking halls, provision of hand sanitisers and measuring customers’ temperature.
He explained that there would be a ban on interstate movements except for essential services and a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
In addition, pharmacy shops will remain open overnight while construction of critical bridges will be allowed.
Aliyu said waivers would be given by governors to enable movement of construction workers.
Under the guidelines, restaurants will not open to the public but will be allowed to engage in home delivery service.
The guidelines encouraged manufacturing and production industry to run shift work and limit their staff to only 20 – 30 workers to maintain social distancing.
Schools are to remain closed indefinitely and are encouraged to continue with e-learning and e-teaching while all social activities such as concert, movies, and theatres are suspended indefinitely.
All government offices and staff will be allowed to open but strictly based on a specific grade level in order to reduce the amount of congestion in offices.
Neigbourhood markets will continue to open with the same standards and restrictions applied in the past.
Aliyu stated that there will be further discussions with state governments so as to have a common approach to the implementation of the guidelines.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, at the press briefing in Abuja, revealed that the ministry had ordered for 107,000 cartridges to be used in the deployment of the GeneXpert machine already configured for the testing for COVID-19.
“The GeneXpert is very useful because it can fast-track testing. We are going to order over 107,000 cartridges using the global fund facility that we have and if we are able to have the bio-safety cabinet for the 26 of them, we can boost the number of the GeneXpert machines we have in the country.
“With this, we can do quite a lot of testing. The good thing about them is they can give you results at a faster rate, within 45 minutes to one hour,” he said.
Ehanire added that his ministry is training primary health care (PHC) workers to fight against the pandemic.
“I am optimistic that significant control of community transmission will be achieved if the capacity of more than 220,000 primary healthcare workers across the 36 states and the FCT, as well as in the communities they serve, are strengthened and supported,” he said.