Nigeria’s new lockdown measures take effect midnight Tuesday
On Monday, the Nigerian government took everyone by surprise by imposing new COVID-19 restrictions on a day that the country recorded only 37 new cases of the virus.
Under the new restrictions, a nationwide curfew has been re-introduced from 12 am to 4 am across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to the National Incident Manager, Muktar Mohammed during the briefing of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 in Abuja, the new directive is to take effect by midnight of today (Tuesday).
He also said that with effect from Tuesday, bars, nightclubs, gyms and others would remain closed until further notice.
More so, gatherings of religious groups and weddings, among others, shall be reduced to 50 percent attendance while official engagements such as meetings and conferences should continue to hold virtually.
Access to government institutions would also be denied to anyone not wearing a facemask while government meetings and travels have been limited to virtual platforms.
Only essential international travels would be encouraged, and all existing protocols must be strictly adhered.
It is strange to hear that these measures are coming on the heels of the rising cases of COVID-19 in India, Brazil and Turkey.
While many Nigerians understand the need for more precautions against the spread of the coronavirus as the second wave continues to wreak havoc in countries such as India, many are taken aback that the authorities considered implementing lockdown measures that will affect more negatively on an already ailing economy.
By shutting down bars, gyms, nightclubs, and restricting movements and restaurants sit-ins to 50 per cent, you are directly aiming to slow down economic activities. This will further worsen the unemployment crisis and slow down the rate of economic recovery.
Therefore, it is difficult to justify Nigeria’s new lockdown measures now, as normalcy has since returned to the country since without a spike in the number of new cases. On the streets, many people do not even bother about observing the non-pharmaceutical measures such as social distancing, hand sanitising and wearing of nose masks. The people, it appears, have already moved on with their lives and there has not been any dramatic increase in the number of cases because of that.
Even the government has held several functions where large crowd gathered without any consideration for social distancing. Yet, there was no commensurate effect on the number of COVID-19 infections. So, many would argue that the new restrictions should never be about the COVID-19.
Indeed, many suspect that the government is hiding under COVID-19 to implement measures it considers effective in dealing with the current insecurity in the country. With kidnappings, banditry violent attacks on security formations spiralling out of control, the government appears to have taken this decision in order to be seen to be doing something.
However, this decision may indeed worsen the current state of insecurity. For instance, there is the direct correlation between rising unemployment and insecurity, so, by taking this decision that will slow economic activity, you are indirectly aggravating the worsening insecurity in the land.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Nigerians will comply with this new restrictions. Events in the past have shown that most of these directives usually end up as just soundbites for the media, a deepening symptom of the people’s loss of confidence in their government.
As a matter of urgency, the government should focus on strengthening the security agencies to deal with the current insecurity that is threatening to destabilise the country, as many Nigerians would agree that COVID-19 is no longer our problem. Going about our businesses safely is.