ABUJA, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has announced a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures effective in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and two states of Lagos and Ogun from May 4, as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 epidemic.
In a presidential broadcast late Monday, Buhari said for the past four weeks, most parts of Nigeria have been under either federal government or state government lockdowns, which have contributed to the slowing down of the spread of COVID-19 in our country.
However, the president said such lockdowns have also come at a very heavy economic cost. "Many of our citizens have lost their means of livelihood. Many businesses have shut down. No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines," he said.
Buhari announced new nationwide measures to replace the lockdowns, including overnight curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., bans on non-essential inter-state passenger travel, mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public, and partial and controlled interstate movement of goods and services.
He said the new measures "will be followed strictly with aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures, while allowing the restoration of some economic and business activities in certain sectors."
The restrictions on social and religious gatherings will remain in place, said the president, adding the current lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states will remain in place until these new measures come into effect on Monday.
"State governors may choose to adapt and expand (the measures) based on their unique circumstances, provided they maintain alignment with the guidelines issued above," he said, adding the revised guidelines will not apply to Kano state, which recorded the third biggest confirmed cases in the country, only after Lagos and the FCT.
According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, as of Monday, the country reported 1,337 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 764 cases in Lagos, 157 in the FCT and 77 in Kano.
Recent local media reports said scores of unexplained deaths have been recorded over the past week in Kano, the most populous state in northern Nigeria, driving local residents into fears, with many attributing the surge of deaths to the pandemic.
Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the governor of Kano state, said on his personal Twitter on Monday that investigations have been ongoing and autopsies are being carried out. But so far there's been nothing to suggest that the deaths are linked to COVID-19.
Buhari said in the speech he has ordered a total lockdown in Kano effective immediately and lasting for two weeks. The federal government will deploy "all the necessary human, material and technical resources to support the state in controlling and containing the pandemic, and preventing the risk of further spread to neighboring states."
The Nigerian government had introduced a lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states since March 30 among other measures. On April 13, Buhari extended the lockdown for two weeks. Several other states have also introduced lockdown measures on their own to intensify contact tracing, identification of suspected cases and medical treatment. Enditem