•Suspends flight operations
•Promises stipend for vulnerable people, gives three-month moratorium on development bank loans
•I feel well, says Kyari, moves to Lagos for further tests
•Anambra, Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Abia close borders
•Dangote, Sanusi, Bello test negative
•Stallion group pledges rice and fish supply to govt hospitals
•Air Peace evacuates 274 Israelis to Tel-Aviv
With effect from 11.00 p.m. today, Lagos State, the epicentre of COVID-19 in Nigeria; the neighbouring Ogun State, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would be locked down, President Muhammadu Buhari directed yesterday.
The president, in a nationwide broadcast in which he outlined efforts by his administration to contain the virus, which as at yesterday had infected 111 people, with one death, directed the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure full restriction of movements within the three areas for 14 days.
Fourteen fresh cases were recorded yesterday to bring the tally to 111 with nine new infections recorded in Lagos and five in FCT, according to data from NCDC Twitter account.
The presidential broadcast came on the same day Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, in a statement signed by him and posted on the official twitter handle of the presidency, @NGRPresident, broke his silence on his COVID-19 status, saying on medical advice, he would transfer to Lagos for additional tests and observation.
To curb the spread of the virus to their states, Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Anambra and Abia also joined others to shut their borders.
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Sani Bello; President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; and the former Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, have also tested negative for COVID-19.
The president in the national broadcast, in which he outlined other measures to cushion the effects of the virus on the people, said following the directive, all residents of the two states and FCT must stay at home while movements to and from the areas are disallowed.
During the 14-day curfew, businesses would be shut, including private and commercial flight operations.
The president said authorities of the affected areas and security agencies had been put on alert to ensure compliance.
According to him, the essence of the lockdown is to trace and isolate all contacts with those who had tested positive for the virus.
He explained that the treatment of all confirmed cases would be done while deliberate efforts would be made to contain the continuous spread of the virus.
However, Buhari granted exemptions to personnel working in hospitals and all related healthcare organisations, Lagos seaports, food processing, distribution and retail companies from the restrictions.
Also exempted, are petroleum distribution and retail outlets, power generation, transmission and distribution companies as well as private security organisations.
Others sectors and items exempted from the order as listed by the president are the media, telecommunications companies and vehicles conveying food and essential humanitarian items to the three areas from other parts of the country.
However, he said such vehicles would be subjected to thorough screening before they can gain entry.
He added that the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had been directed to redeploy all port health authority workers who have been in Lagos and Abuja airports to major entry and exit points to the restricted areas.
Buhari said: “Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11.00 p.m. on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two states.
“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.
“The governors of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Minister of the FCT have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.
“We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other states.
“This order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organisations in healthcare-related manufacturing and distribution.
“Furthermore, commercial establishments such as food processing, distribution and retail companies, petroleum distribution and retail entities, power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and private security companies are also exempted.
“Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored. Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.
“All seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.
“Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.
“Accordingly, the Hon. Minister of Health is hereby directed to redeploy all Port Health Authority employees previously stationed in the Lagos and Abuja airports to key roads that serve as entry and exit points to these restricted zones. Movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are hereby suspended. Special permits will be issued on a needs basis.”
Buhari acknowledged the level of hardship that the decisions would cause citizens, but described the situation as a matter of life and death.
Citing the huge tragedies that accompanied the outbreak of the disease in Italy, France and Spain, the president appealed to citizens to embrace the restriction with a sense of patriotism and endure attendant inconveniences in government’s decisive bid to fight what he described as “our common enemy.”
Recalling that some other countries had taken far more painful decisions, the president who implored citizens to see the attendant hardship as their contributions to the fight against COVID-19 pledged the government’s preparedness to send relief package to some communities in Lagos and Abuja to cushion the effects of the decisions on residents.
He also said even though schools would remain closed during the period, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development had been directed to work with governments of the affected states on how to develop a strategy for the sustenance of the school feeding programme.
The president directed the immediate implementation of a three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans.
He also extended the moratorium to all federal government-funded loans issued by development banks.
“We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France and Spain.
“However, we must all see this as our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of this virus. I will, therefore, ask all of us affected by this order to put aside our personal comfort to safeguard ourselves and fellow human beings. This common enemy can only be controlled if we all come together and obey scientific and medical advice,” he said.
The president explained that he had given a directive to development financial institutions for what he described as on-lending facilities through the use of capital from international and multilateral development partners to engage the development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of borrowers.
He also directed the immediate payment of the conditional cash transfers to the vulnerable in the society for the next two months, imploring Nigerians to support the weak and the vulnerable around them.
Buhari also pledged to guarantee provisions of food items to internally displaced persons for two months, adding that further decisions would be taken depending on unfolding events.
The president said he had directed the conversion of some public institutions as isolated centres, restating that all necessary resources would be deployed to combat the scourge of COVID-19.
“My fellow Nigerians, as a government, we will avail all necessary resources to support the response and recovery. We remain committed to doing whatever it takes to confront COVID-19 in our country,” he said.
Buhari thanked members of the private sector, individuals and development partners who donated to the fight against the scourge, saying he had also assigned the Presidential Task Force to coordinate such donations.
He promised the effective role of government agencies in the efforts to contain the scourge, reiterating the necessity for every citizen to support both the government and the most vulnerable in the society.
Earlier, Buhari had chronicled how the federal government began to fight the virus since the inception of its outbreak in China late last year.
He said since the index case was recorded on February 27, the country had been under-studying other nations that had been fighting the virus earlier than Nigeria.
As part of efforts to curb the virus, he said the NCDC Director-General, Dr. Kema Ihekweazu, was one of the 10 disease managers invited to China to understudy the control of the disease.
He praised the NCDC Director-General for his commitment to the battle against COVID-19, noting that he has been deploying the experience he gained in China to fight the disease.
“Since his return, the NCDC has been implementing numerous strategies and programmes in Nigeria to ensure that the adverse impact of this virus on our country is minimised. We ask all Nigerians to support the work the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC are doing, led by the Presidential Task Force,” he said.
Buhari added that the federal government was deploying all power and resources within its reach to protect citizens and win the battle against the scourge, noting that till date, the disease has no cure.
I feel Well, Says Kyari
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff to the President, Kyari, yesterday gave an update on his health status, saying although he felt well, he might proceed to Lagos from Abuja yesterday for further tests and observation.
Kyari had tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend, forcing him to move into isolation as required by the NCDC protocol for the containment of the pandemic.
“I am writing to let you know that on medical advice, I will transfer to Lagos later today for additional tests and observation,” he said in a statement yesterday, explaining: “This is a precautionary measure: I feel well, but last week, I tested positive for coronavirus, the pandemic that is sweeping the world. I have followed all the protocols government has announced to self-isolate and quarantine.”
The president’s chief of staff said he had made his own care arrangements to avoid further burdening the public health system, which had faced so many pressures.
“Like many others that also test positive, I have not experienced high fever or other symptoms associated with this new virus and have been working from home. I hope to be back at my desk very soon,” Kyari said.
He praised his immediate staff for their dedication to duty, pledging that his office would continue to serve the president patriotically.
He advised Nigerians to be calm, measured and diligent in their hygiene, especially with cleaning of hands, if possible stay at home or keep their distance, assuring them that the president would do whatever it would take to protect their health and safety.
COVID-19 Cases Jump to 111
Nigeria has recorded 14 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 111.
The NCDC yesterday said nine of the cases were confirmed in Lagos while five were from the FCT.
NCDC said: “Of the 111 cases, 107 are currently being managed; three have been discharged, while one has died.”
So far, Lagos has recorded 68 cases, FCT 21, Oyo seven, Ogun three, Enugu, Edo, Bauchi and Osun two cases each, while Rivers, Benue, Kaduna and Ekiti have recorded one case each respectively.
Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Abia, Anambra close borders
Meanwhile, Ekiti, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, Anambra and Abia states have closed their borders with the neighbouring states.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State yesterday closed all borders of the state but exempted those transporting fuel, food and drugs and other essential goods from the restrictions.
“All non-residents who arrived the state prior to, or after, the imposition of this restriction, and who remain in the state, must remain in their place of temporary residence in the state for the duration of the 14 days, as the case may be, and may be subjected to screening for COVID-19 and be quarantined or isolated if necessary,” he said in a broadcast.
Fayemi also prohibited all commuter transport services including bus services, taxi services, motorbikes (Okada) and tricycle services (Keke); except those for purposes of rendering essential services, obtaining essential goods, seeking medical attention, funeral services and to receive payment of social grants or food.
According to him, the restrictions would last 14 days effective from today.
Ogun State Government has also announced the closure of its borders with both the Republic of Benin and neighbouring states, including Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Oyo, to curtail the spread of the disease.
A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kunle Somorin, said the closure took effect from the midnight of yesterday and that it would last for two weeks in the first instance.
Benue State has also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew with effect from today. But those on essential services are exempted.
Governor Samuel Ortom, during a live broadcast, yesterday said all borders linking the state with other states would be closed on Wednesday.
He noted that commercial vehicles coming in and those going out of the state as well as those moving from one local government to another must produce manifest of their passengers for proper tracking of contacts in case of any eventuality.
Yobe State Governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni, in a statement issued yesterday by his spokesman, Mallam Mamman Mohammed, also directed the closure of the state borders from midnight of tomorrow to guard against the spread of COVID-19 to the state.
He attributed the border closure to the spike in the spread of the virus in Nigeria and noted that “in spite of the state’s zero COVID-19 status, the state government had taken adequate measures by establishing isolation centres with equipment and constituting a committee on COVID-19 under the chairmanship of the state Deputy Governor, Hon. Idi Barde Gubana.”
Movements of vehicles into and out of Abia State also ceased yesterday as the state government shut all entry and exit points as it rolled out measures to keep COVID-19 out of the state.
The boundary closure, which became effective at 4.00 a.m. yesterday, was ordered by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, following the recommendations of the state inter-ministerial committee on COVID-19.
Abia State shares boundaries with seven other states – Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
The state Commissioner for Information, Chief John Kalu, said the COVID-19 committee deemed it necessary to recommend the closing of boundaries “based on situational reviews of the pandemic.”
Anambra State Government has also announced the closure of the Niger Bridge in Onitsha against vehicles coming into the state.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, stated this in a statement made available to journalists yesterday.
Bello, Dangote, Sanusi Test Negative
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Sani Bello; President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; and former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, have all tested negative for COVID-19.
A statement by Bello’s Chief Press Secretary, Ms. Mary Berje, confirmed the status of the governor and his decision to remain in isolation “to play safe.”
Dangote has also disclosed that he tested negative for the virus.
In a tweet yesterday, Dangote said: “As a global citizen and business leader, I took the COVID-19 test and the result came back negative.
“Coalition Against COVID-19 is an initiative that I am leading with other private sectors’ leaders and our common goal is to support ongoing government initiatives with our resources in the fight against COVID-19.
“We are in this together and I am optimistic we will overcome.”
Also, Sanusi and his wives have tested negative for the virus, according to a statement issued yesterday by the son of the deposed Emir of Kano, Mr. Adam Sanusi.
“We have been inundated with calls asking about the health and safety of my father (Sanusi) especially given the number of visitors he received on arrival in Lagos, and a number of contacts he had who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or were in contact with persons who tested positive.
“As for my father, on March 25, he and all our mothers submitted samples for the COVID-19 test. These samples were taken at home under the supervision of Dr. Alero Roberts, the second Vice Chairman of the Association of Public Health Professionals.
“On March 27, Dr. Roberts conveyed the results and all of them were negative. We hope this information will allay the concerns of all those who are asking,” the statement said.