Festus Akanbi and Segun James
The Lagos State Government yesterday responded to the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic infection as it announced an indefinite closure of public and private schools, restriction on churches and mosques, among other measures to reduce fatalities in the state.
The state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu, who reeled out the measures explained that “The Lagos State Government is now sounding a clear note of caution to all residents on the importance of maintaining the guidelines that we have put in place to protect us from the ravages of COVID-19. We cannot afford a reversal of the gains we have made against this pandemic.”
Consequently, the governor directed that all public and private schools should be shut down with immediate effect until further notice.
The governor also directed that “All Places of Worship (Churches, Mosques, etc.) must ensure that no gathering exceeds two hours and also that no gathering exceeds 50 per cent of the maximum capacity of the venue.”
To reduce the number of public servants at their duty posts, the governor also directed all public servants from GL 14 and below, except emergency workers and first responders to begin to work from home as from Monday, December 21st for the next 14 days – in the first instance.
The governor also directed that concerts, carnivals and street parties were banned in Lagos State until further notice.
The restriction order affects night clubs also, with the governor saying night clubs had not been allowed to open yet. He therefore directed that all night clubs in Lagos must immediately shut down, until further notice.
Governor Sanwoolu reminded Lagosians that the midnight to 4a.m. curfew imposed by the federal government remained in place.
“The protocol of ‘No Mask No Entry’ must be enforced by all public places: Offices, Businesses, Markets, Shops, and so on.
“All event planners must obtain prior clearance from the Lagos State Safety Commission (www.lasgsafetyreg.com) for all events, and ensure that any planned gathering do not exceed 300 people,” the governor ordered.
He explained further that where the capacity of a venue exceeds 300 and permission had been granted, the occupancy shall not be more than 50 per cent of such a venue.
Other measures stipulated included the need for ample ventilation at all times in all venues, and that deep cleaning of the premises must be carried out before and after every event.
According to the governor, “A minimum of two meters’ distance should be maintained between seated or standing guests.
“All guests and service providers at events MUST wear nose masks/coverings before entry.
“Hand sanitisers or hand washing units are to be positioned at the entry point and various spots within the hall. Provision must be made for all guests and service providers to wash their hands before entering the venue or use hand sanitisers, as well as undergo a temperature check, which is mandatory.
“Guests and service providers with high temperature (above 37.5) are to be politely turned back and referred to paramedics or the emergency response team that must be present.
“Health, safety and environment officers must be present at all public gatherings (Religious or Social) and must be trained in basic first aid procedures.
“All Events’ Staff must also be educated on recognising COVID-19 symptoms.
“The Safety Commission has been directed to visit event centres and gauge compliance with the established guidelines, to stop the virus from spreading. If there is evidence of lack of compliance at any event centre, it will be shut down immediately.”
“Security agents have been mandated to ensure full enforcement, without exception. No one will be deemed to be above the law.
“Any and all breaches of these regulations and public health protocols will lead to immediate closure as well as attract heavy fines, and any other sanctions and penalties deemed fit, in line with the Lagos State Infectious Diseases Control Regulation 2020,” the governor stated, warning however that event centre owners/planners/vendors will be responsible for any breach of protocols by their staff.
He said Lagos State government would continue to closely watch the profile of the unfolding situation, while also awaiting updates and pronouncements from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Working with Presidential Task Force on COVID-19
“We will also keep working with the Presidential Task Force to ensure that the gains of the recent past are not frittered away on the altar of festivities and sheer carelessness. The lives of ALL Lagosians, including our elders and other vulnerable citizens, matter.”
The governor stressed the need to maintain the principles of non-pharmaceutical interventions and measures that are well documented strategies for interrupting the spread of the disease in our society.
Consequently, the governor renewed calls for social distancing, a minimum of two meters apart; The wearing of face masks at all times in public places; Maintenance of personal and respiratory hygiene – regular handwashing / sanitising, coughing or sneezing into a tissue and properly disposing; Presentation for testing at our numerous public and private testing facilities if you experience any of the COVID-19 symptoms and isolation either at home or in any of our Treatment Centres if diagnosed positive for COVID-19.
These measures, the governor said, represent the only way to keep the curve flattened and prevent a full-blown second wave from developing in Lagos.
Speaking on preparations for the Christmas celebration, the governor enjoined Lagos residents to take responsibility for the welfare and safety of all as they enjoy the festive season with friends and families.
“It is important that as a community we strictly abide by the above regulations in the context of a global pandemic, without prejudicing our efforts to keep the economy running and maintain our means of livelihood to a sufficient extent.
Warning against large gatherings during the Christmas celebration, the governor said, “We are getting credible reports that the entertainment industry is planning large gatherings, concerts, street parties and carnivals, in the spirit of the Yuletide. Night Clubs have also re-opened in reckless disregard of the existing guidelines, and events centres are operating with huge gatherings without any regard for public health and safety guidelines.
“This same disregard for Coronavirus guidelines is also being observed with places of worship across the state, in both their regular gatherings and the special gatherings organised to commemorate this Season.
“Let us use this festive season to spend quality time in small but controlled gatherings with family and friends in the spirit of the season.
“This virus does not discriminate. We must take responsibility, and not treat this pandemic with levity,” Sanwo-olu said.
He expressed the resolve of the state government to bring the full weight of the law to bear on any person or organisation caught breaching public health regulations and protocols.
Stressing the need for compliance, the governor said, “Dear Lagosians, this overwhelming non-compliance with guidelines meant to keep us all safe is very disheartening, especially when we consider that the message at the heart of Christmas is one of sacrifice and sacrificial conduct; embodied by the Holy Bible in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
“Christmas is a commemoration of this supreme act of sacrifice by God. The least we can do in this Season is to emulate that spirit of sacrifice, by abiding with difficult but necessary protective guidelines, for the greater good of all of us. This is certainly not the time to lower our guard against the Coronavirus; it is instead time to step up our battle against this stubborn virus that has gripped the world for several months now,” the governor stated.
Acknowledging the coming of the second wave of the pandemic, Sanwo-olu said that Lagos State is recording an increase in COVID-19 cases in all local governments like in other parts of the country.
The governor said, “Of every 100 tests that we now perform, an average of 10 turn out to be positive. This is an increase from the five per hundred recorded in September, but lower than our peak in August which was between 20 and 30 per hundred. This suggests the existence of active community transmission, and represents the very likely possibility of the emergence of a second wave in Lagos State.
“This second wave calls for a full re-awakening of caution and precaution. The complacency that crept in over the last few months as a result of our early interventions when cases started to decline from our peak in August, must now give way to an abundance of vigilance.
“We are ramping up testing, we have now recently surpassed the 3,000 tests per day mark, and we will keep raising this number. So far, we have performed 197,000 tests in Lagos State of which 26,000 have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19. Sadly, we have lost 226 persons (May their souls rest in peace). It is important to note that Lagos already tests far more than any other state, accounting for 25 per cent of the total numbers tested nationwide.”
He explained that testing in the designated public facilities remained free as the Lagos State Government did not charge for COVID-19 tests in its testing centres. He pointed out that the only test centres where there was a charge were the private ones for intending travellers and also those who seek to know their status for some reason or the other.
The governor, who spoke from his self-isolation base yesterday, described as unfortunate and dangerous, the assumption that the state had seen the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the worst was over.
Explaining why the government could not be locked down in this circumstance, the governor said, “Dear Lagosians, you will all agree with me that we cannot afford another lockdown of the economy. Amidst an economic recession we must find a way to delicately balance the imperatives of life and livelihood. With this in mind, the only solution available to us is to take responsibility for all our actions, and to understand that we must stay safe not only for ourselves but for the sake of the entire society.
“The data we have – we strive to ensure that our decisions are as data-driven as possible – does not warrant the introduction of a drastic lockdown; we can achieve a lot simply by modifying our behavior in other ways: reducing the size of gatherings, complying with containment protocols, and applying common sense.
“The Lagos State Government is now sounding a clear note of caution to all residents on the importance of maintaining the guidelines that we have put in place to protect us from the ravages of COVID-19. We cannot afford a reversal of the gains we have made against this pandemic.”