President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that precision lockdowns be implemented in areas recording high rates of coronavirus infections in the country.

The chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said during a media briefing on Monday, May 18, 2020, that it was one of the president's new directives aimed towards containing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

Mustapha said the lockdown will be implemented in states, or in metropolitan and high-burden local government areas that are reporting a rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises.

"This will be complimented with the provision of palliatives and continued re-evaluation of the impact of the interventions," he said.

Mustapha failed to be specific about which states are under focus, but Lagos and Kano have recorded the highest number of cases in the country with 2,550 and 825 respectively.

President Buhari had previously imposed a lockdown on Lagos, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between March 30, and May 4.

He then imposed new measures such as overnight curfew, ban on interstate travel, and compulsory wearing of masks in public places, as part of a gradual and phased easing of the lockdown.

Mustapha had last month said the gradual reopening of the Nigerian economy would span the total of six weeks, broken into three tranches of two weeks each.

However, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) said on Monday that the outcomes of the first phase of the eased lockdown are mixed because of rampant non-compliance.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha. [Twitter/@DigiCommsNG]
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha. [Twitter/@DigiCommsNG]

He said this led to the task force's recommendation to Buhari that the country is not ready for a full reopening of the economy.

He said tough decisions will have to be made as any further relaxation will represent danger to the public.

"Advisedly, the current phase of eased restriction will be maintained for another two weeks during which stricter enforcement and persuasion measures will be pursued," the SGF said.

Mustapha said the extension will also enable other segments of the economy prepare adequately for compliance with the guidelines preparatory to reopening in the coming weeks.

Buhari extends lockdown in Kano

President Buhari, according to the PTF chairman, also extended the lockdown of Kano that he initially imposed on April 27, as the disease continues to spread in the state.

The president also ordered that efforts be intensified to tame, communicate, test, identify, and manage coronavirus cases across the country.

The measures, exceptions, advisories, and scopes of entities allowed to open under phase one will be maintained for the next two weeks.

Buhari also approved an aggressive scaling up of efforts to ensure communities are informed, engaged, and participating in the response with enhanced public awareness in high-risk areas.

Mustapha appealed to Nigerians to continue to adhere to preventive measures announced by authorities to contain the spread of the virus.

"Nigeria is not where we wish to be in terms of control, ownership, infrastructure, and change of behaviour. We must do more," he said.

Nigeria has recorded 5,959 coronavirus cases, as of May 17 [AFP]
Nigeria has recorded 5,959 coronavirus cases, as of May 17 [AFP]
AFP

In the first phase of two weeks which is now over, food processing companies, banks, pharmaceutical industries, government buildings, and neighbourhood markets were allowed to open with directives on measures to put in place.

However, schools across the country, shut down in March by President Buhari, were asked to remain closed for further evaluation, and encouraged to continue with e-learning and virtual teaching.

Social activities such as the use of recreational parks, sports, concerts, social parties and movie theatres also remained suspended.

Religious gatherings also remained suspended by the authorities, although some state governments have started to relax that particular restriction.

A total of 5,959 cases have been recorded in 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as of May 17.

While 1,594 patients have recovered and been discharged, 182 people have died.