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FG reduces curfew to 10pm, relaxes restriction on religious gatherings

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Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID -19 has lifted ban on religious gatherings based on guidelines and protocols agreed by the state governments.

  Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha disclosed this yesterday, at the daily national press briefing in Abuja.

     According to him, the lift which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, will be based on the guidelines issued by the PTF and protocols agreed by state governments working with religious leaders, physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions, adding that this will apply to regular church and mosque service only.

 He said further that the ban on interstate travels still remains in place with the exception of movement of agricultural produce, petroleum products, manufactured goods and essential services, adding that the use of non- medical face masks in public places is mandatory in addition to the mandatory provision of hand washing facilities.

    “The PTF submitted its recommendations and the president has approved the following for implementation over the next four weeks spanning 2nd – 29th June, 2020, subject to review:

 “Cautious advancement into the Second Phase of the national response to COVID-19; application of science and data to guide the targeting of areas of on-going high transmission of COVID-19 in the country; mobilisation of all resources at State and Local Government levels to create public awareness on COVID 19 and improved compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions within communities; sustenance of key non-pharmaceutical interventions that would apply nationwide and include: ban of gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace; relaxation of the restriction on places of worship based on guidelines issued by the PTF and protocols agreed by state governments,” Mustapha explained.

  Mustapha also announced that from June 2, banks would resume operations within the normal working hours.

  While briefing the press, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika also disclosed that the restrictions placed on domestic flights may be lifted on June 21, while the date for lifting of ban on international flight will be announced later .

 The minister who disclosed this during the PTF daily press briefing said industry stakeholders should start developing protocols towards flight resumption. “The aircraft have been parked for three months, we have to ensure that within now and that time, these airplanes are good and safe to fly,” she said.

Senator Sirika also explained that pilots and other members of the cabin crew would be required to undergo medicals and have their license renewed ahead of resumption.

    Clarifying the issue, the National Coordinator of the task force, Dr. Sani Aliyu said: “When we say from June 21, we mean that we are preparing the aviation sector towards that date. That date may not necessarily be June 21; it could be June 26, 28, or even July 1. It depends on whether or not they are prepared. So we are giving them a time frame of three weeks to start preparing for domestic flights”.

   He said: “There would be full opening for the financial sector with banks now allowed to operate with more working hours five days a week. The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of a workplace or places of worship remain prohibited.

  “There would be controlled access to markets and locations of places of economic activities but local authorities will continue to provide guidance on opening times. Restrictive opening of places of worship will be based on state governments’ protocols and strict guidelines on physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions and just to clarify this would apply to the regular church and mosque services only.

  “Mandatory supervised isolation of person that are arriving the country will continue to be for 14 days until a new policy comes into play. There would be no further evacuation of Nigerians until a new policy currently developed with the private sector comes into place.”

He said persons that are on essential duty including but not limited to those involved in critical services, including frontline health workers and journalists on essential duty and critical infrastructure are exempt from the curfew.

Aliyu said hawking and street trading are prohibited, adding that the PTF will look into this in greater detail with the state authorities.

  He explained: ”For the industry and labour sector, in terms of working hours, normal working hours will apply to offices and other government offices provided it is kept within the curfew hours.

“Offices are to maintain working at 75 per cent capacity. Government offices can open between 9 am and 2 pm from Monday to Friday. Prior to this, we allowed only three days in the week. However, only persons that are within Grade Level 14 and above in the federal and state level will be allowed to come to work. We will encourage staff to continue to work at home if possible, making the best use of technology that is now available,” Aliyu said.

Aliyu added that hotels may also reopen but must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions, while all bars, gyms, recreational parks, communal sports and night clubs remain closed until further evaluations.

Personalized services like mechanics and artisans, hair salons that own their workshops and stations are allowed to operate from now on provided they comply with non- pharmaceutical intervention like wearing of face masks and provision of sanitizers, while also limiting the number of customers and workers within their premises.

  Also, under the second phase of the ease of lockdown approved by the president for the next four weeks – June 2 to June 29, the nationwide curfew imposed on May 18 from 8 pm to 6 am, has now been relaxed from 10 pm to 4 am, while the ban on interstate movement is sustained.

  However, the federal government also imposed a ban on the gatherings of more than 20 people outside of the workplace and urged all schools to remain closed until further evaluation, assuring that the Federal Ministry of Education is instructed to work with schools to start the process of preparing students that require exiting exams to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown.

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