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FG moves to criminalise facemasks violation

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WITH the surge in number of fresh COVID-19 cases in the country, the federal government has revealed plans to make it a criminal offence for anyone in the country not to wear face masks.

  The federal government’s advocacy, which entails state enacting laws to punish errant citizens, is in furtherance of its determination to get people to embrace non-pharmaceutical ways of combating the virus.

The federal government, in the last three weeks, has called on Nigerians to own the fight against COVID-19, following the spread of the virus to community level.

It warned that in the absence of drugs or vaccines for the treatment or prevention of the disease, people would have to take personal responsibility for the protection of their lives by wholly embracing non-pharmaceutical methods of combating COVID-19.

He pointed out face masks wearing, regular washing of hands and maintaining social distancing as crucial to containing the virus.

An update yesterday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that Nigeria recorded 675 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 20,919 the number of confirmed cases in the country.

Of the 675 fresh infections, Lagos recorded 288 new cases, Oyo 76, Rivers 56, Delta 31, Ebonyi 30, Gombe 28, Ondo, Kwara and Kaduna 20 each, Ogun 17, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 16, Edo 13, Abia 10, Nasarawa and Imo nine each, Bayelsa, Borno and Katsina eight each, Sokoto and Bauchi three each, while Plateau has two cases.

“Nigeria has recorded 20,919 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 7,109 persons have been discharged, while 525 have died.” NCDC announced yesterday.

However, with the widespread violations of COVID-19 regulations by people in many states of the federation, the federal government yesterday called on states to introduce laws that will make the use of face masks mandatory.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, the National Coordinator of the task force, Dr. Sani Aliyu, stated that criminalising the non-use of face masks had become necessary in view of the laxity of Nigerians to all the protocols introduced to stem the escalation of the pandemic in the country.

Aliyu added that the public only complied with the protocols and guidelines on COVID-19 after the initial two weeks of the lockdown of parts of the country following a spike in the cases of the virus in March.

“We are now working with the security agencies and state governments to make the use of face masks in the public mandatory. There is total non-compliance with use of face masks and social distancing. It is unfortunate that about 70 per cent of Nigerians still believe that COVID-19 is not an issue. We are not taking this issue seriously enough. On social media platforms, people still talk of conspiracy theory in reference to COVID-19. We must accept that COVID-19 is with us; we need to fight it and must work with state governors to take measures to protect citizens,” Aliyu said.

In his own remarks, Chairman of PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, debunked the notion of a conspiracy theory about the virus, insisting there was no basis for such act.

He added that continued denial, blame game and conspiracy theory would not help the efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“I don’t know what purpose a conspiracy will serve. The figures of infections and fatalities we have in Nigeria are just statistics. You can place the death of somebody you know, so conspiracy theories are abstract – the reality of the situation is that COVID-19 is real.”

He recalled verifiable experiences of losing personal friends and acquaintances to the deadly disease and wondered why anybody would still deny the fact.

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