The federal government on Monday lifted the restrictions on interstate travel with effect from Wednesday July 1, 2020.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made the disclosure during the 47th joint national briefing of the committee in Abuja.
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He said the government also approved the safe resumption of domestic flights in the country, while graduating students in schools should also resume.
However, Mustapha said the movement would only be allowed within the non-curfew period.
The curfew period is between 10 pm and 4 am.
According to him, “I am pleased to inform you that Mr President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.
“Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:
“Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the national coordinator;
“Permission of movement across state borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020. Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by states, in particular, the use of face masks in public places,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a nationwide broadcast on April 27, directed a ban on interstate travel with the exception of movement of essential goods and services.
He announced the restrictions while extending the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states by one week as part of measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Nigeria set for air travel
Mustapha also announced the reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had on Sunday said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was 90 per cent ready to open up the airways for domestic flights.
The SGF also announced the re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes “resume in-person to prepare for examinations.”
He said in the report submitted to the president, the PTF specifically reviewed the issues around the general level of compliance with prescribed measures, while taking note of the implications of the lack of general compliance with measures, and the global and domestic developments in the area of rising statistics.
Mustapha said aside lift of interstate ban, schools and airports reopening, other measures, which shall either remain in place or come into effect with the extension of phase two of the ease of lockdown include:
-Publication of revised guidelines around the three thematic areas of general movement, industry and labour; and community activities;
-Provision of technical support for states to mobilise additional resources for the response;
-Encourage states and hospital authorities to ensure continuity of other health services to prevent fatalities from other life-threatening conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
-Deepening of collaboration with other mandate groups at states/federal levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response in the short, medium and long terms.
The SGF said the federal government would also be encouraging state governments to empower local government authorities to intensify contact tracing efforts and ensure stronger grassroots mobilisation to support the response.
‘There’s progress despite rising cases’
Mustapha said in spite of the challenges faced in the last one month and the fact that Nigeria’s statistics have been on the rise, substantial progress had been made in the area of harnessing of data, which showed that 60 per cent of the confirmed cases were in 18 out of the 774 local government areas of the country.
‘Our plans on schools’
The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said that while schools remained closed, exiting students including primary six, JSS three and SSS three, would resume at a time to be announced.
He also said that bars, cinemas and nightclubs remained closed till further notice; while guests at weddings would be limited to 20, including family members.
According to him, “The PTF has identified certain areas of concern that require attention and which will undergo a further revision.
These are particularly areas involved with international air travel, entertainment activities, educational sector, services and public and private sector services.
“The PTF in the past has stated that the aim of phase two was to sustain the gains from earlier steps and faces in terms of the pandemic control.
“It is also important to state that we relaxed the response partly to enable additional sectors of the economy to restart activities.
“In this regard we seek to consolidate the gains in the areas of the economy while trying to ensure better compliance with the health-based response.”
He also said that the use of face masks remained mandatory and that this would be enforced at all levels including linking up with state governments.
“For interstate travel, we will maintain the occupancy level for buses to 50 percent and two passengers for taxes, but we will restrict movement in high burden-local government areas to essential travel only.
“This will be part of the hotspot strategy that will be introduced,” he said.
For banks and financial institutions, Aliyu said they would operate normal working hours with no change as government offices’ working hours remain from 9 am to 2 pm from grade level 14 and above.
“For markets, there is no specific change to what we already have in Phase 2 and this will be driven by local authority arrangements.
“For hotels, restaurants and eateries there is no specific change.
“Hotels must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions, restaurants to remain closed for eating with strict cleanliness guidelines except for restaurants that are serving hotel residents,” he said.
Public transport operators welcome free movement
Public transport operators Monday welcomed the lifting of ban on interstate movements by the federal government, saying the development would hasten the recovery of the economy.
Daily Trust reports that operators in the road transport sub sector had been agitating for the reopening of interstate movement after about three months suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The operators under the aegis of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA) had two weeks ago called for immediate lifting of the ban on interstate transportation.
It would be recalled that at the press conference in Lagos, National President of the association, Engr. Isaac Uhunmwagho decried that since the ban on interstate movement, many businesses have died and more are on the verge of collapsing.
He said they had also lost over N200bn to the ban.
But with the lifting of ban yesterday, operators heaved a sigh of relief while waiting for specific guidelines from the federal government on how they would be carrying out their operations.
Speaking with our correspondent yesterday, a member of PTONA and Managing Director of ABC Transport, Mr. Frank Nneji, said it was an exciting development that the government listened to the plea of transport operators to reopen interstate movements.
He, however, noted that it was also another time to be more cautious “so that we don’t reverse the gains we have made in battling the COVID-19 pandemic.”