President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the lifting of the restriction on religious gatherings imposed to contain the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as part of the second phase of the lockdown relaxation.
This was announced by Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, during the committee’s daily press briefing in Abuja on Monday.
The lifting of the ban comes over two months after President Buhari declared a cessation of movement on Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) due to COVID-19.
According to Mustapha, who doubles as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the relaxation is for an initial period of four weeks.
He said: “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 advance 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 improve 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 restriction on places of Worship based on guidelines issued by the PTF and protocols agreed by state governments.”
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Elaborating on the new guidelines of the second phase of the lockdown relaxation, Sani Aliyu, National Coordinator of the PTF, said the new measures take effect from Tuesday (tomorrow).
Aliyu stated that the time for the national curfew has now been moved forward from 8pm-6am to 10pm-4am.
He said places of worship are limited to allow a certain number of congregants for only regular church and mosque services as determined by state governments.
He explained that churches must adopt non-pharmaceutical measures to curb the COVID-19 transmission, including physical distancing, wearing of face masks and hand washing and sanitisation.
Aliyu also announced that all schools across the country remain closed, stating that educational institutions will only be opened when health experts deem it fit.
He, however, said the Ministry of Education has been directed to prepare a plan for students who are to write exiting examinations (i.e. JSCE, SSCE and NECO).
The National Coordinator also stated that the inter-state travel ban declared by President Buhari remains in place, except for goods and essential services.
He also said the gathering of more than 20 persons outside workspace or worship centres remains prohibited.
Banks and all other financial institutions can now provide full services for the normal working hours, hotels can now open by adopting non-pharmaceutical measures, while bars, cinemas, clubs and entertainment centres remain closed till further notice, Aliyu announced.
He also stated that the regulators and stakeholders in the aviation industry have been directed to develop a protocol that will lead to the possible resumption of domestic flights on 21 June.
He, however, said all airline operators must adopt non-pharmaceutical measures and also scale down passenger number on flights.