DRASTIC measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the country were rolled out on Wednesday.
Churches and mosques were advised to lockdown as schools are shut in Lagos and the nine states in the Northwest.
Ogun and Kwara states also announced measures to curtail gathering of a large number of people and to close schools.
Nigeria’s list of infected persons rose to eight from the three announced on Monday.
Lagos and Ogun state governments announced that any gathering of 50 persons and above should be suspended with immediate effect.
Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs Olanrewaju Elegushi told reporters after a meeting with religious leaders that the suspension of large gatherings had taken effect.
He said: “We met with religious leaders, both Christians and Muslims. We discussed, argued and realised that the lives of Lagosians are important to us. We prefer to offend people than to kill our people.
“Having discussed extensively, the heads of religious bodies agreed that the government should embark on massive education on the virus at the grassroots.
“In view of this, we have decided to suspend all religious activities above 50 people and the enforcement starts with immediate effect.
“While the Constitution allows for freedom of association and worship, we are of the opinion that we should exercise our rights with extreme caution so as to avoid contacting and spreading of this disease.
“We hereby appeal to you to please pay close attention to people coming into our places of worship, anyone found showing symptoms of this disease should immediate be isolated and reported to the appropriate authorities.
“We should put in place measures that will ensure cleanliness of our environment bearing in mind that, cleanliness is next to Godliness.
“Aside our normal ablutions, our worshippers should be encouraged to make use of hand sanitizers, avoid bodily contacts as much as possible and ensure safety measures in and around their places of abode.”
He added that a committee comprising top religious leaders had been set up to ensure compliance with the directive.
Ogun State Government banned high density gatherings in places like cinemas, sports arena, restaurants, night clubs for 30 days .
The government, in a statement by Governor Dapo Abiodun’s Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, noted that it had found it expedient to announce the immediate ban of gatherings above 50 or more persons in the same place.
The statement said: “The government will continue to engage all the stakeholders, including our religious leaders to sensitise the populace on the need to maintain social distancing and collective effort to combat this pandemic.”
Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State, Apostle Alexander Bamgbala, said the association was okay with the development.
“We are going to follow the directive of the government. We are at a critical moment in our nation and God has been hearing our prayers concerning Coronavirus.
“In view of the increase in number of infected cases, we must be proactive. It is not about religion but survival. We need to listen to government and be proactive so that God will continue to answer us.”
Grand Chief Imam of Lagos State, Sheikh Suleiman Abou Nolla and some regional religious leaders from the state attended the meeting.
Sheikh Abou-Nolla said: “I was part of the meeting where the decision was taken. I supported it. We have been told that the virus spread easily through body contacts. I hereby appeal to Muslims in the state to abide by the decision. It will only affect the Jumat Service. Other five daily prayers are not affected. We need to save lives first by being safety conscious.
“We need to be prayerful. We have commenced special prayers in the Lagos Central Mosque to Allah to help eradicate the virus. We have been urging all our Mosques to do same.”
A 15-member committee was also set up to monitor and review the situation and report appropriately during the period of the suspension for possible updates.
Elegushi and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Mrs Adebunmi Adekanye, are co-chair of the committee. Other members include the Grand Chief Imam and the CAN chairman.
Announcing the shut down of schools last night, Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso said: “As part of the preventive measures against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Lagos State Government is closing down all public and private schools from Monday, 23rd March 2020.
“The move becomes necessary to prevent our children and their teachers from getting more vulnerable to the pandemic.
“It is important for parents to ensure that their children practice ‘social distancing’ while at home, wash their hands regularly or use hand sanitizers and observe high standards of personal hygiene.
“Children should be encouraged to remain at home.
“The closure is not intended to create panic but to arrest the spread of the disease, which has become a global threat.
“The Incident Command Centre, headed by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is the Incident Commander, will continue to trace all contacts of the identified cases and encourage anyone who has information about suspected cases to report to the nearest hospital or call the emergency telephone numbers”.
Some private schools that have announced closure include Greensprings School and Lagos Preparatory and Secondary School, Ikoyi. While Greensprings is closing on March 23, LPSS shut down on yesterday. Both schools have opted for e-learning for pupils at home.
Greensprings School’s Head of Admissions Mrs. Oluranti Bankole said: “Learning will now be done online using the virtual learning platform and video conferencing. She added that the school had adopted the WHO crisis management grid for COVID-19.
In a notice to parents, LPSS said the closure was a result of the spread of the Coronavirus and the school’s international make up.”
Other schools like Berkely and Juilliard Schools and Chessington Montessori School, Agege,also announced closure beginning from yesterday.
Chessington informed parents that bills and report cards “will be sent electronically”, while Berkley and Juilliard Schools promsed to offer “skeletal services” to stranded parents.
The Nation gathered that the government might shut public schools on Friday.
Kwara state government also announced its decision to shut down all schools in the state from Monday because of COVID-19.
Rafiu Ajakaye, Chief Press Secretary to Governor AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq, said , “I can confirm that Kwara State will be shutting down schools from Monday March 23.
“It is part of the efforts to contain the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We urge our people to maintain the highest level of hygiene and to remain calm and adhere to all safety measures earlier announced by the Kwara State Ministry of Health and other national bodies.
Governors of Northwest states rose from their security meeting in Kaduna yesterday with an announcement to close down all schools in their states for the next 30 days.
Chairman of the Northwest Governors Forum and Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, said.the decision to close down the schools was taken to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in the geo-political zone.
Masari, who said the closure will take effect from March 22, added that they forum would meet with examination boards to discuss the decision.
Present at meeting were the governors of Zamfara, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kaduna and Niger states. Kano State Deputy Governor, Nasiru Gawuna represented Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
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Osun State government is considering suspending religious and recreational activities in the state.
The Special Adviser to governor Oyetola on Public health, Dr. Siji Olamiju, stated this in a telephone interview with The Nation.
He said: “If there is need to lockdown the churches, mosques and religious centers where people gather more than 50 in Osun State, Governor Oyetola will do it to ensure that nobody contracts any deadly disease. “
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