• Orders ministries to work out new blueprint on economy
By Egena Sunday Ode
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday announced the extension of the lockdown order imposed on Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for 14 more days with effect from midnight.
President Buhari also noted that the impact of the pandemic would be heavy on the economy , saying “To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19”.
“The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.”
In a nationwide broadcast, the President said the extension became necessary in order to consolidate on the gains of the contact identification, tracing and treatment that the first 14 days lockdown in the affected areas had achieved.
Recall that Buhari had in his first nationwide broadcast a fortnight ago since the outbreak of the Covid- 19 pandemic had ordered restriction of movements in the two states and the FCT which were the frontline areas in order to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the country.
According to him, the extension was necessitated also by the increasing number of confirmed cases and deaths being recorded across the globe owing to the continuous spread of the virus and also because the only known remedy at the moment is to control the movements of people.
“Today, the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus. By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.
“Our approach to the virus remains in 2 steps – First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
“With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and Report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT for another 14 days effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020. I am therefore once again asking you all to work with Government in this fight.
“This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax,” the President said.
He added: “As a nation, we are on the right track to win the fight against COVID-19.
“However, I remain concerned about the increase in number of confirmed cases and deaths being reported across the world and in Nigeria specifically.
“On 30th March 2020, when we started our lockdown in conforming with medical and scientific advice, the total number of confirmed cases across the world was over 780,000.
“Yesterday (Sunday), the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally was over one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand. This figure is more than double in two weeks!
“In the last fourteen days alone, over 70,000 people have died due to this disease.
“In the same period, we have seen the health system of even the most developed nations being overwhelmed by this virus.
“Here in Nigeria, we had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 12 states on 30th March 2020. We had two fatalities then.
“This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty States. Unfortunately we now have ten fatalities. Lagos State remains the center and accounts for 54% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.”
Accordingly, President Buhari warned against ending the lockdown prematurely, noting that the consequences would be imagined that experienced.
said: “This is a difficult decision to take, but I am convinced that this is the right decision. The evidence is clear.
“The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable.
“We must not lose the gains achieved thus far. We must not allow a rapid increase in community transmission. We must endure a little longer.
“I will therefore take this opportunity to urge you all to notify the relevant authorities if you or your loved ones develop any symptoms. I will also ask our health care professionals to redouble their efforts to identify all suspected cases, bring them into care and prevent transmission to others.”
On the palliatives to cushion the effects of the lockdown, Buhari said he had directed that the social register be increased from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households as persons to be catered for by government while the lockdown lasted.