LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria will begin a “phased and gradual” easing of more than four weeks of lockdowns in the national capital and the largest city on May 4, President Muhammadu Buhari said in an address on Monday.
Lagos and Ogun states and the federal capital territory of Abuja entered lockdowns to tame the spread of the new coronavirus on March 30.
Confirmed cases of the new virus have roughly quadrupled since a lockdown extension was announced on April 13, to 1,273 cases and 40 deaths, most concentrated in Lagos and Abuja.
But Buhari said the lockdowns had come at a “very heavy economic cost,” stripping many citizens of their livelihoods.
“No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines,” Buhari said.
Millions of Nigeria’s 200 million citizens, more than 20 million of whom live in Lagos, live on daily wages, and the lockdown left many without money to buy food.
Authorities will enforce an overnight curfew, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and also will require all those who are out during the day to wear face masks.
The federal government will also enforce a ban on non-essential movement between Nigeria’s 36 states, a measure the governors’ forum had requested.
President Buhari, however, announced a new two-week lockdown in the northern state of Kano, effective immediately. Cases there have risen to 77, putting it behind only Lagos and Abuja, and public health authorities are investigating a reported spike in suspicious deaths in the economically powerful capital city of the same name.
Kano state’s governor began a lockdown there from April 16.
“The federal government shall deploy all the necessary human, material and technical resources to support the state in controlling and containing the pandemic,” Buhari said.
(Additional reporting By Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos and Paul Carsten and Felix Onuah in Abuja; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)