FG Lifts Bans on Religious Gatherings

 FG Lifts Bans on Religious Gatherings

The Federal Government on Monday lifted the ban on churches and mosques.

The government said the places of worships can reopen based on the guidelines developed by the Presidential Task Force and protocols agreed by State Governments with religious leaders.

The government also said that it has given flight operators three weeks to resume domestic flights in June.

It reduced the timing of the nationwide curfew imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari from 10pm to 4am.

National Coordinator of the task force, Dr. Aliyu Sani, stated these on Monday while giving details of the second phase of the eased lockdown.

He also announced the reopening of the nation’s financial sectors, adding that they would be fully operational.

On May 4, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the gradual reopening of the economy following a five week lockdown of Ogun and Lagos states as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

Sani said the goal of phase two which will be implemented over the next four weeks, is to balance public safety with protecting livelihoods as well as allowing the full restoration of economic activities across the country.

He said: “As stated earlier by the chairman, the goal of phase two over the next four weeks is to balance public safety with protecting livelihoods as well as allowing the full restoration of economic activities across the country.

“On restricted opening of places of worship, the restricted opening will apply subject to the guidelines issued by PTF as well as the protocols agreed by respective state governments, working with religious leaders. We expect mandatory non-pharmaceutical interventions to apply.

“We are not opening places of worships across the board. We are saying that opening is conditional and it is based on these clear-cut guidelines and would only cover regular church and mosque services

“Effective from tomorrow Tuesday the 2nd of June, 2020, the easing of the lockdown will be characterised by the following:

“The Nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will be reduced to 10pm to 4am. The purpose of the curfew is to limit social interactions and therefore reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

“Persons that are on essential duty, including but not limited to those involved in the provision of health care services, media services, and critical infrastructure are exempted from the curfew.

“All interstate travels by individuals remain prohibited except for essential travels and the movement of goods and services. All restrictions on the free movement of goods and services is now removed in this phase.

“There will be full opening of the financial sector with banks now allowed to operate normal working hours-five days a week.

“The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of the work place or places of worship remains prohibited.

“There will be controlled access to markets and locations of economic activities. But local authorities will continue to provide guidance on opening times.

“Restricted opening of places of worship will be based on state government protocols and restrict guidelines of physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions. This will apply to regular church and mosques services only.

“Mandatory supervised isolation of persons arriving outside the country will continue to be for 14 days until a new policy comes into place. There will be no further evacuation of Nigerians until the new policy that is currently being developed with the private sector comes into place. So any prior arrangement for evacuation of Nigerians from outside the country is suspended until the new policy comes into place.

“All these measures would need to include compliance on the non- pharmaceutical interventions. Things such as the provision of hand washing facilities, the mandatory wearing of mask, the maintenance of physical distancing, and the avoidance of mass gatherings.

“In terms of general movement, persons may go out for work, go to buy necessary food and for exercise provided that they abide by the curfew hours.

“Movement between local government areas is strongly discouraged unless for critical reasons such as healthcare and work.

“I will like to emphasize that it is still safer to stay at home and avoid crowds. The pandemic is not over in this country and the relaxation of some of the rules doesn’t mean that it is safer to go out. If you do not need to go out please continue to stay at home.

“Hawking and trading is also prohibited and we will be looking into this in later details with state authorities.

“The aviation industry requested to start developing protocols to allow for domestic flights to resume anytime from the 21 of June onwards. Airlines must ensure physical distancing by reducing passenger capacity, ensure the provision of hand sanitisers, and appropriate person protective equipment as well as carrying out temperature checks at points of entry and departure and ensuring that airports are not congested by either non-travelers or by airport staff.

“With interstate travels, movement across state borders remains restricted other than the free movement of goods and essential travels. Security services are requested to please cooperate with members of the public and ensure that goods are provided with free passage as this particular phase is directed at ensuring the economy starts moving again.

“With intra state travel, we will implement new travel processes for areas of the country with high burden local government areas and this will be restricted to essential travel but for the moment with intra state travel all the prior guidelines will remain, including reduced occupancy for buses and taxis, the need for temperature check and where available, the provision of hand washing facilities and the maintenance of physical distancing.

“For the industry and labour sector in terms of working hours, normal working hours will apply to offices other than government offices provided this is kept within the curfew hours of 10pm to 4am.

“Offices are to maintain working at 75 per cent capacity while maintaining the two meter physical distancing.

“For government offices, they can open between the hours of 9am to 2pm. So no change in opening hours but can work from Mondays to Fridays.  Prior to this, we allowed a three day working week. However, only persons thatare within the grade level of 14 and above at both the federal and state government level will be allowed to come into work. We will encourage staff to continue to work at home if possible, including the business and private sector, making the best use of technology that is now available.

“Hotels may reopen but must observe all mandatory non- pharmaceutical interventions.

“Restaurants, other than those in hotels must remain closed for eat -ins but are allowed to prioritise and continue practising the takeaway system.

“The Federal Ministry of Education has been instructed to work with school owners to prepare students that require exiting exams to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown.

“State governments and security agencies are enjoined to ensure effective and strict enforcement of these guidelines while respecting the exemptions that have been approved by Mr. President.”

Ayomide Oyewole

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