LAGOS State ‘s governor Babajide Sanwoolu has signed a new executive order into law making the failure to wear a facemask in public punishable by a six month jail term as part of the government’s attempts to address the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Although Nigeria has so far been spared the worst of the global pandemic, the second phase of the pandemic is considered particularly severe as it comes with the virus mutating into several dangerous strains. As a result, last week, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Covid-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021 into law last week.
Signed into law on January 27, the new federal guidelines state that a physical distance of at least two metres shall be maintained at all times between persons at all gatherings. They also insist that no gathering of more than 50 persons shall hold in an enclosed space, except for religious purposes, in which case the gathering shall not exceed 50% capacity of the space.
With Lagos State accounting for about a third of all coronavirus cases in Nigeria, Governor Sanwoolu has decided to follow up the federal action with tough and robust local measures. This includes the approval of N200m to support the ongoing Covid-19 patient management and treatment efforts of two federal government treatment centres in the state.
Governor Sanwoolu said: “The importance of non-pharmaceutical interventions cannot be overemphasised. All residents of Lagos State must continue to abide by the public health and safety regulations that have been issued by the health authorities, including the following
“Wear a mask everywhere, ensure that you wash your re-usable mask regularly and also properly dispose of used disposable masks. If you operate an office or business, insist on the wearing of masks before customers or clients can be granted access or rendered service.
“Follow social distancing guidelines, avoid mass gatherings or adhere to published guidelines for congregations. Practice regular hand and respiratory hygiene and if you feel any symptoms that correspond to the outlined symptoms of Covid-19, get tested.”
He added that testing for symptomatic patients in Lagos State, through the network of public testing facilities, urging anyone who tests positive to self-isolate or report to any isolation centre and follow-up clinic. Despite recent measures put in place, Nigerians have been very nonchalant with regards to the virus, to the chagrin of the government.
Governor Sanwoolu said: “The state government has observed with dismay the widespread flagrant disregard and non-adherence to guidelines and protocols aimed at stemming and curbing the tide of infection. We particularly note that some event centres have been operating their premises outside the acceptable parameters for operation/usage and continue to be recalcitrant in this regard.
“This is to sound a very serious note of warning that henceforth all those found culpable and in breach of the existing regulations and guidelines would be swiftly and decisively dealt with in full accordance with the provisions of the law. It is hereby directed that no gathering of more than 50 persons shall hold in an enclosed space, except for religious purposes, in which case the gathering shall not exceed 50% capacity of the space.
“A breach of the provisions of the Presidential Regulations attracts upon summary conviction, a fine or six months imprisonment and or both. Our enforcement agencies have been appropriately tasked to ensure maximum compliance and all Lagosians are enjoined to continue to observe all laid down guidelines and protocols issued by both the state and federal governments for the effective containment and treatment of the novel coronavirus disease.”