PRESIDENTS of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States are to remain under lockdown for another 14 days to contain the spread of novel Coronavirus, President Muhammadu Buhari announced last night.

He spoke in a broadcast to the nation, the second in two weeks, having directed the first 14-day shutdown, which expired on Monday, on March 30..

Buhari, who described the decision to extend the lockdown as desirable because it is the right thing to do, explained that “the repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable.”

He said: “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.

“Our objective was, and still remains, to contain the spread of the Coronavirus and to provide space, time and resources for an aggressive and collective action.”

The pandemic has spread to 119 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). There are 343 confirmed cases of the pandemic, with 91 recovered persons treated and discharged, while 10 have died. Worldwide, the disease, which started in Wuhan, China has hit 1,915,863 people and killed 119,042 as at last night.

President Buhari said: “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 (April 12), 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 (yesterday), 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.”

“As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.”

To mitigate the situation and keep the economy running the President directed the current social register to be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks.

He said: “No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy.

“I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced, especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers.

“For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and going about seeking work. But, in spite of these realities, we must not change the restrictions.

“In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained”

Without specifically mentioning the degenerating security situation in Lagos and Ogun states, and the crass display of insensitivity by the Police, in the face of criminality, the President directed security agencies to “maintain utmost vigilance and firmness”. He insisted that they must operate with restraint.

He hailed governors, religious leaders, the media and celebrities for their role in sensitizing the population on the pandemic

He acknowledged that contribution of public–spirited individuals and the business community as well as the health workers for their contribution.

Last night, the President signed the quarantine order to formalise the lockdown extension.

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