May 18, 2020 / 2:38 PM / 8 days ago

Nigeria to impose precision lockdown in coronavirus hotspots

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria announced on Monday it would impose precisely targeted lockdown measures in areas that report rapid increases in cases of the coronavirus, while the phased reopening of the economy as a whole would go ahead more slowly than planned.

The government extended a full lockdown in Kano state, the northern economic hub where authorities are investigating a spate of mysterious deaths. Kano has the second highest number of confirmed cases in the country after Lagos.

The government said its phased reopening of strict lockdowns in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states would go more slowly than initially planned, and the current phase of gradual reopening would last a further two weeks.

Nigeria had planned to completely ease coronavirus lockdowns in those states over a six-week period from May 4.

“Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority,” said Boss Mustapha, chairman of Nigeria’s presidential task force for COVID-19. “Any relaxation will only portend grave danger for our populace.”

Over the past 24 hours, Nigeria has confirmed 338 new cases, its highest daily tally, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said. Lagos state accounted for 177, with the remainder spread across 17 other states.

Mustapha said the government had identified nine densely populated “high burden” local government areas which could be candidates for “precision” lockdown measures. He did not say where they were located.

Nigeria has imposed a nationwide curfew from 8.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., ordered people to wear face masks in public and banned travel between states. Mustapha said the country would step up enforcement of these measures.

As of Monday, Nigeria had 5,959 confirmed coronavirus cases and 182 deaths.

Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja and Libby George in Lagos; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Giles Elgood

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