Nigeria cautious as lockdown eased

In Nigeria, some businesses have reopened on the first working day after the easing of a lockdown imposed on key urban areas in a bid to restart Africa’s largest economy.

But the main doctors’ association described the move as “very premature”.

In the commercial hub, Lagos, traffic jams were absent, indicating that many were remaining indoors.

Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari said the measures had imposed “a very heavy economic cost”.

The lockdown began five weeks ago to contain the spread of coronavirus.

As many in the big cities live a hand-to-mouth existence, the restrictions led to fears that it could leave people hungry as it cut off their means to earn money.

Nigeria is one of several African countries beginning to loosen restrictions. Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia have also relaxed their coronavirus lockdowns.

The country’s economy is also predicted to suffer because of a collapse in the oil price.

Standard Chartered Bank has forecast that in light of the impact of coronavirus Nigeria’s economy will only grow by 0.2 per this year, it previously forecasted 2.5 per growth.

In Lagos, as well as the absence of the city’s notorious traffic jams, there are also fewer of the city’s famous yellow public buses plying their routes.

The bus stops, which are normally bustling with commuters, had a few stranded passengers, who then tried to cram on to any vehicles that stopped.

The lockdown, imposed on March 30 in Lagos, neighbouring Ogun state and the capital, Abuja, meant that many businesses were closed as people were required to stay indoors, except for essential journeys. Markets were allowed to stay open for limited hours.

But some have expressed concerns that the government’s decision to ease restrictions has been premature as the number of new coronavirus cases does not appear to be tailing off.

“Only the living can enjoy their money,” said Joy Ugochukwu who works with an auditing firm in Lagos’ Victoria Island business district.

She said she was delaying her return to work despite a message from her employer asking her to resume on Monday.

A ban on large gatherings is still in place and there is a curfew between 20:00 and 06:00. People are also required to wear a face mask in public.

Nigeria has so far recorded 2,558 cases of coronavirus and 87 deaths. -BBC

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