Nigerians cautious as Coronavirus lockdown eased

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

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

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

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

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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% this year.

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

In Lagos, as well as the lack of cars on the road, there are also fewer 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 30 March 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.

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“The virus is going to increase now everyone is rushing out,” she said.

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.

In Lagos, offices have been told to shut by 15:00 while commercial buses must carry not more than two passengers per seat.

The government says this is the first phase of easing the lockdown and that the situation will be assessed in the next two weeks.

Nigeria has recorded 2,558 cases of coronavirus and 87 deaths.



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