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COVID-19 defaulters risk jail as Buhari signs regulations

By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja)
28 January 2021   |   4:25 am
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, signed Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021 as part of efforts to boost the COVID-19 response in the country.


• NMA, others welcome guidelines
• Urge pharmacies to moderate costs of preventive items

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, signed Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021 as part of efforts to boost the COVID-19 response in the country.

The introduction of the Regulations is a welcome development, according to Nigerian Medical Association and other stakeholders in the health sector.

Buhari said the regulations, which would take immediate effect, were given urgent consideration to safeguard the health and ensure the well-being of Nigerians, especially in the face of rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

The guidelines state that any person that contravened provisions of the regulations commits, upon conviction, risked a fine or a term of six months imprisonment or both in accordance with Section 5 of the Quarantine Act.

The President directed the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, and other relevant local government, state and Federal governments’ agencies to enforce the regulations, warning that any officer that failed, neglected, or refused to enforce the provisions of the regulations would be subjected to disciplinary actions.

“Any person who, without reasonable cause, contravenes a direction given under Parts 1 and 2 of these regulations commits an offence. Any person who, without reasonable cause, obstructs an authorised official from enforcement of these regulations commits an offence,” the document states.

According the regulations, persons confirmed positive for COVID-19 by an NCDC accredited laboratory, may not refuse isolation and or admission to a designated health establishment for management of the disease.

The regulations also state that physical distance of no less two metres shall be maintained at all gatherings between persons and 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 per cent capacity of the space.

It also stipulates that all persons in public gatherings, whether in enclosed or open spaces, shall adhere to the provisions of the regulations, which may be varied by guidelines and protocols as may be issued, from time to time, by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 on the recommendation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Others are that no person should be allowed within the premises of a market, mall, supermarket, shop, restaurants, hotels, event centres, gardens, leisure parks, recreation centres, motor parks, fitness centres or any other similar establishment (hereinafter collectively referred to as “establishments”) except he wears a face covering that covers the nose and mouth, washes his hands or clean the hands, using hand sanitiser approved by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and his body temperature checked.

It reads, “Any person found to have body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius shall be denied entry and advised to immediately seek medical attention. Every establishment occupier shall make provision for regular hand hygiene for any person coming into the premises during opening hours. This includes a hand-washing station with soap and running water, or hand sanitiser approved by NAFDAC.

REGARDING places of worship, the regulation states that all worshippers and users of places of worship shall comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of the Regulations and should, where and whenever possible, avoid sharing worship items such as mats, bottles, and hymnal materials, among others.

“It is the responsibility of the person in charge of a place of worship to ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations within the worship centre,” the Regulations states.

In workplaces and schools, all persons are also required to comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of the Regulations.

The Regulations add that it is the responsibility of the person in charge of a workplace or a school to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Regulations.

On banks it stipulates: “All employees, customers and visitors of banks shall comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of the Regulations. All banks shall comply with the guidelines, mode and scope of operations issued by the Central Bank and Federal Ministry of Finance as it relates to the COVID-19 response. All banks shall develop a schedule for regular cleaning of buttons and surfaces of Mantrap Entrance Doors, ATM machines and other commonly used areas.”

All operators and passengers of public transportation vehicles (referred to as operators), shall comply with the provisions of Part 2 of these Regulations and ensure adequate spacing in between passengers.

Operators in the transport sector, according to the Regulations, shall ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of parts of the vehicle frequently handled by passengers and drivers such as doors and window handles/buttons, steering wheels and dashboards.

Managers of hostels, boarding houses, nursing homes, correctional centres, remand homes, holding cells, military detention facilities, and other similar centres centres are required to ensure compliance with the provisions of the regulations.

It asked managers of such facilities to ensure that suspected cases of COVID-19 are promptly and appropriately separated from others and are reported to medical officers of the state ministry of health for necessary action.

It asks state governors to issue regulations on further steps as may be considered necessary.

PRESIDENT, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah, told The Guardian the President took a necessary step towards checking the spread of COVID-19.

“We thank Mr. President for this Law on COVID-19 and compliance with the NCDC Protocol. Enforcement of the provision of the Law will be tested for compliance.”

Similarly, the President, African Fertility Society (AFS), Joint Pioneer IVF in Nigeria and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART), Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, described the Regulations as a welcome development.

He said it would ensure proper use of face mask and social distancing and reduce infection transmission.

“It should give a downward slope to number of infected cases and death.
It would have been nice if the government added the recommendation of immune boosters and other preventive prophylaxis such as Vit D, Zinc, and Ivermectin.

“Furthermore, there is need to plead with pharmaceutical shops not to over price such preventive drugs and masks. If possible, such drugs should be made available in all local government primary health care clinics, doctors clinics, and hospitals.”

A public health physician, member of Lagos State COVID-19 team and former Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Osibogun, said: “This is a step in the right direction.”

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