Nigeria announces lockdown of major cities to curb coronavirus

Nigeria¬†implemented a sweeping quarantine for three major states that are home to almost 30 million people in a bid to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in Africa’s most populous country.

The lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun kicks in at 11pm local time (22:00 GMT) on Monday and will stay in place for at least two weeks, President Muhammadu Buhari announced on Sunday, a little over a month after Nigeria confirmed its first case.

“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period,” Buhari said in an address to the nation.

Home to an estimated 20 million people, Lagos is Africa’s most populous city and Nigeria’s financial hub. Abuja is the capital of the country and the seat of its government.¬†Oil-rich Rivers state and Kaduna state in the north earlier imposed similar lockdown measures.

The restrictions announced do not apply to hospitals and stores selling essential items such as groceries and medicine.

“We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases,” Buhari said.

Fear of price rises

The announcement triggered panic among many in Lagos, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the country which has so far infected 111 people and caused one death.

Buhari said all branches of government have been mobilised “to confront what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis”, but the lockdown means additional financial pain for millions of informal labourers who rely heavily on their daily earnings to survive.
Buhari announced a series of measures aimed at relieving some of the economic pain including a three-month moratorium on government loan repayments.

Across the world, the outbreak of the new coronavirus has strained healthcare systems and hit economies hard, with few countries expected to emerge unscathed by the pandemic’s financial effect.

Nigeria is already feeling the pinch with oil prices plunging. The country is the world’s eighth-largest oil exporter, and almost 90 percent of its export earnings are tied to oil.

Shutting down the country’s financial capital, Lagos, is expected to further add to an impending economic crisis.

Families are also hoping for regular power supply during the period of quarantine.