The use of face masks in public places is no longer mandatory, discretionary.
And by 19th April or thereabouts, measured against COVID-19 may be further relaxed, if all goes well.
In an interview with The Punch, Head of the Technical Secretariat on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Muhammed also said that Nigeria would stop demanding proof of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests from fully vaccinated international travellers.
As at Wednesday, Nigeria had 2,667 active COVID-19 cases with Lagos, Nigeria’s epicentre of both the pandemic and its management, providing the highest figure of 362, followed by the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja with 98 cases.
Nigeria’s index case was reported on 27th February 2020 by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). From a single digit number up till 19th March of that year, the cases shot up to 10, two days later.
While the graph rapidly moved up, leading to shutdown later in 2020, the numbers have gone southwards to less than 100 daily from the 92 on 7th February, this year.
Indeed, the NCDC has stopped daily report of the cases with its updates coming thrice a week. Many states have consistently reported a no case situation.
Muhammed, who doubles as the Secretary of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, said: ‘The use of face masks in open spaces is now discretionary. We are easing up restrictions, but it’s important we do so responsibly.
‘Last week, we suspended the limit placed on public gatherings, curfews and other social measures’.
He however assured: ‘We shall not hesitate to remove all mandates once the disease is no longer of public health consequence. We are aware that cases are rising in the Western Pacific and Eastern Europe. The US just mandated a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine for adults older than 50.
‘We fear a reversal of the pandemic situation, where largely unvaccinated poor countries will be made to bear the burden, because the West has developed very high immunity through large scale vaccination’.
Data from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) show that 12,139,797 persons have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Nigeria, while 18,942,020 others have been partially vaccinated.
NPHCDA announced that Moderna, Astrazeneca, Pfizer and the Johnson and Johnson brands of COVID-19 vaccines were available for individuals willing to be vaccinated.
Muhammed also said: ‘Our biggest fear now is the upcoming Easter holidays. If we are able to cross and the cases continue to go down with no significant increase in hospitalisation and death, then certainly, we will lower down our level of alertness and relax most of the measures.
‘We are working with data and algorithms to determine our line of action. Everything depends on what happens next. We learn from other countries, but we don’t have to necessarily copy what they are doing. Every country should evaluate its risk and take responsibility’.
Many countries have relaxed COVID-19 measures. Ghana, Nigeria’s fellow West African state, recently announced that the use of face masks was no longer mandatory.