Nigeria will begin easing the coronavirus lockdown covering its largest city, Lagos and the capital Abuja, starting on May 4, President Muhammadu Buhari announced on Monday.
“I have approved a gradual and gradual relaxation of the foreclosure measures,” Buhari said on a TV show.
He unveiled new measures, including a nationwide night curfew, mandatory face masks and a ban on “non-essential” travel between different regions.
He also announced an immediate two-week lockdown in northern Nigeria’s largest city, Kano, after officials said they were investigating a series of “mysterious deaths”.
More than 25 million people in Abuja, Lagos and neighboring Ogun state have been under federal law since March 30, and other states have introduced their own restrictions.
The government is facing a difficult balance trying to curb the spread of the virus and stem the desperation of a large number of people living in the most populous country in Africa on a daily basis.
“These blockages also had a very high economic cost,” said Buhari in his speech.
“Many of our fellow citizens have lost their livelihoods. Many businesses have closed.”
He said the new measures were “enforceable policies that will ensure our economy continues to function while maintaining our aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Nigeria, with a population of 200 million, has reported 1,273 confirmed infections, including 40 deaths.
But tests were limited and the head of the disease control agency called for kits.
Buhari said authorities are seeking to increase the rate of testing by accrediting private laboratories.
He announced that the federal government would deploy “all necessary human, material and technical resources” to help Kano State control the pandemic.
The state governor said on Monday that authorities were investigating a spike in “mysterious deaths”, but insisted that early indications suggested they were not related to the coronavirus.