UPDATED: COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu directs compulsory use of face mask from Monday
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Saturday, announced compulsory use of face mask by residents from Monday, April 27, as part of measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 pandemic which has continued to be on the rise in the state.
Sanwo-Olu, who also disclosed other important measures taken by state, however, announced the release of 209 prisoners from various prisons across the state.
He explained that the move aimed at decongesting the prisons in view of the ravaging deadly COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the freed prisoners included aged and physically challenged as well as those with minor offences, among other considerations.
The Governor, who made the remarks during a life broadcast on the update of COVID-19 situation in the state, eight in the series, held at the state House Marina, said the rise in the number of confirmed cases of the virus in the state indicated a fast spread of community transmission, noting that there was need to strengthen and ramp up the government’s response to contain the infectious disease, hence, the compulsory use of face mark in the state.
It is instructive to note that new evidence has shown that COVID-19 might be able to spread through the air. It also seems to be contagious even though people who do not have symptoms to show they are infected.
The best guard against airborne viruses are known as N95 masks. These are what hospital workers sometimes use around people who may be sick. They are different from the masks that doctors and nurses wear in surgery.
With N95 masks in short supply, the medical community has been asking the public to reserve their use for hospital teams and first responders.
With medical-grade masks in short supply, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and medical experts have recommended that the surgical masks be reserved for health care workers. The public was also advised to look for fabric masks they could buy or make locally.
According to Sanwo-Olu, “I have touched on the issue of masks a few times in previous addresses. Let me now formally announce that face masks are now compulsory in public places in Lagos State by Monday, April 27. Failure to use masks in public will invite sanctions and penalties.
“We have commenced arrangements for the production of large quantities of face-masks for the use of the people of Lagos State. This is indeed a great opportunity for many businesses, small and large, in the State, to contribute to the Covid-19 response while also getting a chance to do business and earn money.
“I want to appeal to the private sector to please patronise these manufacturers, and purchase these masks for distribution to your employees.
“I would also like to urge everyone to please leave the medical-grade N-95 masks for the use of medical workers who need them the most. All of us, who are not medical workers should make do with simple cloth masks.”
He added that about three million locally-made face masks had been contracted and are due for distribution to various strata of public by next week.
“But I must start on a very special note, by wishing all our Muslim brothers and sisters Ramadan Kareem. This is an important season in the life of every Muslim around the world; a commemoration of one of the pillars of Islam.
“Ramadan is a time that demands obedience, self-denial, sacrifice, discipline, and a re-dedication of one’s life to the worship of Almighty Allah.
“This year’s commemoration, as you all know, is taking place in unusual circumstances.
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“In the spirit of sacrifice and discipline that Ramadan represents, I want to make this appeal to all our Muslim brothers and sisters in Lagos State, to please ensure that the observance of the season is carried out in a manner that is compliant with all the health directives that we have laid out to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
“Observe all your meals and prayers within your homes. I know that the usual practice is for people to gather together to observe Iftar and Suhur, but please, because of the pandemic, we must during this month of Ramadan shelve all gatherings.
“These restrictions also apply to the congregational Tarawih prayers and Tafsir sessions that are the hallmarks of this devout period.
“When you want to perform ablution, please ensure to first wash your hands very well with soap. Since the process of ablution involves touching the face, it is essential to make sure that your hands are clean. Having washed your hands with soap and water, you can then go ahead to perform the ablution as is customary.
“A few days ago, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, directed that there should be no congregational prayers and teaching sessions in mosques during this Ramadan.
“By complying with these directives and orders we will be protecting ourselves, our dear State and the nation at large from the Coronavirus.”
Sanwo-Olu,while, debunking widespread rumour that the state government was planning mass burial for victims of COVID-19, stated, “I would like to speak concerning funerals. One of the outcomes of this lockdown is that many families and households have had to postpone funeral plans for loved ones who have passed away before or during this period.
“As you might know, many Christian denominations do not carry out funerals during the Lenten Season. Funerals are typically kept on hold during this period, and scheduled for the period immediately following the end of Lent.
“Unfortunately, this year, the Covid-19 Lockdown coincided with the end of Lent, which caused many families and households to further suspend or put off funeral plans.
“Because of this inability to hold funerals, occasioned by the restrictions on movement, the mortuaries in Lagos are now full and in urgent need of decongestion. Let me make it clear at this point that these are not Covid-19 deaths.”
Sanwo-Olu, urged the media to be responsible in the reportage adding that “The mortuaries in Lagos are not full because of Covid-19 deaths – the total number of Covid-19 deaths in Lagos as at today is 20; the only reason the mortuaries are full at this time is because funerals are not being held, and have not been held for most of the last two months.
“I am now constrained to make this appeal to all Lagosians who have the corpses of loved ones in the mortuaries, to please go ahead and schedule these funerals.
“Let me make it clear that funerals are on the list of activities exempted from the lockdown restrictions.”
He said they could hold or attend funeral ceremonies in the state as long as they comply with the requirements such as: not exceeding 20 persons, ensuring physical distancing, all attendees/mourners must use masks and ensure they wash their hands after the ceremony, there must be no receptions or parties to accompany these funerals, among others.
On prerogative of mercy to 209 prisoners, Sanwo-Olu, stated, “In exercise of the powers conferred on me by Section 212 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I have, this afternoon, following the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, signed a Release Order releasing 209 inmates remanded in various correctional centres in Lagos State.
“This was done in part to decongest correctional centres in view of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and is part of a larger effort to bring lasting reform to the administration of criminal justice in the country.”
The beneficiaries, he said include, those above 60 years of age; less than 6 months to go on their sentence; have served 75 per cent of their sentence; those serving time for misdemeanours and minor offences; and those with physical and mental health issues.
While responding to question on possible extension of the current 14 days lockdown which will expire on Monday night, Sanwo-Olu, said the Federal Government has the sole power to decide on it, adding that, the Presidency will make a categorical statement by on or before Monday, if the lockdown would be extended or not.