Nigerian president calls for 'urgent measures' as virus cases rise

The country's Centre for Disease Control said there has been a rapid increase in the number of new cases over the last two weeks, with 78,790 total infections registered as of Monday and 1,227 deaths.

FILE: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Picture: AFP

ABUJA - Nigeria's president called on Tuesday for greater vigilance as coronavirus cases climbed in Africa's most populous country, advising states to implement stricter measures ahead of the festive season.

The country's Centre for Disease Control said there has been a rapid increase in the number of new cases over the last two weeks, with 78,790 total infections registered as of Monday and 1,227 deaths.

"New epicentres have been identified and the nation cannot afford to lose the gains of the last nine months," President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement.

"I have critically evaluated the situation and remain convinced that urgent measures have to be taken to halt the spread and the attendant fatalities."

The president added that "the nation is clearly in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of this second wave and we must act decisively to protect our people."

A presidential task force issued an advisory on Monday asking the country's 36 state authorities and the nation's capital to implement stricter measures for the next five weeks.

These measures include closing bars, nightclubs and recreational venues, suspending non-essential travels and limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people.

The country's oil-dependent economy was severely hit by the pandemic and a five-week nationwide lockdown imposed in March.

Restrictions were loosened but airports only reopened in September and a nationwide curfew remains in place.

Rumours of a fresh lockdown in recent days worried many, especially after Nigeria slipped into recession last month for the second time in four years.

The World Bank warned that per capita income on an inflation-adjusted basis could be around what it was four decades ago.

Nigeria's government says it "is working around the clock to reverse the trend and restore the economy in the path of sustainable inclusive growth."

Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said last month that she expected the recession to end by the first quarter of 2021.

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