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Violators could spend 6 months in jail in new COVID-19 regulations  

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WHEN convicted, violators of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday could spend six months in jail.

The regulations, which were signed yesterday into law, are part of government’s efforts to boost COVID-19 response in the country.

The guidelines state that any person that contravenes provisions of the regulations, upon conviction, risks a fine or a term of six months imprisonment or both in accordance with Section 5 of the Quarantine Act.

Buhari said the regulations, which would take immediate effect, were given urgent consideration to safeguard the health and  well-being of Nigerians, especially in the face of rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

He directed the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, and relevant local, state and federal governments’ agencies to enforce the regulations, warning that any officer that failed, neglected, or refused to enforce the provisions of the regulations would be subjected to disciplinary actions.

“Any person who, without reasonable cause, contravenes a direction given under Parts 1 and 2 of these regulations commits an offence. Any person who, without reasonable cause, obstructs an authorised official from enforcement of these regulations commits an offence,” he said, qouting the document.

According to the regulations, persons confirmed positive for COVID-19 by an NCDC-accredited laboratory may not refuse isolation and or admission to a designated health establishment for management of the disease.

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The regulations also state that physical distance of no less than two metres shall be maintained at all gatherings between persons and no gathering of more than 50 persons shall be held in an enclosed space, except for religious purposes, in which case the gathering shall not exceed 50 percent capacity of the space.

Highlights of COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021
Highlights of COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021

The rules stipulate that all persons in public gatherings, whether in enclosed or open spaces, shall adhere to the provisions of the regulations, which may be varied by guidelines and protocol as may be issued, from time to time, by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 on the recommendation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Others are that persons should not be allowed within the premises of a market, mall, supermarket, shop, restaurants, hotels, event centres, gardens, leisure parks, recreation centres, motor parks, fitness centres or any other similar establishment (hereinafter collectively referred to as ‘establishments’) except they wear face masks that cover their noses and mouths, wash their hands or clean their hands, using hand sanitisers approved by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Their body temperatures must also be checked.

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“Any person found to have body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius shall be denied entry and advised to immediately seek medical attention. Every establishment occupier shall make provision for regular hand hygiene for any person coming into the premises during opening hours. This includes a hand-washing station with soap and running water, or hand sanitiser approved by NAFDAC.”

In places of worship, the regulations state that all worshippers and users of places of worship shall comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of the Regulations and should, where and whenever possible, avoid sharing worship items such as mats, bottles, and hymnal materials, among others.

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“It is the responsibility of the person in charge of a place of worship to ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations within the worship centre,” the Regulations states.

All persons are also required to comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of the Regulations in workplaces and schools.

Highlights of COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021
Highlights of COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021

It is the responsibility of the person in charge of a workplace or a school to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law.

On banks the rules stipulate that “All employees, customers and visitors of banks shall comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of the Regulations. All banks shall comply with the guidelines, mode and scope of operations issued by the Central Bank and Federal Ministry of Finance as it relates to the COVID-19 response. All banks shall develop a schedule for regular cleaning of buttons and surfaces of Mantrap Entrance Doors, ATM machines and other commonly used areas.”

All operators and passengers of public transportation vehicles (referred to as operators) shall comply with the provisions of Part 2 of these Regulations and ensure adequate spacing in between passengers, the new rules say.

Operators in the transport sector, according to the Regulations, shall ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of parts of the vehicle frequently handled by passengers and drivers such as doors and window handles/buttons, steering wheels and dashboards.

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Managers of hostels, boarding houses, nursing homes, correctional centres, remand homes, holding cells, military detention facilities, and other similar centres are required to ensure compliance with the provisions of the regulations.

Managers of such facilities are also to ensure that suspected cases of COVID-19 are promptly and appropriately separated from others and are reported to medical officers of the state ministry of health for necessary action.

State governors are to issue regulations on further steps as may be considered necessary, according to the Regulations.

 

Vincent Ufuoma is a reporter with The ICIR. He is a lover of God, truth, knowledge and justice.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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