You may go to jail for contravening COVID-19 guidelines as federal government goes tough on enforcement.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday, January 27, 2021, took the COVID-19 guidelines beyond the realm of advice by signing the CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19) HEALTH PROTECTION REGULATIONS 2021 into law in Abuja. It provides for a fine or a term of six months imprisonment, or both, for persons found guilty of disobeying COVID-19 guidelines.
The guidelines are already known to the public as part of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, protocols but this shores it up with legal basis for enforcement and prosecution of offenders.
The regulations legalise wearing of face masks, social distancing, hand washing, temperature checks and restriction of public gatherings, save religious assemblies, to a maximum of 50 persons. It equally empowers public institutions like banks, schools, worship centres, and others to enforce the regulations.
By legalizing these regulations, it becomes an offence to disobey them. It is an offence to obstruct authorised persons and institutions from enforcing the guidelines.
The details are reproduced below:
CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19) HEALTH PROTECTION REGULATIONS 2021
In the exercise of the powers conferred upon me by Section 4 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2010 and all other powers enabling me in that behalf; and in consideration of the urgent need to protect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians in the face of the widespread and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, I, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, hereby make the following Regulations –
Restrictions on Gatherings
At all gatherings, a physical distance of at least two metres shall be maintained at all times between persons.
Notwithstanding the provision of Regulation 1, no gathering of more than 50 persons shall hold in an enclosed space, except for religious purposes, in which case the gathering shall not exceed 50% capacity of the space.
All persons in public gatherings, whether in enclosed or open spaces, shall adhere to the provisions of Part 2 of these Regulations.
The provisions of these Regulations may be varied by Guidelines and Protocols 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).
Operations of Public Places
Markets (including open markets), Malls, Supermarkets, Shops, Restaurants, Hotels, Event Centres, Gardens, Leisure Parks, Recreation Centres, Motor Parks, Fitness Centres, etc.
No person shall 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:
a. he is wearing a face covering that covers the nose and mouth;
b. he washes his hands or cleaned the hands using hand sanitiser approved by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC); and
c. his body temperature has been checked. Any person found to have a 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.
Each establishment occupier is responsible for cleaning and disinfecting his premises.
It is the responsibility of the occupier of the establishment to:
a. Enforce the proper use of face-covering;
b. Make provision for safe hygiene facilities;
c. Enforce provision of temperature checks prior to entry into the establishment;
d. Enforce provisions and use of face-covering within the establishment;
e. Ensure that their customers queue up and are attended to serially while complying with physical distancing measures and avoiding overcrowding; and
f. Generally, ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations.
Occupiers of establishments are liable for any observed non-compliance by any persons within the premises.
Places of Worship
All worshippers and users of places of worship shall comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of these Regulations.
Worshippers shall, where and whenever possible, avoid sharing worship items such as mats, bottles, hymnals, etc.
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.
Workplace and Schools
All persons entering the premises of a workplace or school shall comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of these Regulations.
It is the responsibility of the person in charge of a workplace or a school to ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations within the office or school premises.
All employees, customers and visitors of banks shall comply with the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of these 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.
Public Transportation Vehicles
All operators and passengers of public transportation vehicles (hereinafter referred to as “operators”) shall comply with the provisions of Part 2 of these Regulations.
Operators shall ensure adequate spacing in between passengers.
Operators 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.
Operators shall encourage passengers to frequently perform hand hygiene.
All operators of trains, ships and planes shall have an occupational health and infectious diseases preparedness plan, in case an employee or traveler becomes unwell in the course of a journey.
It is the responsibility of operators to ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations in the course of their operations.
Hostels, Boarding Houses and Detention Centres
Managers of Hostels, Boarding Houses, Nursing Homes, Correctional Centres, Remand Homes, Holding Cells, Military Detention Facilities, and such centres for care and custody of persons, shall ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations.
Managers of such facilities shall 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.
Mandatory Compliance with Treatment Protocols
The health and safety protocols and guidelines are issued by the PTF on COVID-19 on the recommendation of the NCDC and shall be binding on all persons.
Persons confirmed to have tested positive to COVID-19 by an NCDC accredited laboratory, may not refuse isolation and or admission to a designated health establishment for management of the disease.
All public secondary and tertiary health facilities shall designate a space or holding bay for the initial triage or assessment of suspected persons with COVID-19 in line with the approved protocol for case management.
All public secondary and tertiary health facilities shall establish sample collection centres, where test samples from suspected cases can be collected and transmitted to an accredited testing laboratory in the State.
Notwithstanding the provision of Regulation 27, where a person confirmed to have tested positive to the COVID-19 is:
a. Asymptomatic or has mild symptoms; and
b. Proves able to make an alternative isolation arrangement that satisfies protocols issued by the NCDC, as certified by a healthcare provider and assessment by a medical professional;
such person may use such alternative arrangements, including supervised “home-based care,” for self-isolation, and adhere strictly to the guidelines until confirmed by the healthcare provider to be no longer at risk of infecting others with the virus.
Offences and Penalties
Any person who contravenes the provisions of these Regulations commits an offence.
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.
An offence under these Regulations is punishable, on summary conviction, by a fine or a term of six months imprisonment or both in accordance with Section 5 of the Quarantine Act.
Enforcement and Application
Personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, and other relevant Local Government, State and Federal Government agencies are hereby directed to enforce the provisions of these Regulations.
Any officer of the enforcement agencies who fails, neglects, or refuses to enforce the provisions of these Regulations shall be subject to disciplinary action by the disciplinary body of his respective agency.
The provisions of these Regulations shall apply throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
State Governors may issue Regulations on further steps as may be considered necessary.
Interpretation and Citation
In these Regulations, unless the context otherwise requires:
a. “Offence” means any act, which may constitute a violation of the provisions of these Regulations.
b. “Enforcement Agency” means any law enforcement or security agency vested with the statutory power to investigate and prosecute any person in respect of any of the applicable offences.
c. “Face covering” means a covering of any type (other than a face shield) which covers, fully, a person’s nose and mouth.
d. “gathering(s)” means an assembly or meeting of people.
e. “occupier” means any person who is in current occupation and control of premises either as an owner or lessee.
f. “Public transportation vehicle” means bicycle, motorcycle, tricycle, car, taxi, limousine, bus, train, ship, plane, or any other vehicle of transportation that carries more than one person at a time.
g. “reasonable cause” includes medical emergency, wherein the person in violation forgot to put on face covering, but complied with the directive to do so upon prompting; a natural disaster, wherein persons need to be evacuated into a public space; etc.
These Regulations shall take effect immediately and remain in effect until otherwise determined.
All other Protocols and Guidelines issued by the PTF, NCDC, and or State Governments, except as expressly provided, shall remain in force.
These Regulations may be cited as the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021.