By Omar H. Saley
The Nigerien government announced it would close all schools from December 17, 2020 to January 1, 2021 to fight the rising coronavirus cases in the country, a government spokesperson announced after the cabinet meeting on Friday, December 11. The government will also take several other steps to curtail the spread of Covid-19 cases.
The government’s decision means that the Christmas vacation period, initially planned from December 22nd, will now start five days earlier. The announcement, which happened just a few days before Sunday’s municipal and regional elections, and presidential and legislative elections on December 27, came as a shock to some.
“I am surprised to see that despite the delay in resuming classes in some schools, the authorities are still closing schools. We agree that there is Covid-19, but is the solution to prevent children from going to school? I think we need to strengthen the prevention measures because anyway. We are in our cold period and even if there is no coronavirus, many of the diseases are more present now,” said Sani Zakou, a mechanic in Niamey.
The government has also decided implement a mask mandate and to “take sanctions against public officials in case of a refusal to wear masks, to strengthen hand washing at all public and private administrations and supermarkets, as well as the suspension of workshops and seminars until further notice.”
Abdoulaye Issa, a resident of Niamey, believes this is a good decision. “Every day, there’s a large number of positive cases of coronavirus, and mask-wearing is not respected in schools, markets or even in health centers. With the elections, it is not easy, so the government’s decision is welcome,” he says.
As a direct consequence of the lack of preventive measures, Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in Niger in recent weeks, according to an assessment of the pandemic made by the Minister of Public Health. As of December 11 in Niger, there have been a total of 2160 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. There are currently 811 active cases and 80 deaths have been recorded.