Authorities in Nigeria’s capital Abuja have established an outdoor mobile court in an effort to prosecute individuals and institutions violating rules imposed to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Africa’s most populous country is currently facing a second wave of infections, with 143,516 cases and 1,710 deaths reported — but these figures are believed to fall short of the real toll since the number of tests is low.
Face masks are compulsory in public spaces and social distancing is advised across the country, but these rules are rarely observed.
Since early February, the Abuja Covid-19 task force has prosecuted violators at a court set up on Eagle Square, steps away from the Supreme Court and National Assembly.
“I think today we had about 46 people, three were minors,” Attah Ikharo, chairman of the task force said on Wednesday.
“Those who pleaded guilty (for not properly wearing a mask) were fined 2,000 naira (about $5),” said defense lawyer Nnamdi John.
Punishments can include community service and even jail time. President Muhammadu Buhari signed a new law in January prescribing a six months jail sentence for those disobeying Covid-19 guidelines.
The city’s task force is hoping to establish two more mobile courts by the end of the week as the virus continues to spread.
A variant strain of coronavirus has been discovered in recent months in Nigeria but it remains unclear whether it is more contagious or deadly.
The country is expecting to receive 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax programme by the end of the month.
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