MAIDUGURI, Nigeria

Hundreds of workers and professionals returned to work in major Nigerian cities on Monday after authorities relaxed a month-long lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

President Mohammadu Buhari announced gradual easing of virus restrictions in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, capital territory Abuja and Ogun from today.

Lagos and Abuja, the two cities with the highest number of workforce and commercial activities, witnessed heavy traffic from the early hours of the day till noon as residents traveled to work.

“Jostling crowds residents were seen at bus stations in Lagos this morning,” Mojeed Alabi, a journalist in Lagos, told Anadolu Agency. “The traffic here is hectic. And no social distancing.”

Scores of residents, he added, were struggling to enter banks without wearing face masks, contrary to orders by health authorities.

He expressed fear that the nation may witness more infections in the days to come due to failure of people observing social distancing in public places and public transport.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, the director general of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), on Sunday night appealed to Nigerians to adhere to the guidelines while stepping out for economic or social activities.

“This pandemic is still with us. It is not yet time for people to think they could live a normal life. Let’s show more understanding; observe social distancing, maintain personal hygiene and wash hands regularly,” he told a local television channel.

According to NCDC’s latest data, Nigeria has 2,588 COVID-19 cases to date. A total of 87 persons have died since the start of the pandemic, while 400 patients treated and discharged at various isolation centers.

Lagos, where the first case was recorded on Feb. 27, and Abuja has the highest number of infections.

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