Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum Resources ordered oil and gas companies on Thursday to reduce their workforce and practice social distancing, tightening measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
"All operators and their contractors are to ensure strict compliance with relevant government directives and limit the number of personnel at project/construction sites accordingly,” said Sarki Auwalu, the head of the regulator, according to a post on the department’s official Facebook page.
On Sunday, the regulator ordered oil and gas companies to reduce their offshore workforce and move to 28-day staff rotations, also measures to curb the spread of the virus. Companies operating in the country include oil majors Shell and Chevron.
Nigeria is keen to protect oil production, which provides 90% of much-needed foreign exchange. A coronavirus case on an offshore rig could spread quickly among workers and have a potentially devastating impact on production.
Health experts are concerned about the potential for a widespread outbreak in Africa's most populous country, which has about 200 million inhabitants. Nigeria has 174 confirmed coronavirus cases and two deaths from the virus so far.
The country has shut international airports, closed all land borders and locked down its two main cities, Lagos and the capital Abuja, in an effort to contain the outbreak.
(Reporting by Libby George in Lagos, Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)