Nigeria will extend lockdowns in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states for an additional 14 days to combat the new coronavirus, President Muhammadu Buhari said in an address to the nation on Monday.

Initial 14-day lockdowns in the three areas began on March 30. Buhari said it was crucial to extend the lockdown due to an “alarming” increase in positive cases in a number of states.

“It is a matter of life and death,” Buhari said of the nation’s response. “The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable.”

There are currently 323 confirmed cases of the virus in Nigeria, 71% of them in Lagos and the capital territory of Abuja, and ten people have died from the virus.

When the lockdowns were announced on March 29, the nation had 97 confirmed cases.

Nigeria, with 200 million people, is Africa’s most populous nation. 20 million of those people reside in the megacity of Lagos.

Health experts have raised alarms over the impact of any spread in the virus, warning that the country’s unprepared and underfunded healthcare system could quickly become overwhelmed.

 Police deploy units to tackle lockdown crimewave

Nigerian police will immediately deploy additional units to Lagos and Ogun states to combat an upsurge of crime committed during a lockdown to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Police spokesman Frank Mba said on Monday that the intelligence, operational and tactical units would respond to activity by “hoodlums and street urchins” on the border between the two states.

Police have arrested 191 suspects in Lagos and Ogun, which along with the capital territory of Abuja are under a federally ordered lockdown that began on March 30. They also netted 15 locally-made guns, 52 live cartridges and 42 cutlasses and axes.

Other states in the nation of some 200 million people have imposed their own containment measures, including lockdowns.

While health experts have said curtailing social and economic activity is crucial for stemming the spread of the novel virus, the restrictions have sparked some unrest as many in Nigeria live on daily wages with no savings.

Mba said the inspector general of police had ordered police commissioners nationwide to take steps “to effectively tackle all emerging crimes associated with the COVID-19 lockdown”.

“They are also to intensify patrols around residential areas, markets, shopping malls and all critical national infrastructures in their jurisdictions,” he said.