By Okon Bassey
In order to check the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in Akwa Ibom State, the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law, the quarantine and restriction movement regulations 2020.
Emmanuel said the new law, which became effective in March 30, 2020 across the 31 local government areas of the state, is in view of the serious and imminent threat to public health by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He described COVID-19 as a dangerous infectious disease within the meaning and intendment of Section 2 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004.
With the provisions of the regulation to control the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent the spread of the disease, the state government has therefore restricted the movement of persons and vehicles within the state.
The law provides that commercial tricycles shall carry not more than two passengers only; while mini buses shall carry not more than one passenger per row.
“A private vehicle shall carry not more than two persons at the back seat and one on the front Seat.
“All public parks, shops, eateries, clubs, restaurants, markets and offices within the state shall remain closed except for the sale of foodstuffs, drugs and other essential commodities.
“All public burials, public weddings, and other forms of public gatherings are for the time being hereby prohibited.
“All places of religious worship, churches, and mosques shall strictly observe the social distancing prescription of a minimum of one metre spacing and not more than twenty persons per gathering.
“In addition, hand washing facility with running water, soap and sanitizer shall be made available,” it said.
On closure of borders, the law provides that “all borders and roads leading into and out of the state shall remain closed with immediate effect. (For the avoidance of doubt, all interstate transportation and movement on land, air, water are hereby prohibited)”.
However, government and recognised security personnel, fire service personnel, medical health workers and other personnel on essential duties and food supplies are exempted from the law.
The law advises that any person who knows or has reason to believe that he has symptoms of, or is suffering from the coronavirus disease shall not expose other persons to risk of infection by his presence or conduct in any public place or any other place.
“Any person who knows or has reason to believe that he has symptoms of, or is suffering from the coronavirus disease shall submit himself for quarantine and treatment,” it stated.
The law warns that a person who refuses to submit himself for treatment and quarantine, security and medical personnel may use such force as may be reasonably necessary and employ such method as may be sufficient to ensure compliance with the regulations.
On isolation of contacts, the law states that: “Where a person under Paragraph 7 has been identified, a medical officer may order all person who came in contact with the Identified person to be isolated in any of the isolation centres within the state and any person authorised by the medical officer to carry out such order may use such force as may be reasonably necessary and employ such method as may be sufficient to ensure compliance with this regulations.”
According to the law on offence and penalty, “Any person who contravenes the provision of this regulation shall be prosecuted in accordance with the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the Akwa Ibom State Infectious Disease (Control of Spread) Law, 2014 or any
other applicable law in that regard.
“In addition to the penalty provided under the relevant laws where a person contravenes the provisions of paragraphs 3 and 5 of these regulations, his vehicle may be impounded immediately and his licence suspended for a specified length of time immediately and his licence cancelled or suspended for a stipulated period of time.
“Security agencies are hereby directed to enforce strict compliance with the regulations herein contained.
“This regulation may be cited as the Quarantine and Restriction of Movement Regulations, 2020 and shall come into force on the 30th day of March 2020 and remain in force till 30th day of April 2020 or for such extended period as may be announced from time to time.
“The enforcement of this regulation will be strictly carried out by the special enforcement team, headed by the state Commissioner of Police, comprising all the service commanders and relevant government officials.”