By Emmanuel Ugwu
The Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Wednesday announced the total lockdown of the state as government ramped up strategies to keep Covid-19 out of the state.
He announced the extra measure in a broadcast to update citizens “on steps we have taken so far to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and measures we have put in place for containment and dealing with future eventualities”.
The governor said that the total lockdown, which took effect in the midnight of Tuesday, had become inevitable because of the increasing cases of coronavirus in Nigeria and the need to protect Abians from the disease.
“This imposes on us, a necessity to take urgent and stringent steps to safeguard the lives of our people in Abia State and prevent the pandemic from ravaging our people,” he said.
Ikpeazu noted that though Abia has presently not recorded any case of coronavirus, the state must be kept in heightened vigilance as prevention is always better than cure.
“We are poised to do everything possible to shut out this virus from our shores and we need everyone’s cooperation to succeed,” the governor vowed.
But to achieve the goal of keeping Abia free of coronavirus, Ikpeazu said that collective vigilance was needed because “if you shut it out and your neighbour engages in harmful practices, it may still get in”.
He stated that the lockdown would last for two weeks but would be subject to a review as events unfold, adding that all public events including burials, wedding ceremonies, and every other forms of social gatherings remain frozen.
“I am not unmindful of the disruptions to lives and livelihoods that these measures will entail but I want to remind us that health and life is paramount and every other consideration has to take second place,” the governor said.
However, he explained that the restriction on movement would not affect those involved in providing essential services that people need for daily survival, adding that the exemption affects workers in the health and medical sector, food production, processing and retail outlets, security services, journalists, petroleum products, super markets and consumer shops, among others.
Ikpeazu further assured the people of the state that his government was fully prepared to manage any outbreak should Covid-19 slip through the dragnet and make its way into the state.
He said that two isolation centres have been set up in Umuahia and a third one was being readied at Aba, while preparations are underway to put a fourth centre in Abia North.
The governor said that he would personally monitor the distribution of critical drugs to health institutions, adding that all donations already received from public spirited individuals and corporate organisations would be properly utilized and accounted for.
The Abia chief executive has strong words for traders and service providers exploiting the panic situation to exploit consumers, saying he was pained to hear that people could engage in such heartless hiking of prices of consumer goods.
“I wish to state that this development is simply unacceptable,” he warned, adding that government has mobilized relevant agencies to clamp down on the Shylock traders and service providers.
He reminded those with exploitative tendencies that “this is the period we are expected to showcase our humanity and be our brother’s keepers and not an occasion to seek to exploit our hapless and helpless brethren”.
“All those involved in these shameful practices are directed to cease forthwith or an example will be made of them,” Ikpeazu said.