Okowa Relaxes Restrictions on Movement, Extends Ban on Large Gatherings

Ifeanyi Okowa

Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has announced a partial relaxation of the state lockdown to tackle COVID-19 pandemic, which included weddings and burial ceremony, with strict observance of social distancing rules.

While thanking the citizens, security agencies and other stakeholders for the contribution to the appreciable success and gains of the 28-day lockdown, Okowa said in a broadcast in Asaba yesterday that the ban on certain public gatherings like sports and religious congregation as well as mass movement in vehicles would still be in force.

Schools are to remain closed for at least one more month while the ban on inter-state movement, other than for specified essential services as announced last Monday by President Muhammadu Buhari, would be strictly enforced in Delta State, the governor added.

Okowa, who reiterated the readiness of his administration to continue to tackle the challenge posed by coronavirus frontally and proactively, said: “We have every reason to believe that the lockdown has helped to limit the spread of the virus in our state. As at today, six cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, while five of the patients are doing well in our case management centres. Sadly, we lost one of them who presented himself late to the medical authorities; his test report, which turned out to be positive, was received after his unfortunate demise.

“The period of the lockdown, which is to enable us break the chain of transmission, also gave us the leeway to easily trace, identify, isolate and test contacts of infected persons.

“In view of the foregoing, it has become necessary to partially lift the ban on movements within the state effective from April 30, 2020. This is to enable our people engage in economic/business activities between the hours of 6a.m. and 7p.m., as security agencies will be on hand to ensure strict compliance with the time frame.”

According to the governor, “Conferences, sporting activities, gathering of people in convention/event centres, sports fields, public/open spaces as well as recreational and cultural/communal activities remain banned until May 31, 2020.

“While burials and weddings will be allowed, the social distancing rule (6ft apart) must be applied, and the number of guests/persons must not exceed 50. Our schools (public and private) shall remain closed until May 31, 2020.

“Entertainment centres, including cinemas, bars and night clubs, shall remain closed until May 31, 2020.

Restaurants/canteens/beer parlours are to operate on take-away basis while hotels will be allowed to open (with in-room dining) but their restaurants, bars and night clubs shall remain closed till further notice.

“While public transport services (tricycles taxis, buses) are allowed to operate, number of passengers shall be two persons at the back for tricycles; one person on the front seat and two persons at the back for a taxi; while for a 16-seater/18-seater bus, it is 10 to 12 persons.

“Also, our airports remain closed to passenger traffic till further notice.

“I shall be meeting with our religious leaders on April 30 to chart the way forward for our places of worship. However, all crusades/conventions shall remain banned till further notice.

“For the public service, only workers on Grade Level 12 and above should resume work effective from April 30, 2020. This order does not apply to junior staff on essential/emergency duties.”

Okowa added that: “Workers identified by the ministry of Health or its agencies can work from home. However, workplace protocols should be in place for disease surveillance/prevention, including screening, use of face masks and social distancing.

“Let me reiterate that security agencies have been advised to ensure strict compliance with the above directives. Violators will be prosecuted, without fear or favour.

“Henceforth, it is mandatory for all residents in the state to make use of face masks in the public. Anybody leaving his/her home must wear a face mask effective from April 30 till further notice. They must be worn in public places, including offices, markets, malls, supermarkets, salons, hospitals and health clinics, churches, mosques as well as all approved gatherings of persons.

“Traders/market women are all required to wear face masks while carrying out their businesses. The local government chairmen are hereby directed to work out the modalities for the operations of the markets in their domain, especially with regards to social distancing and other sanitation protocols.

“Hair dressing/barbing salons must never be crowded; owners are hereby directed to restrict the number of persons inside to a minimum number that will facilitate appropriate social distancing. As much as possible, workers in these establishments should wear hand gloves.

“The state government will by tomorrow, commence, in the first instance, the distribution of a million cloth face masks to residents in the state, using the local government offices as channels. Meanwhile, those who can afford it are also advised to make their own procurements. The benefit of the cloth facemasks is that they can be washed and reused.

“There will be a continuation of the inter-state lockdown for another two weeks. Only essential supplies-food, beverages, medicals, pharmaceuticals, petroleum and agricultural products-are exempted from this order.

“As we engage our new normal, I assure all Deltans and residents that we shall continue to put processes in place to limit the transmission of the virus by ensuring rapid identification of cases and contacts, more testing, isolation/quarantine as necessary, staff training/motivation and provision of logistics/supplies.”

He added: “If you fall ill with fever, cough and/or breathlessness, please do not panic; call the local government area chairman, councillor, executive secretary or Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer in your LGA. You can also call the Emergency Operation Centre on these numbers: 08031230480; 08031230481; 08031230528; 08031230529.”