*Says erring transporters, hoteliers to face stiff punishment
*To partner religious, traditional leaders for distribution of relief materials
By Ngozi Ekhator
The Edo State Government has rolled out an aggressive enforcement policy to stem the spread of coronavirus in the state, noting that the government remains reluctant to impose total lockdown because of the economic hardship such a move would cause.
In an address monitored in Benin City, Governor Godwin Obaseki, said with 11 confirmed cases as at Wednesday, April 8, evidence shows that the number of cases is likely to increase significantly in the next few weeks.
The governor, who has just completed a 14-day isolation after exposure to confirmed cases of coronavirus, said throughout the isolation period, he had effectively coordinated the state’s efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
According to him, “As at today, Edo State has 11 confirmed cases and sadly one death from COVID-19. Unfortunately, from the evidence we now have, the number of cases is likely to increase significantly in the next few weeks, unless we take very drastic actions now to slowdown the spread.
“We have gathered information that large numbers of our citizens who travelled back home in the last several weeks from overseas may not have self-isolated themselves. Although majority of the current cases are individuals with travel history and their relatives, in the coming days, we are likely to see community transmission of the virus to people who do not have any travel history.”
Noting that the state government’s response strategy is geared towards ensuring that the livelihoods of the people are protected, he said, “Edo State government is very reluctant to have a total shut down of the state because of the hardship it will cause to our people. However, if we are going to stop the spread of the virus, every person must be involved, it must be a shared responsibility. Government alone cannot stop it without the active co-operation of the citizens.”
He continued, “As I emphasised in my last statement, the COVID-19 virus does not spread on its own. It is people who spread it when they move around. So, if we can reduce the movement of people for a period, and keep safe distance from other people, the virus will not spread. Government will now strictly enforce all the guidelines which has been announced to control the spread of COVID-19.
“For the next 14 days it is compulsory that every person in Edo state must wear a face mask in public. The Edo State Association of Tailors and Fashion Designers are mass-producing high-quality reusable face masks at affordable prices. Any gathering of more than 20 people will be immediately dispersed and persons involved will be prosecuted.”
On markets closure, he said, “markets in Edo State will be shut for fumigation, sanitisation and thorough cleaning over the next 30 days. All those selling essential items like food and medicines will be relocated by the local government to the nearest open spaces where they can sell while observing social distancing regulations.
“The Edo State Government will shut down any hotel found to be hosting guests who travelled from outside Edo state and did not inform the COVID-19 response team to screen such guests. Vehicles with passengers not adhering to the social distancing regulations, will be impounded and the driver will be prosecuted.
Urging people to take ownership of the campaign to rid the state of the pandemic, he said, “Every business premises and household must have hand-washing facilities at points of entry and should please insist that everyone must wash their hands before entry.”
He added, “All Government hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centres will be used as screening centres to screen citizens who believe they may have been exposed or suspect that they may have symptoms of COVID-19. We have now completed the first set of training for all health workers in Edo State who will man the screening and isolation centres.
He said the state government would work with the local governments, religious organisations and traditional rulers to distribute food items to the most affected and the most vulnerable members of our communities.
“We continue to receive cash, equipment, drugs and food supplies from well-meaning individuals, government agencies, and organisations. For this, we say thank you. The Secretary to the State Government will announce the names of members of the committees who will be assisting us to co-ordinate our relief efforts,” he added.
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