Kwara State Government on Thursday announced a total lockdown on the state in a renewed effort to contain the spread of Corona Virus (COVID-19), exactly 48 hours after it took a similar step in Offa local government.
The government said violators of the pronouncement may face prosecution in line with the state regulations on the pandemic — except vehicles carrying goods and services such as food and drugs and categories earlier exempted in a recent address by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The administration also commended Abuja and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their technical supports, including recently helping to strengthen government’s response team and training of its LGA disease surveillance and notification officers (DSNOs) on COVID-19 preparedness, response and surveillance.
The government however said a total lockdown was necessary to flatten the curve of transmission at this time.
“The government hereby bans all vehicular movements, including private and commercial vehicles, from 6p.m. tomorrow, Friday 10 April, 2020,” Kayode Alabi, Deputy Governor and Chairman of the Technical Committee on COVID-19, told a news briefing in Ilorin, the state capital.
“The only exceptions are commercial trucks carrying goods and services who would operate with absolute respect for social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols. All kinds of shops, bars, pubs, and markets are hereby shut until further notice. Markets where foods and medications are sold will open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, between 10 a.m. and 2p.m.
“Contractors working on government projects are allowed to proceed to work with no more than 20 workers on site at one time.”
The total lockdown is for initial 14 days and may be reviewed as government monitors the situation, he added.
He said previous restrictions remain and would be enforced.
Commending the Federal Government and the WHO, Alabi said the NCDC has sent down a crack team of experts to strengthen its capabilities to combat the spread of the virus.
“Th government also commends the World Health Organisation for the recent training of our health officials across the 16 local government areas on community-level COVID preparedness, response and surveillance. All our LGA Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) are now back in their localities to do a step down training for community informants and focal persons,” he said.
Alabi also expressed strong disapproval of the alleged stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients or other persons and communities on account of their contacts with any patient.
He warned that anyone caught doing so may be prosecuted in line with the regulation and relevant laws.
His words: “The government is dismayed by reports of some people stigmatising the families, relations and acquaintances of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. This development is not only unhealthy but it is in fact inimical to the efforts to trace contacts and flatten the curve of transmission of the virus.
“As was aptly observed by His Excellency in his live press briefing of Tuesday April 8, the government repeats clearly that contracting COVID-19 is neither a death sentence nor a crime. Anyone who has contracted it is a victim of an unknown enemy. They are not villains to be stigmatised. Just anyone can be victim of the deadly virus. All the patients and their families are persons to be catered for at this time. This is a tough time for them and nobody will be allowed to add to their worries!
“We state also that the government has carefully refused to mention the names of patients or their families. It has accorded the patients and their families all the rights, privileges and confidentiality due to them under relevant laws and ethics. The government will not hesitate to prosecute anyone found guilty of stigmatising patients and communities, or robbing them of their dignity. We warn that sharing of the picture of any COVID-19 patient qualifies as a crime and government will treat the despicable characters behind it as suspected criminals going forward.
“We assure the public that everything is being done to prevent community transmission and there is no use destroying years of community peace and relationships in the guise of identifying (COVID-19) contacts, whether primary or secondary. The cases at the isolation centre are stable and without any symptoms, and are getting the right care and support every step of the way.
“Fellow Kwarans, we repeat that this is no time to panic. Please stay calm. The Government will do everything to keep you safe. But we also need you to play your own role. Stay at home. Keep social distancing. Avoid crowd. Prioritise personal hygiene. And please do not spread unverified news. Once again, we pray for all those infected to get well soon. We assure them of getting the best care possible. We also thank all our healthcare givers for their priceless contribution to humanity. We are grateful to all of you and we urge you to do your best for us at this time and always.”