*Pledges to distribute foodstuffs to vulnerable citizens, stipends for self-employed workers during lockdown
By Ngozi Ekhator
Determined to curtail the spread of the deadly coronavirus in Ekiti State, the State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has announced a major lock down of the state , including restriction of movement and border closure for an initial period of two weeks beginning from Monday night.
Businesses are also to close shop during this period, except those selling food stuffs, water, medicine and other essentials. Also religious activities and social gatherings are banned during the period, while commercial vehicles, commercial motorcycles and tricycles are also banned from operating during the two weeks restriction.
Violators of the stay-at- home order risk arrest and prosecution as well as fine and six months imprisonment if found guilty.
Dr. Fayemi disclosed this in a state-wide broadcast aired on major media channels on Sunday morning. He said government needed to take the stringent measures in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the state, especially since many citizens were yet to accord the situation the seriousness it deserves.
The Governor, who said he was glad that the state had not recorded additional confirmed case after its index case, said it was important for the state to do everything humanly possible to curtail the spread of the deadly coronavirus as the state could not afford an outbreak in view of the attendant deaths and pains as seen in other countries.
He stressed the need for all citizens to adhere strictly to all directives given to prevent community spreading of the disease, adding that if we did not take further steps to curtail the COVID-19, it portends danger for the state as it has the potential to overwhelm the health infrastructure, cripple the economy and devastate the state.
According to the Governor, “All businesses and other entities shall cease operations during this period except those involved in the provision of essential goods or services. Markets, retail shops and shopping malls must be closed, except where essential goods are sold and with strict hygienic conditions to prevent the exposure of persons to COVID-19.
“Religious gatherings e.g. worship and prayer services, night vigils, house fellowships and NASFAT meetings; Social gatherings e.g. Funerals, weddings, family meetings and parties of any kind in night clubs, bars, beer joints; and Political gatherings, e.g. rallies, congresses, ward meetings. All of these are prohibited activities under these regulations.
“All boundaries of Ekiti State are closed during this period, except for transportation of fuel, food and drugs and other essential goods. All non-residents who arrive the State prior to, or after, the imposition of this restriction, and who remain in the State, must remain in their place of temporary residence in the State for the duration of the 14 days, as the case may be, and may be subjected to screening for COVID-19 and be quarantined or isolated if necessary.
Fayemi however announced some palliative measures, especially for vulnerable members of the society and low paid workers who might feel the impact of the two week lock down. This include activation of food distribution scheme; stipends for self-employed citizens.
“I have directed that the Ekiti State Food Bank be reactivated immediately to provide food items to the poor and vulnerable families in our communities. The Task Force will announce the modalities as soon as the process is fully activated.
“The State Government will consider providing a stipend to our self-employed citizens whose daily income will be interrupted at this time as subsidy for their loss of income. I have directed the Commissioners of Finance and Budget to advise on the amount the State can afford in view of our dire financial constraints.
“We shall commence the disinfecting of major public places like markets, bus stops, motor parks, health facilities, and all likely places where the virus may be lurking across our State. Already, a massive cleanup and disinfection is ongoing in some locations in Ado Ekiti e.g. Atikankan, Irona and Oja Oba areas and I am aware some Local Government Chairmen are already taking initiatives to dredge and clear drains within their jurisdictions.
Governor Fayemi called for a more robust collaboration between all stakeholders in a bid to stem the tide of the disease nationally. He said state governments needs more support of the federal government and World Health Organization (WHO) to carry out necessary tests on their citizens.
“This war against the coronavirus COVID-19 is a global one. Nigeria is just joining this global battle and we are doing everything possible nationally and at state levels to protect our citizens from this deadly virus. However, a time like this calls for better coordination among all stakeholders – Federal, State, development partners and private sector in order to stem the tide of this pandemic.
“One area that States have been speaking with one voice is the importance of ramping up on testing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory is to test, test and test. We need the Federal Government to accelerate the establishment of more testing centres whilst at the same time allowing testing to be done by private laboratories and also give approval for the use of quick test-kits as a way of halting community spread of the virus.
The governor charged Ekiti residents to report anyone who just returned from abroad in the last seven days or anyone who has contact with such person adding that coronavirus is not a respecter of persons as many highly placed persons have been infected all over the world.
While advising the citizens not to panic as covid-19 is not a death sentence, Dr Fayemi urged all residents of the state to abide by all the preventive measures of regular hand-washing, coughing into curve elbow, maintaining social distancing and stay at home among others.
He asserted the enormous financial burden the virus has inflicted on the economy of the state and hereby solicited for financial support from local and international organizations, governments and individuals.
Dr Fayemi disclosed that the state has set up a pandemic support account with United Bank for Africa (UBA) and current account number 1022752067 urging all Ekiti indigenes and friends of the state both at home and in the diasporas to send their donations.
Dr. Fayemi urged Nigerians to avoid spreading rumors of unauthorized medical tips as there are no known cure for COVID-19 globally. Dr Fayemi also advised the people not to endanger their lives by taking any concoction that may harm them.
“Instead of stigmatizing anyone with symptoms, they should be cared for in accordance with medical advisory while the caregivers must ensure they protect themselves from being infected. Please call the Emergency Number 112 or 09062970434, 09062970435 and 09062970436 if anyone around you is showing symptoms, but first, isolate them from the rest of the family.”