By Dave Okpogadie, Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has announced the relaxation of the lockdown declared on April 1, 2020, as part of measures to check the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
In a broadcast in Asaba, Okowa said the relaxation of the lockdown would become effective on Thursday, and explained that it was to encourage economic activities expected to be carried out from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
He also announced the continuation of the dusk-to-dawn (7 p.m. to 6 a.m.) curfew imposed on April 15, adding that the ban on conferences, sporting activities, gathering of people at event centers and other public engagements remained in force until May 31, 2020.
For burials and weddings, the governor directed that the number of guests must not exceed 50, and that social distancing rule of six feet apart must be observed at such events.
He thanked residents of the state for their understanding on the measures being adopted by the government to stem the spread of the virus and hunger while the pandemic lasts, and observed that the lockdown had to a large extent helped to limit the spread of the virus in the state.
The governor advised the people to be ready to adjust to new ways of doing things.
“As we gradually relax the restriction of movement, I must caution that it is not yet Uhuru; life as we have known it is still a long way off; we must therefore brace ourselves up to adjust to the new normal in all our personal, official and business dealings going forward.
“As an administration, we remain irrevocably committed to doing everything necessary to protect the lives and property of citizens in the state, in addition to providing a safe and secure environment for them to pursue their dreams of success and happiness.
“In view of the foregoing, it has become necessary to PARTIALLY LIFT THE BAN on movements within the state effective Thursday, April 30, 2020. This is to enable our people engage in economic/business activities between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm. Security agencies will be on hand to ensure strict compliance with the time frame”, the governor announced.
Schools, entertainment centers, salons remain closed.
“Our schools (public and private) remain closed until Sunday, May 31, 2020; entertainment centers, including cinemas, bars and night clubs remain closed until Sunday, 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 remain closed till further notice.
“While transport services (keke, taxis, buses) are allowed to operate, number of passengers shall be as follows: two persons at the back for keke; one person at the front seat, and two persons at the back for a taxi; 10 to 12 persons for a 16-seater/18-seater bus”, he further announced.
The Asaba Airport will however remain closed.
“Our airports remain closed to passenger traffic till further notice and, I shall be meeting with our religious leaders on Thursday to chart the way forward for our places of worship. However, all crusades/conventions remain banned till further notice,’’ Okowa stated.
He directed that public service workers on Grade Level 12 and above should resume work on Thursday, April30, 2020, adding that the order did not apply to junior staff on essential/emergency duties.
The governor insisted that workplace protocols should be in place for disease surveillance/prevention, including screening, use of face masks and social distancing.
He reminded residents that security agencies have been advised to ensure strict compliance with the above directives, and warned that violators will be prosecuted without fear or favour.
He announced that the state government has produced one million face masks and that the distribution would commence immediately.
“Henceforth, it is mandatory for all residents in the state to make use of facemasks in the public. Anybody leaving his/her home must wear a facemask effective Thursday, April 30, 2020 till further notice.
“The masks 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 facemasks while carrying out their businesses. 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 and appropriate social distancing. As much as possible, workers in these establishments should wear hand gloves.
“The state government will in the first instance, distribute one million cloth facemasks 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 re-used.
“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,” the governor stated.
He expressed gratitude for public so far.
“Except for some minor incidents here and there, our state has been relatively peaceful during the lockdown which speaks of your trust and confidence in the integrity of the structures and processes we put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are, indeed, very grateful for your support and partnership. The security agencies also deserve our commendation for their sacrifice, patience and professional conduct.
“We have every reason to believe that the lockdown helped to limit the spread of the virus in our State, because as at today, six cases of COVID-19 have been incidented.
“Five of the patients are doing well in our case management centers, but, 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.’’