The Chief Press Secretary to the Delta State Governor, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika has explained that Tuesday’s announcement of relaxation of the lockdown in the state was predicated on the governor’s compassion for citizens, saying it was to rekindle micro and small business activities.
Lockdown in the state began on April 1 for 14 days and was extended for another 14 days from April 15 as part of measures against the spread of COVID-19. The order was preceded by the closure of all entry points into the state, including airports and seaports, on March 29.
According to Ifeajika, in an interview with Silverbird News 24 monitored via Skype in Asaba on Wednesday, the governor compassionately relaxed the lockdown to enable daily income earners seek a living.
He said that since the stay-at-home directive was given, majority of persons in daily income bracket were cut off from their sources of “daily bread’’ and had mounted agitation and plea to the government to reconsider the order.
“The governor, being a very compassionate leader, with the interest of his people at heart, had to partially relax the lockdown for economic activities to resume.
“It is, however, with a proviso that everyone must wear a face mask in public places henceforth,’’ he said, adding that there were still some rules that the people must abide with.
The governor’s spokesman stated that “so far, it’s been fine in the state, because from the onset, the governor took proactive measures even when the state had not recorded any confirmed case of the virus.
“We put all the things that needed to be on ground; we established four isolation and treatment centres while frontline health personnel were adequately trained and re-trained for the pandemic.
“Incidentally, two weeks into the scourge, we recorded the Index case in the state and then the second one, who died in the process because he presented himself very late and also had underlying health issues.
“So far, we have seven cases, with two deaths and three are active and doing very well while two were discharged yesterday (Tuesday), having tested negative two times. It’s been wonderful and we pray that nothing negative happens again as far as the pandemic is concerned.”
On why government partially relaxed the lockdown, Ifeajika stated that Okowa, “being a leader, who listens to his people and cares about their plight, allowed businesses to resume so that those who earn daily living can continue to fend for themselves.
“For the type of person he is, the governor listened to the people and relaxed the lockdown partially to allow some business activities to resume but with a proviso that everybody coming to the public must have the face mask on.
“And, to help in this regard, the state government produced one million face masks to distribute free to the people. These may not be enough, but will definitely go a long way in letting people know that it’s what we need to save lives.”
Ifeajika said that distribution of the face mask had commenced on Tuesday, adding that a law would be enacted to enforce its compulsory usage in public places.
“The distribution of the face masks started yesterday at the Ward level; the whole essence is that from tomorrow, April 30, it will be enforced seriously – everybody coming to the public from wherever must wear the face mask, and it is going to be backed by a law.
“A Bill on it will go to the House of Assembly for a proper law to be enacted so that it becomes unlawful for you not to have your face mask on in public places.
“It’s all about caring for the people, because there are those who live by the day; if they don’t work they won’t eat. So, the governor felt that let all the people come out and eek a living.
“For transporters, the Keke or tricycle, for instance, the new law is that the Keke operator will only carry two persons at the back, and the taxi will carry one person in front and two at the back.
“Buses that have the capacity to carry between 16 and 18 persons, they are now permitted to carry between 10 and 12 persons. Anything outside this is unlawful.
“For restaurants, canteens and bars, they are permitted to run on a take-away basis – anybody who comes, buys whatever he wants to buy and takes it away.
“The night clubs, cinemas and bars remain banned until May 31. The relaxation of the lockdown is to allow people eek-out a living somehow, but that is not to say that it is total relaxation.
“We still have some guides that they will have to abide with, and that is where we are,” he added.
Ifeajika also stated that the governor called for support from well-meaning individuals and organizations for the production and distribution of more face masks to Deltans, as he did for food palliatives to the people.
“Like the food (palliatives) distributed to the people, you will recall that the governor, when he announced that the state had established a food bank, also called on well-meaning Deltans and institutions to support the government.
“Truly, some persons, groups and organizations came and supported the government to give to the indigents.
“The same way it is that the one million face masks will not go round everybody and it is believed that those who can afford it should be able to make some for themselves and even give to their neighbours.
“There are so many public places that people will want to access and the idea is to continue to save lives and stop the spread of the virus.
“So, the governor has asked Deltans, who are well-meaning, to support government by producing face masks, because if I have one and the next person also has, it will help to reduce the spread of the virus,” he stated.