By Comrade Nnadi Goodluck
Abia State government has announced a gradual easing of lockdown measures effective from Monday, 11th May, 2020.
This was announced on Friday via a statement in Umuahia, the state capital by the Secretary to Abia State Government and Chairman, Abia State COVID-19 Committee, Chris Ezem.
He said that the decision to announce a partial lifting of ban on movements was reached after necessary consultations and considerations, including advice from medical experts.
He said that schools and the state’s border remain closed till further notice, adding that worship centres are free to open.
He added that wearing of face masks in public places is hereby compulsory and defaulters will be arrested and prosecuted.
Ezem said that all markets in the state shall open only 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 9am to 3pm daily.
He said that relevant markets leadership have constituted a 17-man Enforcement Team in the state, stressing that the team shall ensure provision of a minimum of 20 litres bucket with tap for running water, in addition to soap and sanitizers by each trader, and the wearing of face masks by both sellers and buyers in the market.
Ezem said: “The enforcement teams are charged with the full responsibility of ensuring full compliance to social distancing in the markets at all times, they are also vested with powers to justifiably seal up any shop that circumvents any or all of these directives.
“Let it be noted that should there be any lapse on the part of the enforcement team of any market leading to a breach of these directives, such a market will be closed down by relevant local or state government authorities without any further recourse to the traders.”
He continued: “Commercial tricycle (Keke) operators and all other intra-state commercial transporters will now operate from 8am to 4pm daily, while keke operators can only carry 2 passengers at every point in time, mini buses (oke bekee) and other buses must not seat more than 2 persons per row with all passengers including the driver wearing face masks.”
He said that burial ceremonies in the State are now allowed to hold only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays of the 1st and 3rd week of every month, stressing that for burials to be conducted by churches whether on a field or church premises, attendance to such events must not be more than 30 persons while only 10 persons are allowed for the ones to hold at private residences, adding that the same protocol applies to burials to be conducted according to native rites.
He said: “In all cases, the church leader or traditional ruler concerned is expected to apply to the office of the Secretary to State Government (SSG) through the Transition Council Chairman of the relevant Local Government Area for burial permit.
“It is an offence to conduct or attend burial ceremonies without wearing face masks.
“All Eateries/Restaurants must operate only on a take-away basis and close latest by 7pm daily. Management, staff and customers of such eateries/restaurants must always have their face masks on and provide hand sanitizers and/or soap and running water for customers at the entry points.
“All our borders shall remain closed and all inter-state movements into Abia remain prohibited except for vehicles transporting essential items such as food, drugs and others duly authorized by the federal or state government, drivers and passengers (not exceeding 2) of such authorised vehicles must wear face masks and be ready to subject themselves to search and medical tests as necessary.
“It is worth emphasizing that wearing of face masks is compulsory in Abia State and law enforcement agents are authorised to apprehend offenders and present them before the Mobile Court for prosecution.
“Religious activities/worships will hold only on Fridays for the Muslim communities, Saturdays for Sabbatarians and Sundays for others, congregation of such worships must not exceed 50 persons per stream and they must all wear face masks while every worship centre must provide running water, soap and hand sanitizers at designated places in their premises.
“All worship activities must end on or before 2pm on the days designated for worship.
“Civil servants are to resume work on Monday 11th May, 2020 beginning with schedule officers on Grade Level 13 and above along with their immediate subordinates, they are to resume at 8am on alternate days of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and close at 3pm.
“All Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are to function with not more than 20 persons and must provide buckets with taps for running water, soap and hand sanitizers at their offices.
“Based on the forgoing, all MDAs are to submit the list of their staff scheduled to be at work in this period to the Head of Service.
“All our schools remain closed till further notice.
“Government urges Ndi Abia and residents alike to continue to maintain all COVID-19 protocols as it concerns wearing of face masks, regular hand washing and use of sanitizers in order to stay safe at all times.
“All the directives on gradual relaxation of lockdown protocols takes effect from Monday, 11th May, 2020.”
“Finally, Government commends all our front line service providers, those on essential services, environmental and community health workers, security operatives, State and Local Government enforcement teams, our donors, volunteer organizations, ASEPA and, indeed, Ndi-Abia for keeping faith with Government in the fight against Covid-19 in the State.”