It’s no longer news that Covid-19 has formally taken root in Rivers state but the state government and relevant stakeholders are up against it. GODWIN EGBA reports on steps taken in the recent past.
From all indications, Rivers state oil-rich business communities of the Niger Delta region might earn a status as an epi-centre of Corona virus otherwise known as Covid – 19 Pandemic in Nigeria if the current tempo of infections continue unabated.
Apparently, this is raising a heart-beat concern to the state government under the commandship of Governor Nyesom Wike over the rapid spread of the virus that has hit over 1,000 confirmed cases in the past few days.
According to the statistics made available by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the state, 574 persons have so recovered while 36 others have died. Also, 22 medical doctors as well as 60 health staff are believed to have contacted the virus as at the last count.
The height of infection in the state
Indication for a possible statewide lockdown in the state emerged in the month of June when Governor Wike imposed a total lockdown of Bonny local government area that hosts the multi-billion dollar investments like the NLNG and Onne communities in Eleme local government that host Nigeria’s premier oil and gas free zone with close to 200 other multinationals like Intels, Prodeco, West African Container Terminals (WACT), West Atlantic Shipping (WAS), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Indorama Fertiliser, Shipping base and NOTORE Fertiliser and Chemical Company, among others.
The total lockdown of these industrial business communities took effect from Sunday 21 June 2020 to check the spread of the virus across the state. Consequently, thousands of company workers in Bonny and Onne are currently sitting in their houses except those on essential duties.
Wike’s statewide broadcast
Governor Wike announced the lockdown in a statewide broadcast saying, “Pursuant to the fundamental objective of stopping the spread of coronavirus, we have reviewed the situation in Bonny Island and Onne communities and come to the conclusion that a total lockdown is necessary at this time to shut down the continued spread of the virus in these communities.
“By this measure, all shops, offices and business places must remain closed.
“All gatherings including religious, burial and wedding activities are prohibited. All entry and exit into two communities, except those on essential services and duly permitted, are also banned.
“Security agencies have been directed to enforce the lockdown by arresting and persecuting anyone who dares to disobey these directives,” he said.
The governor noted that with a total of 866 positive cases out of 2,572 tested samples, the state is gradually becoming the next epicentre of the virus in the South-south region of the country.
He said that within this period, the state also recorded 30 deaths including prominent people while 365 persons have recovered and were discharged from treatment centres.
As the number of new cases and death continue to increase, the governor said that there is no more denying that coronavirus is dangerous and deadly.
“We cannot also deny that the transmission of the virus is not only in our state, but is currently on a sleep upward trend. As a result of this, we must all brace up to the reality of having new infections and a couple of deaths in the coming weeks and months.
“When we recognised that effective early response was key from preventing the virus from progressing deep, we introduced drastic measures to protect our citizens.
“Unfortunately, some people deliberately twisted our intentions, maligned our timely measures and exploited the attendant temporary hardship on our people to further their selfish political drives.
“Today, I am sure with the daily worrisome number of infections and the fear of possible calamitous commune transmission, everyone is now seeing the needless politicisation of the fight against the coronavirus.
“Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the fact that the virus can effectively be stopped from spreading further. As a result of this, we must all submit to the prescribed guidelines on social distancing as the matter of strict responsibility”, he stated.
Governor Wike regretted the nonchalant attitude of those who blatantly violated the right of the people to good health and public safety by refusing to comply with established guidelines.
He therefore appealed to all residents and visitors to treat the spread of coronavirus with all seriousness by staying at home as much as possible.
Peterside added his voice
Also a Rivers-born administrator and former federal legislator, Dr Dakuku Peterside, has called on the state government to establish more testing centres across the state following the increasing number of people testing positive to the virus.
He stated this following the temporary lockdown of Bonny local government area and Onne in Eleme local government area by Governor Woke recently.
Wike had declared a lockdown in both areas in order to check the spread of the virus owing to a large number of people testing positive to pandemic.
Peterside called on the government to make more testing centres available as soon as possible, pointing out that the state government has sufficient resources to provide more testing centres across the state. “We have the resources and manpower to do so, especially as more countries in Europe are easing their lockdown.
“It means we can quickly reach manufacturers unlike before and get these equipment delivered to the state. Many states that are less endowed than Rivers are already investing in establishing test centres as it is for the ultimate good of their people.
“All the federal constituencies in the state should have a testing centre at their headquarters, while also encouraging people to have a walk in to be tested like it is being done in many places. The more we are able to test, the better for us as a people,” he stressed.
Also Dakuku further stressed that the lockdown would make no meaning if aggressive contact tracing is not carried out.
“I support lockdown to ensure that we stop the spread of the deadly virus but doing so without aggressive contact tracing would amount to motion without movement. There must be conscious effort to track all contacts of infected persons supported by massive testing,” he stated.
He noted that non-adherence to professional advice by the state government and neglect of the two places in the previous lockdown of the state might have contributed to the outbreak hence everyone is paying the price.
Dr. Peterside appealed to Rivers people to take protocol advice by health professionals seriously, saying that the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state should be a source of worry and concern to everyone.