Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
There is apprehension that the COVID-19 infection could spike in Bayelsa if the state government does not move to enforce all safety rules and precautions put in place to ease the lockdown.
The state, which had discharged its index COVID-19 case and four others from its isolation centre at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH) Okolobiri, with only one active case left as of Saturday, May 16th, is still awaiting the status of 20 persons that were contacts of the remaining active case.
Governor Douye Diri had in announcing the easing of the lockdown in the state permitted large churches meetings of 50 members and small churches to congregate 20 members.
The churches were directed to ensure water, soap and hand sanitisers are at the entrance of their buildings and that the mandatory use face masks
However, an investigation of churches on Sunday indicated that while they complied with the directive on provision of water, soap and hand sanitiser, the wearing of face masks was violated.
Churches that were not supposed to have more than 20 members had in excess of 50 and those expected to have 50 had in excess of the recommended number.
The operators of commercial tricycle known as Keke NAPEP also violated the directive that they should not carry more than two passengers.
Not left out of the serial violators are health officials, security personnel and those with duly obtained permits to travel, fingered in the smuggling of persons across Delta and Rivers borders in and out of the state.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and the Chairman Implementation Committee of the COVID-19 State Task Force, Mr Inodu Akpoku, in an interview confirmed that the task force has received reports of violation of the safety rules.
Akpoku, who disclosed that the situation has been reported to the governor, stated that before the lockdown was eased, the people were warned that violation would have serious consequences.
‘Yes, we have had reports of violations, especially in churches. We had a meeting with heads of churches on Friday and we warned them if there are violations it is not going to be business as usual. But on Sunday we heard cases of violations. Since they don’t want to hear, we are going to be tough on them. We are not going to treat anybody with kid gloves.’
Meanwhile, the task force in conjunction with the Bayelsa Environmental Sanitation and Bayelsa State Physical Planning and Development Board on Sunday demolished the Tombia/Etegwe market.
According to the government, the demolition exercise, which was supervised by a combined team of security agencies, was a proactive step to stop the spread of COVID-19, to ease traffic and to stamp out criminal activity in the area.