By Christiana Onuoha
In a bid to ensure that the livelihood of Abians, especially those that earn their living through daily hustle survives the lockdown of businesses, offices and movement of people that has lasted for weeks which aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 pending when vaccines are made available, Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, yesterday held the best comprehensive consultative meeting with stakeholders in the state.
According to a statement signed by Secretary to the State Government/Chairman COVID-19 Committee, Barr Chris Ezem, the meeting had in attendance; religious leaders, commercial transport operators, market unions, medics and members of Inter-Ministerial Committee on Covid -19, the current lock-down as it affects schools, markets, religious worship, burials, tricycle (Keke) operation and that of other modes of transportation including resumption of work by our civil servants, was reviewed.
Deliberated issues are and resolutions are as follows: “(1) On Schools, it was resolved that schools remain closed while the ongoing radio classroom teaching is strengthened. All radio stations in the state are required to hook unto this platform to ensure wider coverage. Parents are also advised to prepare their children for the radio teaching program which starts at 8am daily.
“(2) With regard to markets, it was resolved that the leadership of the various markets will raise a 17-man COVID-19 enforcement committee for each of the markets.The leadership and members of the committee are to meet with the Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor, and work out modalities for the re-opening of the markets with specific guidelines including COVID-19 protocols as they affect provision of buckets with taps for running water, hand sanitizers and wearing of face masks.Government will issue guidelines for re-opening of the markets after the said meetings.
“(3) On religious worship, it was agreed that leadership of the various churches will take responsibility for the conduct of their laity and members as they resume religious worship. The earlier directives on religious worship subsist. Accordingly, no more than 50 persons per steam of worship with 2 persons sitting per pew. For churches without pews, an alternate positioning of members to avoid over-crowding will suffice even as churches can run as many streams of not more than one hour per stream and close all activities on or before 2pm on such worship days. No weekday activity is allowed in any church. Our Muslim communities are expected to comply with laid down worship protocol as highlighted above.
“(4) On burials, the meeting took cognizance of growing number of excess corpses and the consequent overstretching of our morgues which may pose health hazards to the people if the trend is allowed to continue. As a result, it was resolved that government shall lift the ban on burials subject to compliance with specified guidelines. Any church that wishes to conduct a burial must apply for permit from office of Secretary to the State Government.
“As for burials to be conducted with traditional rites, the traditional ruler of the concerned community will be the one to apply for the permit. Any burial holding in a field must not exceed 30 persons while those holding in a private residence must not be attended by more than 10 persons with all maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks. No parties will be allowed before or after the burial. Concerned church leaders or traditional rulers will be held liable for any violation of the established guidelines while the local government authorities are to ensure compliance and with authorization to stop any burial violating same.
“(5) On Keke and other local means of transportation, it was resolved that Keke operators will be allowed to resume operation on condition that every operator must wear face mask and carry only two passengers at a time. The passengers must also be wearing face masks.
“More importantly the Keke leadership must sign a Memorandum of Understanding of their good conduct with the office of Deputy Chief of Staff, office of the Governor.
“For mini buses (Oke Bekee), they will carry no more than 5 passengers all of whom must be wearing face masks
“For the 14-seater buses and others with higher seat capacity, they will carry only 2 passengers per row with the driver and passengers compulsorily wearing face masks.
“(6) For our civil servants, it was resolved that they shall resume work beginning with only schedule officers on Grade Level 13 and their immediate subordinates to enable them work seamlessly. They will work alternate days that is Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and close at 3pm on such days.
“Also, Permanent Secretaries, Chief Executives and Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments are to determine staff to attend work but such must not exceed 20 persons in the Department or Ministry at a time. Everyone is required to adhere strictly to all NCDC regulations and COVID-19 protocols even while at work.
“(7) All public social gatherings including weddings, birthdays and parties of any form remain suspended
“(8) In Line with Federal Government directive, all inter-state movements remain banned. All inter state park operators and transport unions must adhere strictly to this directive.
“(9) Government reemphasizes its directives on compulsory use of face masks for everyone. It is now an offense for anyone to be outside his or her premises without a face mask on.
“(10) All borders of the state remain closed! All security agents, state and local government enforcement teams, are to strictly enforce same.
“(11) The State Government’s directive on curfew remains in force till Sunday, 3rd May, while the Federal Government directives on dusk to dawn (8pm to 6am) curfew takes effect from Monday, 4th May.
“(12) The Inter-Ministerial Committee will release broad guidelines on the operations of the above resolution during the week.
“(13) Abians are expected to continue to comply with the lockdown and curfew directives until further guidelines are released.
“(14) The state’s mobile courts will continue to work with security agents and various enforcement teams to correct and try violators of the established guidelines.”