Abia To Arrest, Prosecute Residents Not Wearing Face Masks In Public

The Abia State government has warned residents against going out of their homes without wearing face masks.

In a statement on Monday, the Commissioner for Information in the state, John Kalu, explained that using face masks was important to curb the spread of COVID-19 after the state confirmed two cases recently.

He insisted that residents found not wearing face masks in public places would be arrested and prosecuted without delay.

As extra measures to fight COVID-19, the state government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in addition to the existing lockdown.

Kalu said this followed reports of people coming into Abia from neighbouring states for commercial activities at night and later sneak out at dawn.

According to him, this poses a major infection risk to the people of Abia and must be stopped forthwith.

The commissioner also revealed that the government has traced 236 contacts of the index cases who have been placed in isolation and under surveillance.

He, however, noted that a total of 132 people who had contact with the index cases have yet to be found.

Read the full statement below:

COVID-19: Why Abia Imposed Curfew Despite Subsisting Lockdown

1. In addition to the ongoing statewide lockdown, the Abia State Government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew from 6pm to 6am starting from Sunday, April 26, 2020, to Saturday, May 2, 2020. Kindly note that while people are free to go out, with face masks, to buy food and drugs from 6am to 6pm daily, everyone must stay at home with zero movement from 6pm to 6am. This applies to all LGAs in the state without exception.

2. As at Saturday, April 25, 2020, we have 2 confirmed COVID-19 patients who are above 70 years old and with underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. They are being cared for at the Federal Medical Center (FMC), Unuahia, where they were initially admitted as regular geriatric patients with illnesses that are usually associated with people of their age. As at the time of writing this piece, they remain in stable medical condition.

3. With the later diagnosis of COVID-19 in those two homebound elderly persons, the challenge for the government was to control the spread of the virus, deliver care to the patients and prevent new infections in the state.

4. The state rapid response team of the medical protocol team of the inter-ministerial committee on COViID-19 has traced 236 contacts of the index cases; they are all currently in isolation and under surveillance. But a total of 132 of the line listed contacts of the index cases are yet to be seen.

5. There is a need to conclude the contact tracing process quickly to guarantee that the infection does not spread within our communities. Already, we have received results for 11 contacts of the index cases from NCDC and we are happy to inform that they all are negative.

6. We have also received reports of people streaming into our state from neighboring states to buy things at night and leave at dawn. This presents a major infection risk to our people and must be stopped forthwith, hence the curfew.

7. While we expect near-zero movement during curfew hours, those wishing to buy food and drugs are free to wear face masks and do so. Any individual seen outside without face mask will be arrested and tried immediately by the mobile courts already set up.

8. Based on information available to us, we STRONGLY advise our people to remain at home for the next 7 days while we trace the contacts, test them and analyze the results in order to be sure you can safely go out with the minimal risk of infection. Vehicles seen outside during this period will certainly be impounded and the occupants quarantined at a medical facility in the state for a minimum period of 14 days.

9. The ongoing lockdown, border closure, and imposition of curfew do not make your government happy because we know what it means to keep otherwise hardworking people at home, yet, we must take necessary measures to protect our people from coronavirus that is on a rampage. Only the living and healthy can go out to do business and do other things.

10. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed the state ministry of finance to ensure that civil servants in the state are paid on Monday, April 27, 2020, while subventions and pensions are to be paid the following day, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Please, note that no pensioner is expected to leave his/her house for any form of the verification exercise, and rumors to that effect should be ignored.

11. Distribution of food palliatives continued on Friday, April 24, 2020, with 21 churches receiving food items and hand sanitizers. The distribution continues this week with more churches, town unions, and traditional rulers expected to receive palliatives on behalf of their needy alongside ongoing distribution by the state geriatric services agency. Kindly note that the palliatives are not for all members of benefitting churches or their leaders, traditional rulers, and presidents general, but strictly for vulnerable widows, persons with disabilities, and those who are most impacted by the ongoing lockdown.

We continue to appeal to well to do persons in all our communities to lend helping hands in the true spirit of “Onuru ube nwanne agbala oso”.

12. Lastly, we encourage all those who had contacts with the index cases or with medical practitioners that managed them to, please, call 0700 2242 362 immediately while also ensuring they are in self-isolation. We shall henceforth consider it a crime for those who are supposed to be in isolation to be moving about within the expected period of lockdown.

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