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Special Report

Anambra takes measures to contain COVID-19



The information was received with mixed feelings as students and staff had different approaches to the development.

 A student who gave his name as Comrade Victor Agama expressed displeasure in the pandemic disease bedeviling the world. He said, “it is unfortunate that this is happening, and happening at a time like this; when things seem not favourable with our economy. I feel so shocked because if God does not shield us from this virus, trust me, we are as good as wiped”, he added.

 Another student who pleaded anonymity had this to say, “of a truth, this virus has kept the world in a sorry state. But because of the falsehood that has been sustained in the system over the years, I am so tempted to disbelieve this report of having the virus in Nigeria. Be it as it may, I sincerely pray that this pandemic disease be expired. If God does not help, many things will go wrong. The longer this virus lasts, the more our academic calendar is tampered. God save us and our nation.”

 The Students Union Government, through the Office of the Public Relations Officer, Comrade Lazarus Ogbaga, affirmed this development.

 The PRO through a circular informed that there shall be no form of school activities such as lectures , quiz, among others.

As at the time of filing this report, attempts to reach the public relations officer of the school, Mr Obini Onuchukwu was futile. 

 At St John of God  Secondary School, Awka, our correspondent who wanted to speak with the head of the school but couldn’t because the head was not on seat as at the time our reporter visited, met Chidimma and Chiamaka, students of the school who informed that before then, they have been washing their hands before going into their classes but on March 23, they were told to go home till further notice .  According to them, they feel very bad about it because if someone had told them that their exams would be postponed, they wouldn’t have believed. 

 At Paul University, Awka, our correspondent met with Ikechukwu Abana, the Public Relations Officer of Paul University, Awka, who said that the students had all been sent home as directed by not just the government but by the National University Commission, including postulants.

“ I think government in Anambra State is being very effective on this matter. If really you read the directive given by the governor himself yesterday, you will notice that he didn’t just direct what should be done by civil servants and other people but he appointed monitoring team – those who move around to monitor these things but the problem is for our people to comply . For example, when we talk about banks, burials, weddings and the rest; but you know our people can be difficult even at their own expense. I hope they will abide”.

 Favour Dot Queen Academy, running day care, nursery and primary school, in  Awka, looks deserted as no pupil was in school. One of the staff whose name is not mentioned said that they were through with their exams and are now working on the results of the pupils.

 At Regina Caeli Hospital, our correspondent who wanted to speak with the manager of the hospital was told that the manager was not on seat but almost all the nurses covered themselves with face masks and their hands with hand gloves.  Some people were seen within the premises without face  masks  and at the waiting section, some patients were sited sitting separately.

 At Amaku Teaching Hospital, our correspondent observed that  before you enter, you must wash your hands, and they have hand sanitisers for patients, with their workers having their faces covered while some didn’t. Some of their patients were not with their face masks

 At Awka South Local Government Headquarters, our reporters met a few workers on duty despite the government’s 14 days work-from-home order given to civil servants.

 Mr Kingsley Ezeife, Director of Environmental Health and Services, Awka South Local Government and Head of Environment and Sanitation, told our reporter that certain officers were exempted from going home which are health workers. “We are among. We are involved in the campaign to prevent the disease and that is why our officers are around while other staff  in various departments have gone home as instructed by the government. We are part of the essential services that are supposed to discharge our duties at all times until the disease is controlled.”

 According to him,“before the general awareness over this pandemic, we have held a sensitisation campaign in the local government. But before we embarked on the campaign, we procured buckets of water and soap, placed them at strategic points so that people can make use of them. We equally went into the communities to enlighten them on some of the measures to protect themselves against the disease. So we have been sensitising people.

“Presently, we are undertaking sensitisation at Eke-Awka Market everyday to enlighten the traders not only on the COVID 19 but also on other health issues and we tell them to wash their hands as regular as possible; which is once they touch anything as well as use sanitiser.

“We hope that the government will provide the infrared thermometer as soon as possible for measuring temperature. There has not been any symptoms seen here that is related to the disease. Although an incident happened yesterday when some Chinese men came into the council to sell some medicines but they were chased away by staff because everyone is afraid that they may contact the disease because we don’t want to do anything with Chinese till further notice  to avoid the COVID 19”.

 Also, Mr Benjamin Mmaduka, Head of Department of Information, Awka South Local Government Area, said:”We have been taking precautions with the help of the Environmental and Sanitation Department who positioned buckets of water with liquid soap at the major entrance of the offices. They are even creating awareness, visiting the nine communities we have in Awka South Local Government. Workers wash their hands often including myself because prevention is better than cure.”

 One of the government workers our reporter met on their way going home said that since the government informed everyone to go home, they ought to take measures by giving them sanitisers. “All the offices that have been instructed to close need to be sanitised including markets and schools before sending the workers home.

 “As we have been ordered to go home without being sanitised, we may resume work and get infected here in the office because it is not sanitised and you will find out that sending us home doesn’t make any meaning. They are supposed to share the sanitisers, masks and hand gloves to get us protected before leaving the office and make it mandatory that every government worker in every department must have it.”

 On arriving at the Anambra State High Court Headquarters, situated beside the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, people were seen standing around the courtrooms as others were engaged in the day to day running of their business. On further enquiry on how the court managed to carry out it’s official assignment of administering justice in the midst of the breakout of Coronavirus pandemic, one of the audience who identified himself simply as Mr Olisakwe revealed that except for the bench, lawyers and other court officials, no one is allowed into the courtroom.

 He explained that people who have litigations are subsequently allowed into the courtroom when their cases are called up, with a notification from their lawyer.

 On his personal safety precautions against the pandemic, Mr. Olisakwe ascertained that he has followed the government’s directives judiciously as he has bought for himself and his family hand sanitisers which they use regularly as prevention is better than cure. He also urged the government to stay true to their words in their quest to curtailing the pandemic as they did during the Ebola virus breakout.

Most banks in the metropolis mounted hand sanitisers, washing points, check temperature of their customers with infrared thermometer before they enter the bank and their workers were seen with facial masks and gloves as they attend to their customers.

 At the First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Awka Branch, security operatives were stationed at the entrance of the bank with hand sanitisers and also restricting the number of customers going into the banking hall with workers seen with hand groves and mouth covers.

At Fidelity Bank, along Enugu-Onitsha Express, customers were seen using the hand sanitiser mounted near the door post after their temperature were checked by security officials and at their branch at Ukwuorji, Zik’s Avenue, as of Tuesday evening, a crowd of about 28 were clustered in front of the door waiting for their turns to get inside the bank as security guards called them in fives.

 At First Bank, Access Bank and other banks, similar scenes were seen as customers who were cued in a long line, unprotected lament over the condition.

 Mr. Ikechukwu Patrick, who was sighted working out from Fidelity Bank at Enugu-Onitsha Express road with a face mask on, complained  over the poor compliance of most people not taking seriously the directives towards preventing the contagious disease ” I’m happy that people inside the bank are doing something by providing hand sanitisers and other things. Inside the bank, around the bank, the bank staff truly complied but the customers almost failed, I didn’t see any customer with facial mask inside. Some were actually shaking their hands and laughing inside the banks. I don’t know, we are taking this thing too lightly. We forget that from one case, it can infect 10 people, then a thousand and millions because it is detrimental,” he lamented.

In a long cue at First Bank, Ukwuorji, Zik’s Avenue, an unidentified young man of about 25 years was lamenting for being kept to stand under the sun as he waits for his turn. According to him, banks keeping their customers clustered outside the bank will not solve any problem but rather, increase the chances of people being infected as people are not six meters away and don’t have safety materials on . “How about exchange of money from person to person? Our people will never be serious until things get to worst, he shouted from the crowd.

In different markets at Awka, the Capital city of Anambra State, traders and buyers were seen doing normal businesses.

In an interaction with our reporter, a trader said that the issue of coronavirus did not disturb them at all. She agreed that some customers don’t touch them because of it even as she said that people bought food in bulk presently in order to avoid going to the market regularly.

  On his part, a man who sells food items  kept a bucket of running water in front of his shop. He said: “We kept the bucket so that every customer that comes to us must wash his/her hands. I advise everybody to always wash hands after contact with objects and before and after eating”.

 A buyer, Amaka Okonkwo had this to say, “ I don’t take any measure concerning coronavirus. My prayer is that it will not reach Anambra State.”

  At Nke-Best Supermarket, around Perm-Site Market, behind Government House, Awka, a bucket of running water was displayed with sanitiser.

  The director, Nkechi Igwebuike (Nke-Best) called on everyone to be careful about coronavirus and do what is expected to avoid it. “I advise everybody to always wash hands with running water and sanitiser. Be close with your family. This is end time. I pray for God’s mercy. We should be prayerful and get closer to God. With prayers, I believe that everything will be fine soon.”

  For road transport workers, one driver said that there was nothing like Coronavirus and that it would not have any effect on Africans; while another one said that they didn’t space passengers on their vehicles because Coronavirus is on air; that whether they carry few passengers or not, people will still contact it.

 A passenger decried the idea of drivers carrying many people in a vehicle despite government’s directives and called on the general public to respect and comply with medical advice.

  At Transport Corporation of Anambra State (TRACAS) Headquarters, Awka, our reporter observed that they kept buckets of running water and sanitiser bottles at different angles.

A management staff had this to say: “We kept buckets of running water and sanitiser in all our parks and told the drivers to do so for people to wash their hands before entering their vehicles. In our long buses (Willie is working), we used to carry both people sitting and standing but now, we carry only those that sit down. Also in the vehicles that travel far, like Abuja and Lagos, we kept everything. Normally, they carry six to seven passengers. I advise people to do what they are asked to do and plead the blood of Jesus. It came; it will go by God’s grace.”

At St Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic Church based at the GRA axis in Awka, the Anambra State Capital, the regular parish activities still retained its status quo. The regular morning and evening Masses are still celebrated as the religious and pious societies still hold their meetings.

During the celebration of the Holy Mass on Sunday, except for the orthodox ‘Rite of Peace’ which has been suspended indefinitely, our reporter observed that the congregation were closely seated and the Holy Communion still received in its traditional pattern.

During the announcements, the parish priest of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church,, Rev. Father Anthony Akabogu, advised the parishioners to adhere to the directives given so as to stay safe. He also admonished the faithful to remain in prayers fervently.

With information on the increase in the rate of casualties, the parish council gave a new directive of four persons per a seat during the Holy Mass celebration which is to take effect from  March 24, 2020.  Meanwhile, on a close observation after the Mass, members of the congregation were seen chatting and other forms of physical relationship went on as usual. The social distancing seemed to be a myth as no hand sanitiser was seen within the vicinity of the church.

Approaching the front view of the Best Western Meloch hotels, Awka,  one could easily see a notice pasted to the wall of the hotel with directions for visitors/customers to wash their hands with soap and running water made available on the veranda.

Stepping into the reception, the front desk manager gives some pinch of hand sanitiser before any other question or enquiry.

On inquiry on any new developments in their administration of hospitality to customers, the employees declined to give a comment as they claimed they were not in position to give out information on the day to day activities of the institution.

Dr. Ndubisi Kalu, Executive Secretary Board of the Western Meloch Hotel, Awka, said, “we that are in the hospitality industry have deemed  it necessary to ensure that the few who come in and go out; whether repeated guests or those who are still in the facility take the precautionary measures to ensure that the thing does not spread. The government has advised that there should be social distance in the sense that hugging, handshake, pecking and other things like that should be avoided for now including regular washing of hands with soap.

“We also have sanitiser as advised because the information going round is that with the help of sanitisers after one must have washed his or her hands and cleaned, the possibility of the thing spreading will be minimised.

“We check temperature with the infrared thermometer which is at our front desk. We have equally gone to the extent of training the staff, the porters, front desk who are the receptionists and of course, those who serve the public to maintain the social distance and  to advice the guests because some will just work in and would want to lodge in but it is the duty of those stationed there to in a polite manner, talk to them to get their hands washed or use the sanitiser.”

Mr Micheal Okonkwo Onyedika , Manager of Finotel Classique Hotel, maintained that “at every given time, we tell our staff to regularly wash their hands and get sanitised too. We have running water in the buckets and soap positioned in front of the entrance before the reception where both our staff and guests wash their hands and get sanitised before they come in and even other places within the hotel.

Apart from that, we also have our infrared thermometer which we often use to check the temperature of anybody that comes in and since we started using that, our records has not been above the stated temperature 37.9. Every morning, we check the temperature of all the staff, as well as our guests in a polite manner.”

Also, Mr Joseph Akpo, Manager of Beautiful Gate Resort and Conference Centre, Agu-Awka, maintained that “we abide by the rules of the government concerning this Covid 19 pandemic. We have  running water with detergent already positioned at the security post beside the entrance of the hotel. It has been there even before the existence of the virus. The infrared thermometer for measuring temperature is also used here and we have so many people who are medically inclined that are working here. So because of that, we have staff that takes care of the medical checkup of every individual even before the existence of the COVID 19. We do check ourselves as staff about blood pressure, sugar level and other things from time to time which is every second Tuesday of the month after our normal meeting to ensure that our staff are medically alright.”

A caterer who is also into exterior decorations and other event services, who identified herself as  Mrs Ozioma Mbah complained in sad mood of the damages that the  coronavirus has brought to her business.

According to her, most of her engagements were placed on hold as events were cancelled within the state. “I have a wedding to cover this Saturday. I don’t know what to do. I am just confused about the whole thing. Everything is happening like a film to me because I never believed that there will be a time in the world like this. The wedding has been booked long ago. We can’t do anything but follow suite to protect ourselves. I hope and pray this will end soon so that we will all go back to our normal lives”, she stated while almost crying.

Meanwhile at Omemma’s bar and restaurant, a spot for relaxation and social hangout located at the 2nd Market, Ifite-Awka, during the evening, people were seen having their usual (mostly point and kill) and they seemed to be oblivious of the breakout.

On observation, hand sanitiser and soap were made available while water was kept in bowls instead of a running tap.

 In his response to questions  about the preventive measures he has taken to concerning the Coronavirus pandemic, a customer at the restaurant, Mr Chinonso Ossai  explained  that though he has seen on various social media and news platforms the severity of the virus, he is still skeptical about the information being spread.

He went on to say that he believes that the virus would not penetrate the South-east, and as such, he has no cause for alarm and nothing will make him loose his sleep and fun.

At Mama Ijeoma buka, a roadside eating restaurant with just two benches and a table made available for customers to sit and eat, no hand sanitiser nor running water was made available. Customers were at ease as they jostled for whose turn it was to be served.

On a close call, it was no secret that the source of the drinking water for customers was a 25 liter can while just two cups were made available. One could easily hear random discussions and comments on the Coronavirus pandemic, from the actual potency of the disease to escalated figures of casualties and deaths.

On the reason she had failed to provide the necessary safety kits for herself and her customers, the owner of the buka known as Mama Ijeoma argued that the government should provide hand sanitiser as she cannot purchase it with the little or no gain which she makes from her business.

Accordingly, one of her customers, who was identified as Mike reiterated that had government made provision of good pipe-borne water, functional hospitals, health facilities and a noble workforce, the nation won’t be in the panic it is right now. He went further to say that he hoped the situation was not a sham as others believe it to be and also not an avenue for the Nigerian politicians to siphon public funds.

At Oma Event Centre, the Head of operation of X-FIT gym and aerobics center that has dancing school, swimming pool, bar, event hall, body spa, beauty salon and eatery section, Mr. Anthony Okafor said that their event hall had been locked down for a very long time before the Corona virus regulation by the state government.

 According to him, the staffs were doing final business collation in their units hence the final closure that very day. “It is a proper thing for the government to do, it is getting late; we need to shutdown. We even need to stop movement also. A lot of things are happening based on the number of people that are infected. All these preventive measures should have started last three weeks or last month. There were many people that came back from outside the country. We have cancelled all the events that will be held in our event center”, he said.

Mr. Okafor expressed that although the business will be affected greatly and that workers need to be paid their salaries despite the challenges, but against all odds, he is happy that it was for the best.

“If you look around, you will see that nobody is here. It started during the weekend that people started withdrawing. We are not doing anything here again in all our departments. The whole thing is for the good of everybody, it shouldn’t be a pity. Yes, It has affected our business but the income you are getting and your life which one is better at this time? Life. In our gym house, we have been over the time strictly making sure that our customers adhere to necessary hygiene before entering inside the gym. We have four washing taps downstairs and others in inside the gym with hand sanitisers and Dettol soaps placed but some people after using them take them home”.

Most of the ” NaijaBet ” houses were deserted like  graveyards except for few where not up to 20 persons were seen watching movies, playing computer games and soccer zoom.

A football lover, Okechukwu Ejimofor, who was spotted in one of the betting houses without any protection watching television said that he didn’t know much about the dreaded virus except that the virus kills and can be gotten through body contact.

The owner of the shop, who was not present as at  the time of filing this report said over the phone that she hadn’t seen where to buy hand sanitisers and facial masks at affordable prices due to hype in price .

Another owner of a betting house in Amawbia, which was open and having about 15 customers watching film without any preventive measures in place refused to grant our correspondent an interview.

 “If they ask everybody to close, we will close. My answer is no comment,” he abruptly said as he hanged the call.

At Alex Ekwueme Square, about five people were seen seated inside the stadium and three basket ball players were at the pitch practicing the game.

According to a sport coach, Dimtochukwu Okeke, the outbreak of Coronvirus has stopped most of sports activities. Although people came last Saturday at the square for sports, I don’t know if people will come or be allowed inside the stadium next Saturday. The news is everywhere and fear too. Although there is no how people can cluster here because the place is widespread, my people do training here. The place is so big that people are seen in fives and tens not more than 30 or 50 as they are warned against”.

However, the Anglican Bishop of Awka Diocese, Archbishop Alexander Ibezim has also suspended use of common cup for Holy Communion

 The bishop said the diocese would reduce its public activities in line with the state government’s directive, but when unavoidable to hold a public function like ordination service, the church would minimize the activities associated thereto, and deploy all public health known procedures to safeguard peoples’ health.

 He however called on Anambra State Government to ensure that a quarantine center is ready and conducive for any case of emergency situation of coronavirus.

Ibezim informed the church would ensure members and guests wash their hands, with soap and water as well as use hand sanitisers.

He suspended hand shaking, hugging and all other forms of contact salutation in the church for now. He appealed to the congregation not to shake hands during the sign of the peace.

He called on Christians to be fervent in prayer as there is nothing God cannot do.

Also, the Catholic Church in Anambra State gave directives to the faithful as it concerns the Liturgical worship and coming together for various spiritual and social gatherings, stating that they “…should exchange the kiss of peace by nodding to your neighbour or looking at his/ her direction, no body contact, no shaking of hands, no embracing.  From now on till the danger is averted, Holy Communion will no longer be administered in the tongue but should be given at the hands. There should be no more provision of holy water at the entrance of the Churches and other ecclesiastical institutions. Offertory collections should be made by Church Prefects going around and not by the congregation filing out to dance and go to the Altar.”

  The church in the directive which was given by the Local Ordinaries and all the Catholic Bishops in Anambra State on Sunday, March 22, 2020, also announced temporary suspension of big gatherings, like overnight crusades, rallies and such events that attract big crowds and keep them close to each other for a long time.

The directive further stated that “Parishes that can afford it can increase the number of Holy Masses so as to reduce the size of the congregation attending.  Long sermons and long announcements are discouraged and should be avoided. Long receptions after weddings should be curtailed, discouraged and avoided. Long dancing at ceremonies like funerals should be curtailed and avoided. People should avoid crowded places and should keep respectful distance from anybody they meet on the road. People should buy sanitisers, put them in their pockets or handbags and use them regularly as the need arises. Priests are advised not to prolong the Holy Mass or any Liturgical celebration without making the liturgy mechanical.  For anointing of the sick and at Baptism, Priests are advised to put on hand gloves. Church Prefects are advised to put on hand gloves while collecting the offertory and rendering other services. People are strongly urged to say the Rosary daily in their homes calling on God to save the world from coronavirus and similar hazard.”

Recall that Anambra State Government has banned all public gatherings with effect from March 23, 2020, until further notice. The notice however, advised traders and buyers who go to the markets to always wash their hands frequently, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and allow it to air dry. A distance of six-feet should be maintained between customers and traders.

According to the release by the Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, “civil servants in the state were directed to proceed on a 14-day work-from-home with effect from Tuesday, March 24, 2020. However, any civil servant may be called upon at any given time to handle an urgent assignment as the case arises. This directive excludes all staff of Anambra State Ministry of Health workers and officers on essential duty.

“All public gatherings are hereby suspended in Anambra State till further notice with effect from March 23, 2020. These includes traditional marriage ceremonies, community festivals, ofala festivals, masquerade festivals,  Igbankwu nwanyi, funeral ceremonies, baby christening, new yam festivals, title-taking ceremonies and any meeting of more than 30 participants. Traditional rulers and President General of Communities must ensure full compliance or be held responsible.   All nursery, primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary schools are hereby closed with immediate effect. All academic and extra-curricular activities are hereby suspended.”

The release further stated that all public transport operators were directed to submit the manifest of all passengers coming into Anambra State to the appropriate authorities with their names, phone numbers, residential addresses and final destination. The general public is mandated to maintain a habit of frequent hand-washing with soap and water as well as use alcohol based hand sanitisers.

However, “no Keke or tricycle rider should carry more than two passengers at a time. Drivers of shuttle buses must not carry more than 3 passengers at a time. Drivers of township and mini buses must not carry more than 5 passengers at a time.

“The public is strongly advised to only visit the markets for essential commodities. All night clubs are hereby closed until further notice. People should endeavor to sit at home. Operators of bars and restaurants should not admit more than 30 customers at a time and must adhere strictly to the basic standards of social distancing. They must also provide hand-washing points and hand sanitizers for their customers. Any violation will attract immediate closure of the premises.

“All persons returning to Anambra State from all countries of the world and states that have Covid-19 cases must go into self-isolation for 14 days and report. The use of hand sanitizers is strongly recommended if the hands are not visibly dirty while hand shaking, hugging and all other forms of contact salutation is highly discouraged. Residents in Anambra State are also advised to avoid handshaking, hugging and all other forms of contact salutation as well as to avoid unnecessary travels.

The release further stated that residents returning from countries and states with active COVID-19 cases must self-isolate for 14 days and contact the state Public Health Emergency Operation Center (PHEOC) immediately. During self-isolation, they must take their temperatures twice daily.

In addition, the  state government urged all hotels in the state to provide a handwash station and sanitisers. “Guests are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.Management of all hotels must take the temperature of guests and visitors with a non-contact infra-red thermometer. Temperatures over 37.9 degrees Centigrade must be reported to the PHEOC.

“Management of all hotels, restaurants and nightclubs must check the temperature of all their staff on daily basis.  Staff with temperature more than 37.9 degrees Centigrade should not be allowed to serve and must report to the hospital. Restaurants must avoid overcrowding patrons at the table. Hotels are encouraged to maintain a database of their guests.

“All luxurious bus owners and operators must maintain a travel manifest for inbound and outbound passengers to Anambra State. They must maintain hand wash stations and provide hand sanitisers in their buses. Passengers are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and running water.

“All intrastate buses are encouraged to have hand sanitisers in their buses and encourage passengers to use same. Security agencies have been directed to ensure full compliance.

The state government has also constituted an Action Committee on Covid-19 with the governor as the chairman to ensure that all hands are on deck to the best of containing the plague.

Other members of the committee are Dr Vincent Okpala, Commissioner for Health, Mr C Don Adinuba. Dr Simeon Onyemaechi, Prof Igwegbe Anthony, Prof Oby Emelummadu; Dr Simon Ushie, Dr Basil Nwankwo, Dr Emmanuel Azuike, Dr Ifeoma Njelita, Dr Uche Onyejimbe, Dr Chijioke Obagha, Prof Maurice Iwu, Dr Joe Akabuike, Dr Ifeanyi Okoye, Dr Ernest Ifebi, Dr Chioma Ezenyimulu, Dr OnyekaIbezim; Chidi Kanu,

Others are Uche Okafor, Speaker, Anambra State House of Assembly, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu, Chief Primus Odili, Sir Uzu Okagbue and Chinedu Aniagboso.

The state government also directed that all calls related to suspected Covid-19 should be routed to Anambra Public Health Emergency Operation Center on 08030953771 and 08117567363.

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