Bayelsa State Report
The subtle pressure mounted on the Bayelsa State Government by the CSO Situation Room and some public-spirited citizens across the State, to take more drastic actions in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, has yielded some positive results with the State Government taking the public enlightenment campaigns a notch higher. The government commissioned the production of DVD (Digital Video Disc) and IEC (Information Education and Communication) materials, to improve communication and information dissemination to residents of the State on their collective responsibility to stem the tide of community transmission. The IEC materials were produced using slogans and messages curated by the CSO Situation Room for the purpose of public sensitisation. About 5,000 copies of these IEC materials and DVDs have been handed over to the CSO Situation Room by the State Government, for distribution to the public in the course of carrying out their daily community sensitisation campaigns across the State. Social Action, one of the civil society groups in the coalition, provided the logistical support needed to efficiently distribute the materials.
Within the last one week, Bayelsa State recorded 18 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the State to 30, as of June 5, 2020. The upsurge in the number of COVID-19 infected persons in Bayelsa State and the increasingly widespread nature of infections, confirms the possibility of a community spread in the State. This notion is further validated by the recent announcement made by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria, that community transmission is being witnessed in the country and the State and Local Governments must now do more to get communities involved in the fight against COVID-19. The CSO Situation Room in the State which consists of Civil Society groups deeply involved in monitoring the impacts of the pandemic and creating awareness around it, has keenly noted that the community transmission in the State was inevitable. This is not only because of the low compliance with public safety guidelines by the majority of people living in the State, but also due to the over 72 hour – turnaround time from sample collection to the time test results become known. Bayelsa State, till date, has no molecular laboratory for COVID-19 testing. The CSO Situation Room has observed that it often takes over 72 hours for samples to be collected in the State and transported to the nearest State having a laboratory for the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, after which the results emerge and are communicated to the Bayelsa State Ministry of health and the affected persons in particular, who are subsequently taken into isolation. Within this period of delay, there is a possibility that the already infected, but yet to be confirmed persons, whose samples were taken, could infect more people before the outcome of their tests is known, as they are usually not quarantined until then.
In view of the current crisis of a community spread, the CSO Situation Room therefore urges the State Government to make more publicity materials available for distribution to the people, as information dissemination must go hand-in-hand with the enactment and enforcement of rules meant to coerce the people to comply with public health safety guidelines. The CSO Situation Room also lauds the State Task Force for its recent act of sealing off some religious centres that breached the rules on operation of religious bodies to prevent further spread of COVID-19, and calls on the State Government to enforce the rules stringently across board, without fear or favour.