CSO Situation Room on COVID-19 condemns the total lockdown in Rivers, calls it an exercise in futility.
Rivers State Report:
The total lockdown in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Rivers State which was temporarily suspended for a few days by the State Government, re-commenced on Sunday May 17, 2020. The State Governor, Nyesom Wike stated that the lockdown, aimed at preventing community transmission, will be in force till further notice and warned the people of those LGAs to desist from flouting the indefinite suspension of all movements deemed non-essential. Alone and other civil Society groups under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room, condemn the total and indefinite lockdown because the government did not make reasonable provision towards ensuring a significant positive outcome from the lockdown as it relates to curbing the spread of coronavirus in the State.Essentially, the State government while announcing the lockdown, did not state the immediate targets and objectives which the lockdown will enable the government to facilitate. The government did not state what it intends to ensure is done, during the lockdown. This leads to several questions being asked: Does the government intend to only busy itself with monitoring and ensuring all defaulters are punished, in the entire period of the lockdown? How many communities, roads, markets and other public places in the two LGAs does the government intend to fumigate against coronavirus while residents are indoors complying with the lockdown? What percentage of homes is the government targeting to reach during the lockdown, to distribute hand sanitisers, food and other palliatives to?What is the State Government doing to ensure people are eating healthily to develop their immune systems? How can people have access to fresh vegetables, natural fruits, and other food supplements that are known to be rich in vitamins and good for one’s immune system, while they are on a strict stay-at-home order? When people do not feed well during a lockdown and they emerge from the lockdown with a weak immune system, they are more likely to succumb easily to community transmission of the virus after the lockdown, no thanks to the slow pace of testing and isolation of confirmed cases within the State and in neighbouring States. The moment the lockdown is lifted, all the communities become ‘one area’ and we may have more community transmission looming.
If the government’s main objective is to see that the lockdown lasts for up to 14 days, which is said to be the lifespan of the virus, after which the lockdown will be relaxed, and the affected LGAs will be covid19-free, then the govt needs to have a re-think because such a strategy borders on naivety; it is preposterous, considering the porous inter-state borders and the low rate of contact tracing and testing in the country. Those two LGAs, Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor, have neighbouring communities, some of which share boundaries with other States in the region. It therefore goes without saying that, the lockdown is an exercise in futility.
The CSO Situation Room believes the State Government is progressing in error by deploying a wrong strategy. The motive of the government may be right, but its methodology is potentially dangerous. A lockdown, no matter how total, is not a strategy without other steps being taken as enumerated above. The Situation Room calls for a modification of the lockdown into a regulated stay-at-home order, and urge that more aggressive testing be conducted on both suspected and unsuspected cases discovered through contact-tracing, as some people have been known to be asymptomatic. They do not manifest symptoms of the virus but they have the capacity to spread it. Many of the confirmed cases so far recorded across the country, were not gotten through contact tracing, but were self-reported. This implies that there most likely have been some infected people who may have experienced mild symptoms but did not call the NCDC hotlines in their State and they eventually recovered on their own, but they may have infected one or more persons around them. The CSO Situation Room therefore urges the government to change its strategy by channelling its resources and influence towards ensuring that more tests are conducted in River State and its neighbouring states within the Niger Delta region.