Bayelsa State Report:
The CSO Covid-19 Situation Room in its collaborative efforts with the Bayelsa State Government, had a meeting with the Ministry of Health officials and other stakeholders. The major agenda of the meeting was centred on improving government’s responses and preparedness, especially as regards ensuring an increase in the rate of tests conducted on the people of the State to ascertain their COVID-19 status. Only 70 tests have been carried out on samples of suspected cases in the State as of May 17, 2020, of which six have been recorded as confirmed. Till date, the State has no COVID-19 testing centre, and only has two isolation centres provided by the State Government and one quarantine centre donated by a multi-national Oil Company. It has been reported that several deaths have occurred in the State within the last two months, and the causes of these deaths could not be ascertained, as the bereaved bury their dead without reporting the cause of the deaths. This is in flagrant disobedience to the State Government’s order. The fear of stigmatisation is thought to be the major reason for this.
The CSO Situation Room has also held meetings with the Bayelsa State Taskforce to review the daily response to the threat of the pandemic.One recurring challenge that has become a nagging problem to the Bayelsa Government is the fact that in most rural areas, community members lack good social amenities. They have no access to running water, nor can they afford a regular purchase of hand sanitisers. Many of them find it difficult to practise physical distancing, because they live in crowded slums where it is impossible to stay two feet apart from other people who live together with them. With the lack of consistent supply of clean water, comes the associated problem of poor hygiene and poor sanitary conditions which can further propagate the spread of germs.
Meanwhile, the state Government has further eased the partial lockdown in the state by allowing religious houses to resume activities. Churches have started operating on week-ends. The CSO Situation Room believes that easing the lockdown is a needed compromise between containing the pandemic and ensuring people’s access to their sources of livelihood. However, it is expected that the government, while relaxing the lockdown, must also ensure that businesses, organisations and other workplaces adapt their work policies and practices to meet current health safety-compliant standards, in order to ensure the health and safety of workers and clients. It must be made clear to the people, that a partial lockdown does not mean business as usual. All health safety rules must be enforced by the government.
Of recent, it has been observed by members of the CSO Situation Room that many residents of Bayelsa State have gradually become indifferent and nonchalant towards the pandemic. Though the State Task Force and the CSO Situation Room have continued with the sensitisation of people on the outbreak of the pandemic and the need to adhere strictly to the health safety guidelines through the community radio platform and other means, many community folks seem resigned to fate as they now brazenly flout the rules. The State and Local Governments have been slack in the responsibility of ensuring that safety rules are compulsorily implemented. Some government officials also do not lead by example, but flout the law put in place by the government which is another reason why citizen’s compliance is on zero level.
The NCDC has publicly acknowledged that its mandate is to support States in preparing, detecting and responding to infectious disease outbreaks. The CSO Situation Room therefore urges the Bayelsa State Government through its Ministry of Health to liaise more with the NCDC and ensure that immediate and aggressive contact tracing and testing begin in earnest. The Situation Room also urges the government to deploy all legal means in ensuring that the public health safety rules are strictly adhered to by members of the public, whilst expediting action in the development of a framework for a sustainable groundwater development and management initiative that will cater to the dire need for clean water across the State and particularly in the far-flung rural communities.