ADDRESS DELIVERED BY GOV. AKEREDOLU ON THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT ON COVID–19 IN ONDO STATE, ON MONDAY 4TH MAY, 2020.

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My Dear People of Ondo State,

1. The Honourable Commissioner for Health and Chairman of our Inter-Ministerial Committee has just briefed you on the update on the COVID-19 spread in the State. Let me state clearly how unhappy all of us are that things are taking this unfortunate turn.

2. It is important to trace the map of the new cases as he has done as well as to emphasise their implications on our efforts so far. From what we now know, the five cases can be broadly categorised into two basic cause lines: the imported cases as well as the secondary cases through community transmission.

3. While the two imported cases were those who scaled our borders and brought the infection to us from outside the State, the three other cases were those who came into contact with those who had earlier contacted the virus.

4. The implications are simple :
a. Our borders are still porous and vulnerable.
b. Our compliance to and respect for social distancing and other basic protocols of containment are very weak and unimpressive.

5. I must quickly express our deep solidarity with the brave workers at our Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) who, in the course of saving other people’s lives contacted this deadly disease. Both the driver who carries samples to Test Centres outside the State and the two casual workers in the wards took the highest risk in helping their fellow human being. They are our heroes. To live in service of humanity in preserving social existence and continuity, is perhaps the greatest sacrifice for mankind. These three individuals are junior workers in that establishment, yet their contributions are critical and very essential to all our operations to fight COVID–19. They faced the daily risks of worst dimension with candour. At the end, they are infected with the deadly Virus. I want their families and loved ones to know that Ondo State Government stands firmly with them and will walk with them through these difficult times until they recover and fully get back their daily lives. Their tribulation is our burden and their total recovery will be our joy.

6. To further demonstrate our understanding and total commitment to supporting the frontline risk bearers, I have directed immediate absorption into the public service of the infected casual workers at the IDH.

7. I have also approved that all Health workers in the state be paid 50% of their consolidated basic salary as hazard allowance. Furthermore, all healthcare workers working directly in the Isolation Centre/Treatment Centre are to get additional 20% of their 50% as special risk allowance, they will also get a top-up lump sum from the funds of the PTF (amount yet to be determined).

8. As I said earlier, undesirable penetration at the borders and disregard for social distancing remain our low points. Reports and daily briefing support these facts. For example, daily experiences of mindless disregard for social distancing in our markets and commercial places beat one’s imagination as to why, in spite of evidences of danger and Government’s daily appeal, our people still insist on endangering their own lives and those of their families as well as their loved ones.

9. A drive through Oja Oba, Isinkan, Oluwatuyi and Iloro markets in Akure the State capital, paints a sad picture of an open invitation to the deadly COVID–19, to expand its spread limitlessly among us. Same is the case in similar places at other city centres in the State.

10. This is regrettable and unacceptable. It must be reversed immediately with all urgency and attention possible. Without doubt, if we fail to heed the simple, sensitive and sensible directive to save our own lives, no one but we will face the grave consequences.

11. In order to control the influx of people whose COVID-19 status cannot be guaranteed, the state government has therefore directed the total blockade of some boundary routes that connect Ondo State. It is hoped that with this development, our security agencies, now having fewer areas to manage, will carry out their duties of preventing influx of people to the state, more effectively.

12. While we note that some state in the Northern Nigeria are already deploying Almajiris to other parts of the country, we call on our people to be vigilant and report any unusual large population of young people imported to our State.
13. Globally, community transmission is the biggest threat of the pandemic that is being seriously addressed by Governments and the people. And this is why social and physical distancing has become the biggest weapon of succeeding nations. It follows that if the links to the spread are broken among people by washing their hands regularly, staying at home and keeping social distance, the virus will become less menacing, easy to contain and eventually conquerable. As we have seen so far, there is yet no certified vaccine for the ailment; communities whose threat level have reduced have achieved such enviable feats through discipline, order, obedience and concentration.

14. In our own case, we must in our minds, paint the pictures of the risks of community transmission and their implications for our sanity, preservation and civilisation. Let us face the facts, it will be a shame upon all of us, if by our acts of commission or omission, we deliberately design and orchestrate our own tragedy.

15. As you know, Ondo State Government will do all within its powers to resist any threat to the well-being of the people. Therefore, to avoid the escalation of any or all the scenarios enunciated above, I have directed the implementation of stricter and tighter measures to enforce social and physical distancing. Our targets are the vulnerable centres of crowd assembly which have failed to respond to the basic precautionary measures earlier approved to contain the pandemic. These are majorly community markets and city centres where medium and small scale but avoidable transactions and exchanges take place.

16. To this end, ban is hereby placed on daily major and community market activities across the state. Out of seven days in a week, concession is however given for only two days of market activities to enable restocking of food items and beverages for families. The days approved are Tuesdays and Thursdays of every week. Nobody should therefore be seen within the market premises on unapproved days. This ban does not however affect corner shops and shop window outlets within residences.

17. There is also a ban on non-food item on parade on the approved days. Such non food items which draw unnecessary crowd into the markets include but are not limited to fabrics, jewelleries, cosmetics, shoes, furniture, decorations, books and stationery, phone and electronics, beer parlours and pleasure centres and others in such category. For avoidance of doubt, the Oja Oba, Isinkan, Iloro, Isolo, in Akure and their equivalents across the state will remain shut in accordance with the approved schedules earlier stated.

18. Meanwhile the main perishable food supply depot in each of the city centres in the state will only open for business on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week. The essence is to protect and preserve the fragile and perishable survival food item like tomatoes, Pepper, vegetables and others, transported nationally under special concession by the federal Government. In other words, only Shasha and Iloro markets in Akure and their equivalents across the state will open for business on the basis of the three day concession.

19. To ensure synergy and an assurance of reasonable success of the overall goal, I have also directed the Interministerial committee to step up its engagement with community and authorised leaders of our markets in weekly reviews of activities and success.

20. Meanwhile, as currently obtains, the 7pm to 7am curfew subsists. It will remain our home-grown measure in consonance with the general guideline presented by the Federal Government recently.

21. All business premises, except pharmacies and patent drug and dressing outlets, banks and food chain supermarkets, will remain shut and inaccessible to business and physical interaction until further notice. All worship centres and community sporting activities will remain inoperative as well.

22. To demonstrate our commitment to full compliance, security agencies and Government Task force on implementation have been further energised and authorised to deal fully with offenders in accordance with the law.

23. My dear people, Government is conscious of the need to deploy all its capacity and ability to contain this pandemic so that lost grounds can be gained and our lives returned to normal. This is the reason we are daily working on expanding the capability of our health facilities to respond to emergencies and unforeseen eventualities of COVID -19 in the state. To achieve this, we have approved the establishment of a test centre located at our University of Medical Sciences in Ondo. I have noted with pleasure, the satisfactory speed and seriousness of the University to get the Test Centre underway in record time.

24. Through efforts of the state’s COVID-19 response fund committee, we have been able to increase our bed capacity in our Isolation centres to 210 beds, a tenfold increase in capacity. The committee has directly provided 80 standard beds, 10 ICU beds, 100 Infrared thermometers, 3 ventilators two of which are ICU ventilators. The 80 beds will be used to equip our newly renovated isolation Centre in Ikare. We have also received 100 beds through the coalition against COVID (CACOVID) which will allow for the expansion of our Centre in Akure and the equipping of the new Centre in Ondo town.

25. Already, distribution of palliatives to citizens of the state, particularly the vulnerable, is ongoing. We can do more and will certainly do more.

26. May I therefore urge every resident of Ondo state, to increase their compliance with the precautionary regulations against COVID – 19 as pronounced by Government. While we are not unaware of the disruptions and inconveniences occasioned by these regulations, we request the highest level of citizen responsibility, particularly at these times of increasing number of positive cases of COVID- 19.

27. As I said to you last week, all I ask of you, my dear people of Ondo state is to :
• Obey the restriction orders and all social and physical distancing regulations.
• stay indoors and observe the regular hand washing and other hygiene protocols
• Proper use of face mask outside your homes.
• Be more vigilant about neighbours and new faces around you;
• Observe the state of health of fellow citizens, with particular attention to the established symptoms of COVID-19.
• Report any reasonable suspicion to appropriate authorities or special tolls free numbers dedicated for rapid response.

28. There is no doubt, if we work together, we can defeat the COVID-19 and save our own lives.

29. Already, the regulation on compulsory use of face mask has commenced. Government has embarked on mass production and free distribution of same to the people.

30. We note the increasing compliance to use of face mask and directs full enforcement of the face mask use regulation. In order words, law enforcement agencies and our task force have been directed to arrest anyone caught not wearing properly, the face mask while in public places.

31. Let me remind our people again that COVID – 19 is not a pronouncement of death. It is a temporary delay which sadly, provides an alternative to life which is death. Ondo state government chooses life abundant for all and will do everything to protect every citizen and resident.

32. You would note that we have successfully managed three cases which have recovered fully and have been discharged. The uniqueness of their cases is that they reported early enough. I therefore call on all of our people to be sensitive to their state of health.

33. Let me again use this auspicious moment to express our gratitude to the patriotic, compassionate and public spirited individuals, community groups and corporate bodies who have donated generously, both openly and privately, to our COVID – 19 Response Fund. I must also single out for recognition many other unannounced heroes who have taken it upon themselves to provide and distribute palliatives, face masks and other relief materials to the public, particularly the people in the vulnerable category. Such charitable efforts are well noted and are categorised as the very core of humaneness which must be the pedestal upon which our future relationship must be based.

34. God answers all prayers. He will hearken to our call and rescue us from this deadly pestilence.

35. Thank you all and I wish you a great week ahead.

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