By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Unless immediate action is taken on the enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines and protocols in Akwa Ibom State, a lot of people may be tested positive of the dreaded virus as its second wave hits globally.
Recent survey into people’s attitude showed that residents in the state have discarded all COVID-19 protocols and guidelines even as the number of positive cases spike in the state.
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) results revealed increase in the number of new positive people in the state example 50 persons tested positive to the virus on Friday, 54 on Saturday, and 8 on Sunday.
It was gathered that despite the state owned private COVID-19 laboratory, the state government was only testing people based on contact tracing of those persons known to have been in close proximity with COVID-19 positive cases.
Observations across the state showed that people have returned to the pre-COVID-19 era of hugging and shaking themselves in large gatherings especially during weddings and burials without taking cognisance of any social distance, and have totally abandoned regular hand washing.
In Government Ministries, Departments and Parastatals, and other offices, emphasis on the use of COVID-19 safety protocols have been minimized.
When the editorial committee members of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the State Council of Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ) visits to tertiary institutions, especially the University of Uyo (Uniuyo) and Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU), it was discovered no particular compliance or enforcement of the COVID-19 safety protocols, as some returning students maintained the status quo, while many others make use of the face masks.
About 80 per cent of the students who made use of their facemasks had them on their chins, possibly to avoid being denied access at the gate, but once inside the school premises, the face masks disappears from their faces entirely.
Most worrying and threatening is the clustering of students in strategic spots within the campus, especially around the love garden by Prefabricted 49/50 building.
Responding to this when interviewed, the Student Union Government (SUG) President, Emmanuel Akpan, Uniuyo, said it would be difficult to strictly follow the COVID-19 protocol.
“Looking at the situation on campus, we might not be able to follow strictly the compliance of COVID-19 guidelines, but the little preventive measures is necessary,” he said.
The case is however different in public secondary and primary schools as water for hand washing and hand sanitizer were available at the entrance of the schools gates but yet there are still no enforcement to using same on the part of schools administrators.
The situation is worse in markets with a large number of daily crowds. In food markets like Akpan Andem, Etuk street and Urua Ebot, and motor spare parts markets like Mechanic Village, all in Uyo metropolis, traders and buyers have all returned to the pre-COVID-19 era of no face masks or social distancing.
In Churches especially large ones where worshippers are usually overcrowded during night prayers and during Sunday Services, COVID-19 caution has been thrown away.
In some of the Churches, the Pastors encourage members to embrace and shake hands with one another, while worshippers dance, sweat and mingle freely.
When the Chairman, Church Monitoring Team on COVID-19 in Uyo, Mr Enobong Uwah was contacted, he said following the success of the initial monitoring exercise in Churches, the committee handed over the responsibility of ensuring compliance to the Christain Association of Nigeria (CAN).
He said, “Having sufficiently monitored it the first time, and having also desired that there was compliance, we handled it over to CAN to continue to monitor their members.
“But at the moment and following the second wave, the committee is now working on something to come up with guidelines for Churhces and other public places.
“We will reactivate the COVID-19 implementation committe. The committee took a decision in conjunction with CAN and we would call a meeting with CAN for them to know that Churches are not complying with the directives,” he stated.
All across the states, even in hotels and entertainment centres, the emphasis on the use of face masks, hand sanitizers and washing of hands have greatly reduced.
Speaking on the possibility of a second lock down following the spike in positive cases, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Ini Ememobong said there were currently 300 active cases, adding that a second lockdown is the last option on the table.
He however advised citizens to comply with the safety measures put in place.
He mentioned that even with the increasing number of positive cases, the 300 bed space capacity isolation centre would not be over stretched, saying the state owned facilities have not been threatened.
“There are 300 active cases and the lockdown is consequential,” he said.