Paul Orude, Bauchi

Bauchi State Government has expressed dismay that the directive on market closure in the state to curtail the spread of coronavirus is being flouted.

*Deputy Governor Baba Tella made the observation at the weekend while updating reporters on efforts by the state to fight COVID-19.

The government had earlier on Wednesday directed that all businesses close with effect from Thursday, March 26th, exempting only those selling food items and essential goods and medicine.

However, since the announcement, markets in the state capital have refused to adhere to the directive, operating without safety measures recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has claimed more than 32,000 lives around the world.

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Speaking at the Ministry of Health, Tella, who was in company with the Commissioner for Health, Aliyu Maigoro, and his colleague from Ministry of Information, Garba Dahiru, warned that the government might be forced to take drastic measures to enforce compliance.

“After the state governor, His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed, had that meeting with the Ulamas and traditional rulers and the stakeholders it was decided that we should partially close.

“Partial closure is we close the market, we leave the food vendors, we leave medicine vendors, we leave the filling stations so that we mitigate the spread of the scourge,” the deputy governor said.

“Our fear now is not the importation of the virus into Bauchi State by person-to-person contact of the virus in Bauchi State.

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“Unfortunately, somehow people are not adhering to the directives given. At that meeting, it was also agreed that we are not stopping people from going for Friday prayers or churches but as much as possible try to pray in mosques or churches near to your area. You don’t have to go from one place to another; as much as possible try to keep a little bit of safe distance.

“Unfortunately, it has not been followed. I went through the market areas this afternoon and the issue of compliance in Bauchi is zero and we have seen other sites locking up completely.

“Kano has locked down completely. Kaduna has locked down completely and that is because we don’t want the scourge to come here.

“We need to have some level of responsibility to people. You have to do whatever you can to ensure it does not spread. One of the easiest ways to stop the spread is personal hygiene, the washing of hands, the sanitisers and, of course, staying in one place.”

The deputy governor explained that, although no decision has been taken yet concerning non-compliance, “l won’t be surprised if drastic measures are taken by the state government to enforce them.”

According to him, “we have gone round and we also asked one of our public address vans to go round the town to remind people of the order in place. People should follow it for our good, our own safety and our health and if they refused to do that, government might be forced to come out with more strident measures though we have not been decided for now.”

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*In an earlier version of this article, we inadvertently referred to the Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Baba Tella, as Acting Governor. This was an error. The Governor, Bala Mohammed, who has been on self-isolation, is very much in charge as all orders come directly from him, and not Tella, the Deputy Governor. The error is regretted.