Abia government on Friday announced the gradual relaxation of its lockdown directive.
The relaxation is billed to begin on May 11, Mr Chris Ezem, the Secretary to the State Government, said in a statement in Umuahia.
Ezem, who is also the Chairman of State Covid-19 Committee, said that the decision was reached after necessary consultations and considerations, including advice from medical experts.
According to him, the Abia government has evolved protocols that will be implemented to manage the activities of residents with regard to the relaxation of the lockdown in the state.
He said that “all markets in the state shall open only three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, between the hours of 9 a.m and 3 p.m daily.
“Relevant markets leaderships have constituted a 17-man enforcement team that shall ensure the provision of a minimum of 20 litres bucket with tap for running water.
“In addition, each trader shall provide soap and sanitizers and the wearing of face masks by both sellers and buyers in the market.
“The enforcement teams are charged with the full responsibility of ensuring full compliance with physical distancing in the markets at all times.
“They are also vested with powers to justifiably seal off any shop that circumvents any or all of these directives.
“Let it be noted that should there be any lapse on the part of the enforcement team of any market leading to a breach of these directives such a market will be closed down by relevant local or state government authorities without any further recourse to the traders.
“Commercial tricycle (Keke) operators and all other intra-state commercial transporters will now operate from 8 a.m to 4 p.m daily.
“While keke operators can only carry two passengers at every point in time, minibuses and other buses must not seat more than two persons per row with all passengers including the driver wearing face masks.”
Ezem said that Abia government had directed that burial ceremonies would be held only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays of the first and third week of every month.
He said that the burial ceremonies held in open fields would not have more than 30 persons in attendance while the burial ceremonies in private residences would not have more than 10 persons in attendance.
Ezem said that burial ceremonies could only be conducted with a permit from the state government, warning it was an offence to conduct or attend burial ceremonies without wearing face masks.
He said that “eateries and restaurants must operate only on a take-away basis and close latest by 7pm daily.
“Management, staff and customers of such eateries/restaurants must always have their face masks on, and provide hand sanitizers and/or soap and running water for customers at the entry points.”
Ezem said that the state’s borders would remain closed, as inter-state movements were prohibited.
He, however, noted that vehicles transporting essential items authorised by the federal or state governments were exempted from the restriction of movement.
He said that the drivers and passengers of vehicles authorised for inter-state movements must wear face masks and be ready to subject themselves to search and medical test.
Ezem said that law enforcement agents were mandated to apprehend residents who failed to wear face masks while being out of their houses and present them before the Mobile Court for prosecution.
He said that religious activities would be allowed to hold only on Fridays for the Muslim communities, Saturdays for Sabbatarian and Sundays for others.
Ezem added that the congregation of each religious group must not exceed 50 persons in a service and all worshippers must observe all hygiene protocols for gatherings.
He said that the state government had directed that all worship activities must end on or before 2 p.m on the days designated for worship for the different religious groups.
Ezem said that civil servants would resume their duties on May 11, beginning with schedule officers on Grade Level 13 and above along with their immediate subordinates.
“They are to resume at 8 a.m on alternate days of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and close at 3 p.m. All Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are to function with not more than 20 persons.
“And must provide buckets with taps for running water, soap and hand sanitisers at their offices.
“Based on the foregoing, all MDAs are to submit the list of their staff members scheduled to be at work in this period to the Head of Service,” he said.
Ezem said that all schools in the state would remain closed till further notice, while he urged residents to continue to maintain all coronavirus protocols in order to stay safe at all times.
He commended the front line workers, essential services providers, those who had made donations to the state, volunteer organisations and residents for keeping faith with Abia government in the fight against coronavirus.