Panic was palpable as residents and those doing business in
Rivers State react to the measures to prevent the spread of the corona virus in
Last Friday, social distancing was re-defined as consumers
flooded various markets to buy foodstuffs amid skyrocket prices in anticipation
of the closure of all markets as ordered by the state government.
Investigations by The Vortex at various motor parks, hotels and markets showed apprehension among the populace for likely hunger and collapse of major and small businesses in the state.
Traders at the popular Mile III market who spoke to this
reporter decried the shutdown of markets and the blockade placed on travelers
in and outside the state.
The traders lamented that the lockdown will tell hard on the
business community in the state who according to them depend on supplies of
goods from Aba, Onitsha and Lagos, adding that more strategic measures should have
been put in place to stem the scarcity of essential goods that may hit the
state if the measures put in place by Governor Wike linger.
According to them, the governor should have deployed
dedicated health officials along major entry points to the state, to check the
health status of those coming into the state.
A taxi driver, Eneobong Nse complained that transporters no
longer meet their daily target because of the restriction placed on the number
of passengers that they can carry at a time.
Nse who ply the slaughter route said because of the increase
in transport fare as a result of the reduction in number of passengers, people
now choose to trek.
Another driver, Kenneth who said he runs his cab under a
hire purchase agreement, said the new regulation may cause him to default in
meeting his obligations to the owner of the vehicle.
Some passengers, who spoke on the issue, were of the opinion
that the state governments actions on COVID-19 tend to be repressive to the
The Vortex also visited some entertainment centers and brothels in Diobu where this reporter observed that many hotels have installed sanitizers with water buckets placed at the entrance.
Ibifete Captain, a manager at Royal Hotel, in Diobu told The Vortex that the price of sanitizers is hampering their efforts, adding that the product has become scarce in the market.
Ibifete appealed to the state government to be more
considerate, as closing entertainment centers and businesses will greatly
impoverish families and residents of the state.
He called for more proactive measures to contain the virus
without subjecting the citizenry to hardship.
At the Mile III motor park, traders, transporters and
passengers were seen going about their activities without adhering to
preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no hand washing
equipments or sanitizers at the entry and exits points of the park.
At the Waterlines area of Port Harcourt, many loading points
of the park had sanitizers. Manager of Obi Park, Obi Emefor however expressed
fears that transport business in the state may go bankrupt if care is not taken
by the government in its lockdown actions.
He explained that the park has taken actions to prevent
spread of the disease through staff and passengers using the park, adding that
safety meetings and cautions have been
held to educate transport operators and passengers in compliance to
Austine Nweke of the J.C. Mass Park along Waterlines
solicited for an economic plan that will not bring hunger to the people and
lamented that the sudden stoppage of travels in and out of the state may pose
difficulties in the state.
On his part, Augustine Ikhelao of Arug Express Park located
behind the Mobil Filling Station also in the Waterlines area called for caution
in the whole saga.
He however lauded some of the steps taken by the state
government, and stated that whatever can be done to safeguard the health of the
people would be worth the while.
Ikhelao lamented the panic among the populace, noting that
passenger patronage has significantly reduced.
Stanley Ogoloma, supervisor at Rebisi Park stated that
workers and visitors in the park would comply with government directives, but
appealed to the authorities to assist in ensuring that the disease mitigating
accessories and gadgets reach the people and motor parks in the state.
Ogoloma lamented the lull in the transport business and
advised passengers and users of the park to comply with the government orders
to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Vortex recalls that the Rivers State government has ordered the closure of all markets in the state. Governor Nyesome Wike who announced this in a broadcast also ordered the closure of all land and sea borders into the state till further notice to prevent the spread of the novel disease.
The State Governor on Saturday led a team of security
officials to monitor the closure of markets in the state.
He also signed an Executive Order on the corona virus and enforced the
monitoring of maximum of 50 worshippers in every church yesterday.