On Thursday, March 19, 2020, as a way of curtailing contamination and spread of the COVID-19 disease currently ravaging the world, His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano issued an order banning all public gatherings in the state, effective March 23, 2020. The order also mandated students of tertiary institutions, nurseries, and primary and secondary schools to proceed on indefinite vacation; all residents returning from countries and states with active COVID-19 cases to self-isolate for 14-days and contact the Anambra State Public Health Emergency Operation Center (PHEOC) immediately; all civil servants save those on essential duties to work from home and many other measures advised for residents in order to nip the penetration possibilities of this deadly disease in the state.

The Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture wishes to commend the state government for such proactive steps aimed at circumventing the infiltration of the virus into the state. This corroborates the government’s avowed commitment to securing the lives of its citizens since the inception of this administration. However, much as we appreciate these proactive measures, we strongly advocate that Government should proceed a step further to monitor the economic situation in the country as some states mull the closure of markets where nonessentials are sold at this time.

With Anambra State having a high density of an estimated 2,000 persons per square kilometer and Onitsha being the business hub of the southeast, thousands of businessmen and women from all over the country and beyond congregate in Onitsha daily for transactions. Contamination of this virus is therefore highly probable and its spread shall be uncontrollable unless some drastic measures are taken. We are not unmindful of the economic implications of such lockdown to the state but only the living transacts businesses.

To remain open should be considered for pharmacies, shopping malls, foods, beverages, and drug-related markets in Ose, Nkpor, Ogbaru, Bridgehead, etc. Yet the highest level of disease-prevention procedures as already elucidated by the state government must be maintained in these select markets. The Anambra State Public Health Emergency Operation Center (PHEOC) should mobilize free masks, hand gloves, sanitizers, and thermometers to all parks and markets in the state. Apart from market leaders, the government should urgently inaugurate an enforcement team of not less than 200 members from diverse backgrounds to ensure total compliance with all its directives so far. This task force shall be divided to work in key segments, towns, and local government areas of the state with logistics provided by the state government.

Secondly, beyond just presenting the manifest of travelers, traveling should be discouraged in the state for now. Transport companies must comply with the social distancing directives even in vehicles. Travelers must comply with all disease-contamination prevention procedures in the parks. Random checks should henceforth be conducted on all inbound travelers. Intra-city transport means like Keke and Buses that flout the social distancing orders should be impounded. Factories with many employees must be mandated to ensure high safety and health standards. As citizens divert to exercise in the stadia, open fields, and closed schools as their interpretation of self-isolation, all contact sports must be prohibited forthwith.

Finally, enforcement team members with medical backgrounds should visit all grades A to C hospitals in the state to monitor their level of compliance with the infection-control procedures in their premises and possibly request medical records of patients with any recent flu-related cases. Compliance with hygiene procedures, pro-activity, and speed of response makes all the difference in combating this pandemic. As we await the urgent consideration of our submission by the government, we urge all citizens, residents, and visitors to the state to adhere strictly to a high level of hygiene and other measures as prescribed by the state government and the World Health Organization (WHO). Prevention has always been far better than cure. We shall overcome!

Pharm Sir Chris Ukachukwu
President ONICCIMA

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