Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State has said with the level of misinformation on COVID-19, his government has criminalised further denial of the virus’s existence in the state.
Mr Lalong, who at a time contracted the virus, spoke about his experience at a meeting held in the state secretariat on Wednesday.
“For those who are in denial and continue to misinform others that COVID-19 does not exist, I want to warn them to desist. I, as the number one citizen of the state, was a victim and God helped me to come out of it. I can tell you that it is not a joke and I do not wish even my enemies such experience,” he said.
He said the decision to “criminalise further denial of the disease in the state, was made at the last executive meeting.”
“In other words, if you deny the existence of the disease, keep your denial to yourself because if you are caught propagating it or instigating others to follow you, you will be arrested and prosecuted no matter how highly placed you might be.”
Mr Lalong noted that the state is recording more daily cases than previously.
“Sadly, we are also recording increasing number of deaths that is very worrisome. In the past weeks, we have seen some prominent persons in Plateau State and indeed across Nigeria die from COVID-19.
“Mostly, we hear of the big names but do not get to hear of the others involving people that (who) are less prominent. This should give us serious concern because it means that the situation is bigger than what we seem to know.”
The governor said he is worried that despite this situation, “most citizens appear to be careless and reluctant to observe the COVID-19 protocols.”
“In fact, many have abandoned and refused to observe simple protocols of wearing face masks, maintaining social distance and washing hands regularly,” he added.
“This worries me a lot because this recklessness is further exposing more people to the virus and then increasing the casualty figures. While we have no intention of imposing another lockdown to avoid further damage to the economy, some members of the public are not helping us.”
Mr Lalong stated that the need for the state to re-strategise and embark on more education and sensitisation particularly at the grassroots.
“I have directed that my commissioners and other senior government officials go down and engage the people henceforth. We want to break the resistance and ensure that the people own the response. COVID-19 is a personal matter that affects people directly. They need to be involved.”
On the issue of vaccine, the governor said he has already heard some people peddling conspiracy theories.
“I want to say that I will be the first to take the vaccine whenever it is available in Plateau State. Let us be careful of promoting unsubstantiated rumours.
“By the way, we are still hopeful that the drugs being developed by the Plateau State Medical Research Team which are currently undergoing clinical examination will pass the necessary approvals. This will also give us another option for prevention and treatment. At least, this is our own initiative and there is no conspiracy theory attached.”
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the second wave of the pandemic, which crept in late 2020, has led to more mortalities.
In a recent analysis by the newspaper, one in every six persons tested for COVID-19 in the past two weeks in Nigeria tested positive for the virus, indicating how far the virus had spread.
This is significantly higher than the average of one in ten persons since Nigeria recorded its first case of the virus in February last year.
As of the time of filing this report, Nigeria has over 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and had recorded over 1,350 deaths in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
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