The Ondo State Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 has warned that violators of the night curfew imposed to check the second wave of the pandemic will face penalties.
The committee spoke in reaction to the directive by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to its members to go ahead and hold the December 31 cross over vigil despite the ban on it by the state government.
The ban on vigils, particularly on the one scheduled for the night of December 31, which is an annual event of churches to usher in the new year, was aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
But CAN had said it was yet to receive any official statement from the government, banning the vigil.
It urged its members to go ahead and hold the vigil, arguing that it had nothing to do with COVID-19.
But the committee stressed the need for people of the state to celebrate the end of the year with a deep sense of responsibility and a strong commitment to safety.
It also urged the residents to resist any call by anyone, no matter how highly placed, for them to disobey government health order.
The chairman of the committee, Adesegun Fatusi, warned that violators of the 10 p.m. – 4 a.m. curfew put themselves at the risk of COVID-19 and its consequences as well as legal penalties, including fines and jail terms as specified in the Ondo State COVID-19 laws.
“COVID-19 is primarily a health issue and not a religious issue,” he said.
“It is, therefore, not in the domain or area of competence of any religious group and for CAN leadership to indicate that technical decisions on health matters cannot be validly made by the state government without first consulting with the Association is implausible and absurd.
“The order of a curfew from 10.00 pm to 4.00 pm is a subsisting public health order that has been in operation for several months and aimed fundamentally at safeguarding the health of the citizens.
“The decision to maintain the curfew through and beyond 31st December 2020 in Ondo State was taken jointly with a deep sense of responsibility by a body of leading health experts at a meeting convened by the Inter-ministerial committee on Thursday, 24 December 2020, and involving the leadership of the major health professional groups.
“Government has the primary and primal responsibility to protect and safeguard the health of her people and the Ondo State Dangerous Infectious Diseases (COVID-19 Emergency Prevention Regulation) signed into law on 31st March 2020 empowers the Governor to take relevant actions to curb the spread of the COVID-19, including restriction of movements.
“The Governor does not need to consult with CAN or any religious or civil group before exercising the power that is duly vested in him by the law of the land.
“It is dangerously misleading for anyone in a position of leadership in the civil society, including religious leaders, who are expected to be role models by the tenets of their callings and the clear teachings of the sacred books that they are called to uphold, to openly call on citizens to disobey government’s public health orders made to ensure the health of people, with the implication of putting the health of the people at risk.
“The evening and night of December 31st marks the end of the year for all people and not for any religious group and in the face of the threat of the second wave of COVID-19 in Nigeria, all individuals and groups – whatever their religious leaning may be – have a duty to celebrate the events marking the entry into a new year sensibly, responsibly and safely to ensure that they do not put the health of other citizens at risk.”
There are fears that the already bad situation could worsen with the season of celebration reaching its peak at the weekend.
About 41 persons have so far died of COVID-19 in the state, out of a total of 1,798 confirmed cases.
Also, 1,690 persons have been discharged while the state still has 67 active cases.
The total national figure is put at 84,812 confirmed cases, 12,190 active cases, 71,357 discharged and 1,264 persons have died.
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