By Douglas Okoro
Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi on Thursday in Abakaliki signed the Ebonyi State Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations, 2020 Bill into law.
In a speech at the brief ceremony, Umahi said that the law would help to strengthen government’s resolve in the fight against coronavirus and other infections ravaging the state.
He said that his administration had continued to issue a number of directives, orders and guidelines that would help to ensure the safety and security of the citizens against the diseases.
“There was an outbreak of coronavirus in China in late 2019 and the World Health Organization (WH0) has designated it as ‘Covid-19’ and declared it a global pandemic, spreading rapidly all over the world with devastating effects.
“Several Covid-19 cases have been reported and are being treated in many states of the federation, including positive cases reported in our neighbouring Enugu State on March 27,” the governor said.
He said that the development had made it imperative to go beyond making suggestions and giving directives in order to stem the tide of the spread of Covid-19, Lassa fever, cholera, among others.
He said, “We have need to go a step further through enacting of laws to save lives, reduce ill health and ensure that the economy, in which the people of Ebonyi operate, does not become weakened and stretched.”
He said that the signing was in exercise of powers conferred on him by the provisions of the Ebonyi Coronavirus and Other Dangerous Infectious Diseases and Related Matters Law 005, 2020, Ebonyi Public Health Law Cap 126.
According to him, the regulations may be cited as the Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations, 2020 and shall come into force on April 2.
“All acts done prior to the commencement of these regulations to curtail the spread of Covid-19 are hereby ratified.
“The purpose of this regulation is to prevent and contain the spread of Covid-19, lassa fever, cholera, among others in the state.
“I hereby declare that Covid-19 is a dangerous infectious disease within the meaning and intendment of Section 8 of the Ebonyi Coronavirus And Other Dangerous Infectious Diseases and Related Matters Law 005, 2020, Sections 2 & 8 of the Quarantine Act, Cap Q2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“That COVID-19 constitutes a serious and imminent threat to the public health of the people in the state.
“All potentially infectious persons within the state shall and immediately go to a place specified for screening and assessment.
“Any potentially infectious person within the state shall go into isolation for an initial period of 14 days or more and refusal to be screened, assessed and isolated is an offence and punishable in accordance with the law.
“The law also affirmed restriction of movement into or out of the state, particularly the movement of persons, vehicles, bikes and tricycles into the state as earlier announced by government.
“Transportation or movement of essential supplies, such as food, water, pharmaceutical products, medical supply, medicines, building materials and any other essential supplies as I may deem necessary are not restricted”
“The law also banned social gatherings, events, dissemination of false information about the virus and unverified claim of cure for the disease.
“I hereby direct the security agencies in the state to breakup any gathering of persons in the state , and take into custody, persons in such gatherings in breach of this regulation,” the governor said.
The law also criminalised hoarding of food items, hiking of prices of food items and essential services in the state or creating artificial scarcity by dealers.