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Lagos gives families two weeks to claim corpses, face masks now compulsory

…To roll out three million free face masks for distribution
…Urges private companies to provide locally made face masks for workers
…Releases 209 prisoners in Lagos

By Kelechi James
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has told families that they have two weeks to bury their loved ones, warning that the state would be forced to conduct mass burial of corpses if the mortuaries were not decongested within the period.
The governor also advised the bereaved to adhere to the rules on social distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus while burying their loved ones.
Speaking on Saturday while giving updates on the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, Sanwo-Olu said, “If we’re unable to see a decongestion of mortuaries across the state within the next two weeks, Lagos State Government will now be compelled to have a mass burial and we would not want to force this on anybody, which is why we are asking for the cooperation of all of us.
“This is not the time when you need to wait for your brother or your sister or your sibling, who is 10,000km or 6,000km away from here for them to come back before you can have the funeral.
“These are very difficult times and I can imagine that families and relatives and siblings will understand that we need to have this and we need to put this behind us.
“So, we are reiterating it again that we’ll give two weeks window and we’ll expect a lot of people to comply after which the state government might have to take other decisions in that manner.”
The governor also announced compulsory use of face mask by residents from Monday, April 27, as part of measures to stem the spread of the pandemic, which has continued to be on the rise in the state.
Among other measures, Sanwo-Olu announced the release of 209 prisoners from various prisons across the state to decongest the facilities in view of the ravaging deadly COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the freed prisoners included aged and physically challenged as well as those with minor offences, among other considerations.
He said the rise in the number of confirmed cases of the virus in the state indicated a fast spread of community transmission, noting that there was need to strengthen and ramp up the government’s response to contain the infectious disease, hence, the compulsory use of face mark in the state.
“I have touched on the issue of masks a few times in previous addresses. Let me now formally announce that face masks are now compulsory in public places in Lagos State by Monday, April 27. Failure to use masks in public will invite sanctions and penalties.
“We have commenced arrangements for the production of large quantities of face-masks for the use of the people of Lagos State. This is indeed a great opportunity for many businesses, small and large, in the State, to contribute to the Covid-19 response while also getting a chance to do business and earn money. “I want to appeal to the private sector to please patronise these manufacturers, and purchase these masks for distribution to your employees.
“I would also like to urge everyone to please leave the medical-grade N-95 masks for the use of medical workers who need them the most. All of us, who are not medical workers should make do with simple cloth masks,” the governor said.
He added that about three million locally-made face masks had been contracted and are due for distribution to various strata of public by next week.
While debunking widespread rumour that the state government was planning mass burial for victims of COVID-19, he said, “I would like to speak concerning funerals. One of the outcomes of this lockdown is that many families and households have had to postpone funeral plans for loved ones who have passed away before or during this period.
“As you might know, many Christian denominations do not carry out funerals during the Lenten Season. Funerals are typically kept on hold during this period, and scheduled for the period immediately following the end of Lent.
“Unfortunately, this year, the Covid-19 Lockdown coincided with the end of Lent, which caused many families and households to further suspend or put off funeral plans.
“Because of this inability to hold funerals, occasioned by the restrictions on movement, the mortuaries in Lagos are now full and in urgent need of decongestion. Let me make it clear at this point that these are not Covid-19 deaths.”
On the current lockdown, which will expire on Monday, Sanwo-Olu, said the Federal Government has the sole power to decide on it, adding that, the Presidency will make a categorical statement on or before Monday, if the lockdown would be extended or not.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Amuwo Odofin Local Government (AOLG) in Lagos State have denied giving out an alarming figure of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area.
They made the denial at a press briefing organised by AOLG at its secretariat in Festac Town.
The NCDC and AOLG reacted to a voice note that went viral on social media, claiming that residents of the council area had been heavily infected by the novel coronavirus.
According to the council Chairman, Mr. Valentine Buraimoh, the person who recorded the audio – who he identified as Dr Faith Anyanwu – is neither a staff of the Lagos State Government nor that of the NCDC.
Buraimoh said: “The active case search in AOLG is to identify people with symptoms to enable them qualify for screening to know the number of positive COVID-19 patients in the local government area.
“Persons with symptoms are then sampled to determine whether they are positive or negative,” he said.
He said that samples were sent to the NCDC Emergency Operation Centre in the state, where they were tested and results communicated to the concerned people, privately.
The chairman said, “This is a zonal office that includes Ajeromi, Amuwo Odofin, Ojo, Badagry and Apapa.
“All these local governments I have mentioned come here to do collation of tests; so, the 23 index cases are not only in Amuwo Odofin, it cuts across the five local government areas I mentioned.”
Buraimoh urged residents of the council area to remain calm and observe all preventive measures as directed by governments and medical experts.
Also, Dr. Oyeladun Okunromade, Lead, Rapid Response Team, Surveillance, NCDC, said that Anyanwu was not a staff of the agency and not in any position to divulge such information.
“She is not by any means an agent of NCDC, she does not work for NCDC,” she said.
NAN reports that, in the voice note going viral on social media, the sender claimed that Amuwo Odofin was a ‘hot mess’ because of an alarming number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the council area.

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