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Cross River relaxes stay-at-home, social distancing orders

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The Cross River government yesterday relaxed its directive on religious gatherings, reviewing the policy from a population of not more than five persons at a time to 50.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Betta Edu, had in a statement at the weekend prohibited a congregation of more than five persons at a sitting by religious organisations in the state.

And in another release by the Senior Special Adviser (SSA) on Religious Matters to the Governor, Reverend Father Bob Etta, the state government had equally threatened to seal any churches that flout the directive.

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It had partly read: “This is to remind all our ecclesiastical leaders that sequel to Sir Ben Ayade’s directives on COVID-19, and in consonance with the adoption of the directives by CAN CRS in her meeting with heads of blocks on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, all religious gatherings with more than five persons are suspended in Cross River State.

“As religious leaders, it is our responsibility to protect the lives of our followers. Let us demonstrate that commitment this Sunday (yesterday).”

But yesterday at about 9:00am, a fresh statement from the SSA stated that the governor had granted permission for churches to gather for activities with maximum of 50 persons.

Though most churches had their usual services with fewer persons, a good number of the big denominations however observed the stay-at-home directive, while the smaller ones held services.

Besides, the Governor Ben Ayade administration had also ordered the closure of all borders linking the state with its neighbours, as movement in and out of Cross River had been embargoed since March 28.

It also ordered residents, including transporters, to comply with the stay-at-home order.

But the directives never sat well with taxi and tricycle operators, as they accused the state government of selling hand sanitisers to them.

Some of the drivers, who spoke to The Guardian, claimed that they were directed to buy the product from the state’s Traffic Management and Regulatory Agency of government.

A cab operator, Christian Ekpes, queried: “Is it supposed to be so? Government that is supposed to be giving free sanitisers is now selling for a fee. Who knows how much they will be selling those sanitisers. They just want to use every single opportunity to extort money from us. When will all this come to an end?

Another of the governor’s aide, Emmanuel Ulayi, in a statement in Calabar, said government would sanction any commercial driver that fails to equip his vehicle with hand sanitisers.

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