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TORIT - 20 Feb 2021

Covid-19: Torit residents slam new preventive measures

The inhabitants of Torit town in Eastern Equatoria State have opposed and criticized the recent strict countywide coronavirus preventive measures instituted by the National Taskforce on COVID-19 Pandemic.

They say the new preventive measures are reminiscent of the suffering they went through during the first lockdown at the advent of the novel virus nearly a year ago which resulted in economic hardships, soaring crime, and early teenage pregnancies.  

Last week, Governor Louis Lobong Lojore of Eastern Equatoria State, issued directives to all the organized forces in the state to implement the ban on public gatherings, sporting, religious and political events including Sunday services, Friday prayers for Muslims, funerals, and wedding ceremonies.

“The majority of the people are not following the laws of coronavirus now because people are still gathering on the roads and in the markets. People are not observing because this thing has destroyed many,” Susana Salah Odone, a Torit resident lamented. “Children are now staying at home without going to school. Young girls have been impregnated and others have been married off early. Boys have joined gangs and become criminals. So these coronavirus preventive measures have just caused us problems and we are not interested in them.”

Susana suggested that people be encouraged to practice personal hygiene and wear masks instead of the lockdown which is destroying the young children. 

Cornelius Odongi, a resident of Hai Matar in Torit town, says proper sensitization should be made and schools should reopen with proper guidelines.

“In regards to the issue of coronavirus lockdown, I disagree with the government. I am only wishing that people continue to observe the rules like social distance, no greetings, and no funerals. People should only practice preventive measures but there should not be a lockdown. The government should only provide preventive measures and especially students should study,” Odongi said.

He adds, “You see, this year children have been idle without school. It is not easy to control human beings. Some cultures cannot change, like greeting. This coronavirus lockdown is affecting us economically because many traders cannot travel to procure vital commodities.” 

A resident of Hai Sisianu, Lily Nimir, said the earlier lockdown had many negative effects on the people and fears the new measures will even have worse repercussions.

“This disease called corona has caused us a lot of problems and put our children out of school. Young girls are pregnant. It is a very bad thing. We thought it would not come again this year but now they have locked down again. God should take away this disease. What I need is that they should bring us the medicine. This disease is bad, people have died and people are now isolated all because of it,” Nimir said.

Dr. Santina Ikoki, the assistant medical director at Torit State Hospital, says the local population is making the Covid-19 fight difficult due to their cultural belief and practices. 

“We have been drumming the dangers of the virus into the people but they do not believe that it exists because they have not seen people dying of it. When they witness a death from coronavirus is when they will believe and start fearing. You will find people gathered during traditional dances, at games, drinking local brew, at shisha and tea places and this is not a good thing,” Dr. Ikoki said. 

She warns, “We should not cause problems for the public because every time people gather, the virus also spreads. If we do not put these preventive measures in place, then coronavirus will infect all of us and will kill us. Only the lucky ones will survive because people are not following the measures.”

Rev. Oryem Solomon Abalang, the chairperson of the inter-church committee in Torit says the government must think twice before reacting because the population is suffering.

“We as a church don’t have objections but I have areas of concern. Is the government ready to support, especially the business sector, these small businesses? Secondly, the salaries are delayed for up to five months so they have to come with some measures that will also support the people. They should have given guidelines and not lock down people completely,” Rev. Oryem said. 

Maj. Justine Kleopus Takuru, the Torit police spokesperson, says the police have formed a committee to implement the new preventive measures in the state and that they have deployed in different places to ensure there are no public gatherings.

“Our situation here is that we do not have transport and now the police force is moving on foot and a few motorcycles. We have also requested the commissioner to add more forces because this force at the municipality is small. We need additional forces from the criminal investigations department and other departments to support us so that we protect this area from public gatherings,” Maj. Kleopus added. 

He said they will start arresting people found going against the measures and urged chiefs and community leaders to help advise the population to prevent the spread of the virus.