*COVID-19: Panic in Owerri, as DSS lockdown hotel, occupants over suspected case*

…Journalist assaulted for taking pictures*

From Everest Ezihe, Owerri

There was palpable tension in Owerri over a suspected case of the COVID-19 which may have been traced to a suspect that lodged in a hotel

As at Saturday afternoon, indications were rife that contact tracing of a COVID-19 case may have led security officials to Fancy Hotel Umuguma in Owerri West council area of the state.

Security agents as at press time had locked down the Hotel, not allowing the occupants to leave or anybody else to go into the hotel.

The tension was made worst by the seeming absence of updates on the status of the state in the fight against COVID-19.

Though there was an early broadcast by Governor Hope Uzodinma which did not mention the siege even as the press statement of his Chief Press Secretary later in the day did not mention the siege and the suspected guests.

But the hotel eventually got the attention of newshounds when the correspondent of the Leadership newspaper, Angela Nkwo Akpolu, who had gone to check out the scene at the hotel was assaulted by operatives of the DSS for attempting to take a picture of the hotel.

The DSS operative who snatched her glasses from her eyes and threatened to smash her tablet eventually ended up deleting all the pictures in her device while nudging her face repeatedly with his forefinger.

Investigations by our correspondent indicate that the security team arrived the hotel early hours of the day and directed that nobody goes in and nobody leaves the hotel.

A source who is a staff of the hotel and also holed up in the hotel in a telephone chat with this correspondent said that the security team which arrived in two patrol trucks, told the occupants of the hotel that they will remain in the hotel for 14 days. Which is the minimum days for quarantine.

The source also lamented that “We have not be told why we have been locked in here. My shift is over and I should be resting in my house but they said we cannot leave.

I do not know what they are saying on social media but nobody died here and all our guests are still in the hotel and have also not been allowed to go out since morning. At least they should tell us what is going on.
“Again, they said we should await the arrival of some medics who were coming to conduct a test on us. And we have been holed up here since 1am without seeing anybody” she lamented.

She also complained of food,adding that the people that locked them down should also make food available to them.

Due to the fact that government did not release the information on the true position of things, the social media have been awash with terrifying speculations.

Investigations by our correspondent also discovered that there are presently three suspected cases in Imo whose test results were being awaited and the non-communicative approach of the government and Imo COVID-19 taskforce been head by Prof Maurice Iwu may be creating more tension than it set out to defuse.

When contacted however, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy Hon Declan Emelumba confirmed that the hotel was sealed by security agents and that they had ran foul of safety directives of the Government and their woe should serve as a deterrent to others.

A few of the members of the affected neighbourhood confided in our correspondent that they were making efforts to relocate to their villages.

“This people should at least tell us the truth. Nobody should play politics with this pandemic. If there is a suspect or suspicion, they should tell the people so that they can take appropriate measures. How can the DSS and other security agencies occupy this area since morning and government still carry on as if nothing is amiss. It is not even in the news, nobody has been told anything about this ugly drama here. And there is also the suspicion that the manager got out before the lockdown. All these are breeding fear and tension if authorities do not address them as they unfold.”, Emeka Ezeruo lamented.

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