By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, on Monday, warned that notwithstanding the announcement of the discovery of vaccines to tackle the virus, mass production was still far off, advising Nigerians to avoid unnecessary travels and to continue to observe the non-pharmaceutical interventions.
The Director-General, National Center for Disease (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the media briefing of the Task Force, described Christmas carols other festivities as super-spreaders of the virus, hence should be avoided this year.
He said: ‘As the year rounds off I do know we did not expect it to pan out this way but we can take the necessary actions now to make 2021 hopeful and successful year and bring about a move back to the way of life that we miss so much.
‘But before we get there, we have an intervening period, the month of December with the associated festivities that mark the end of the year, the normal travels that we are used to carrying out.
‘This is really to re-emphasize the call by the PTF that many of the traditional meetings that we engage in at this time of the year, whether it’s Christmas carols or festivals, trips, family gatherings, each of those could end up being a super spreader event. So we must take this into consideration as we make our choices.
‘While we have had a lot of encouraging news about vaccines, we are still very far from mass production, we are even very far from having one with a license. So we have to tighten our belts and get through this month of December.
‘So I really want to encourage everyone listening to this to remain vigilant, discipline, stay safe and abide by the general protocols that we have advised throughout the year. This is the best way that we can keep our love ones safe and transition safely in 2021. This is particularly important for the elderly in our country who we may want to go and visit as we do by this time of the year. There will be many more opportunities after this period and we have to live long enough to make use of those opportunities.’
Ihekweazu said that a travel advisory has been issued, detailing why travels both locally but internationally must be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary.
He said: ‘The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) issues this public health advisory for all members of the public to increase awareness about the continued risks relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, offering advice on the measures that need to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the upcoming Christmas and New Year period.
‘Across the world, Christmas is a time for celebration and festive cheer, as well as an increase in religious and social gatherings. During the Christmas and New Year celebrations, we recognise that people want to travel and be with family and friends. However, this has been a difficult year and the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our usual way of living and we all have to make adjustments in our lives to the new reality we are faced with. We must all continue to take the necessary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
‘Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nigeria, just over 67,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported with just over 1,000 deaths. Most of the confirmed cases and deaths have been in urban/semi-urban cities and town and the risk of spread remains. The COVID-19 virus does not spread on its own, it spreads when people move around. This means that by travelling across countries and cities, there is a higher risk of transmission, especially to rural areas where the existing health infrastructure is already weak.
‘Nigerians are therefore advised to be vigilant, this is not the time to let our guard time. It is therefore advisable to:
‘Limit all non-essential domestic and international travel. This is especially important for intending travellers from countries recording a high number of COVID-19 cases. As an alternative to travel, the following should be considered: Limit festivities to members of your immediate household. While remaining physically distanced, remain socially connected with friends and loved ones using mobile or video conferencing technology. Hold virtual services and prayer sessions to limit mass congregation. Limit person-to-person contact and physical movement using electronic money transfers systems.
‘Always wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth when in public settings, such as religious centres and market places. Maintain physical distance of at least 2 metres from others in public settings. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty and running water is not readily available. Avoid direct contact with people such as hugging and handshaking
‘Cover your mouth and nose properly with a tissue paper, or your elbow when sneezing and/or coughing. Dispose of the tissue properly immediately after use and wash your hands.
‘Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of a respiratory illness
‘Stay at home if you feel unwell and call your state helpline. Do not mingle with others if you have symptoms such as fever, cough or sudden loss of sense of taste or smell. Public settings including religious settings, businesses, markets should ensure adherence to public health and safety measures.
‘Vulnerable groups i.e. people 60 and above and/or people with pre-existing medical conditions should avoid non-essential outings and visitors. Where possible, have a friend or family member bring you supplies. See NCDC advisory for more information: https://covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/media/files/AdvisoryforVulnerableGroupsV2June2020.’