The decision to step up campaign against further spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 during the yuletide season by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is timely considering that Omicron is fast-spreading across the world. According to NCDC, the “Take Responsibility Campaign,” which targets the entertainment industry, transport industry, religious settings, media, security personnel, young people and the general public, will promote adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures during the festive season.
The new COVID-19 campaign slogan is a clarion call on all Nigerians to take charge of preventing further spread of the pandemic, especially the fast-spreading deadly variants. The NCDC has also confirmed that Nigeria, which is in the fourth wave of COVID-19, has recorded over 500 per cent increase in infections across the country due to the Delta and Omicron variants. As at Tuesday last week, Nigeria reportedly had 2,123 new COVID-19 infections. This is the highest ever daily COVID-19 infection in the country since the outbreak of the disease in February 2020.
Lagos State, the epicenter of the disease, had the highest number of new infections put at 1,552. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) came second with 197 cases, while Edo State was third with 155 infections. As at December 19, 2021, Nigeria had recorded a total of 223,887 cases and 2, 985 deaths across the 36 states and the FCT.
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that social gathering during the yuletide season is likely to lead to increase in COVID-19 cases that may overwhelm health systems and cause more deaths. The Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, has expressed concern that 18 months after the declaration of COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still grappling with the lethal virus. So far, the disease has killed over 3.3 million people this year.
The campaign is coming at a time when many Nigerians have relaxed the observance of prescribed COVID-19 preventive protocols such as social distancing, wearing of nose masks, washing of hands, use of hand sanitizers and avoidance of crowds, among others. In many worship centres across the country, the COVID-19 preventive measures are rather observed in the breach by many worshippers.
Unfortunately, many Nigerians behave as if COVID-19 does not exist. On the contrary, the virus is real and lethal. That is why Nigerians must form the habit of observing the non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent its spread. We say this because the keeping of non-pharmaceutical protocols is still one of the best ways to curb the spread of the disease.
Therefore, we enjoin Nigerians to ensure that they keep the prescribed protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 and try as much as possible to avoid crowds, especially during the yuletide period. We call on churches, mosques and other worship centres to ensure that their members adhere to all COVID-19 preventive measures. On no account should they lower their guards. The “Take Responsibility campaign” should be aggressively pursued to reach all segments of the population other than the itemized groups.
Cultural and religious leaders must be incorporated into the campaign as a way of reaching more Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots. Opinion molders, social media influencers and role models should also not be left out of the campaign. Corporate bodies and civil society organisations should be part of the campaign to halt further spread of the pandemic across the country.
Besides, the Federal Government must intensify effort to ensure that more Nigerians have access to COVID-19 vaccines. The state governments can also procure the vaccines as well. There is urgent need to procure more COVID-19 vaccines so that many Nigerians can take the jabs as required. Despite vaccine hesitancy, we believe that many Nigerians will likely take the jabs if available. All hands should be on deck to check further spread of the disease.