By Adeze Ojukwu
On Friday Christians worldwide, will celebrate Christmas, in commemoration of the nativity of Jesus Christ.
Everywhere is brimming with fanfare and festivities. Several churches and communities are organizing special services and carols with many cities and communities bubbling with fireworks, decorations and the usual shopping sprees.
However there is danger. This year’s celebration is coming, amidst a renewed outbreak of coronavirus and emergence of a new mutant.
After several months of respite, many nations are recording fresh cases of the deadly flu-like disease.
The United Kingdom(UK) has reported a further 35,928 coronavirus cases, as the mutant strain caused a 94.8 per cent rise in infections.
According to Daily Mail ‘the 126 per cent rise in daily deaths came, after London and vast swathes of the home counties were thrust into a brutal Tier 4 lockdown due to a Covid-19 variant, named ‘VUI – 202012/01.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the mutant is 70 per cent more infectious and makes up 60 per cent of London’s new cases.’
As a result, several countries have imposed travel restrictions to UK.
Global leaders and health experts have raised concerns over this resurgence, exacerbated by non-compliance with recommended health advisories, particularly social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing.
Other major factors fueling the pandemic include the current extreme cold weather, heavy travels and overcrowding occasioned by the annual celebrations.
Many have thrown caution to the wind, due to the excitement of the season.
In Nigeria for instance, there is hardly any form of distancing, as people flock religious centers, bus stops, restaurants, hotels and markets.
To curtail transmissions, Federal and State Governments have placed restrictions including closure of all schools till January 18. Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha said this directive became imperative, following the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
‘Persons above the age of 60yrs and/or with comorbidities to stay at home and avoid crowded areas. Also all non-essential travels both domestic and international during this holiday season are seriously discouraged,’ he added.
Unfortunately government’s policy for mandatory registration of National Identity Number(NIN), has compounded the imbroglio, as desperate subscribers besiege designated offices, for the process.
Nevertheless, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) has commenced public communications efforts through a new campaign themed #CelebrateResponsibly.
This is part of the #TakeResponsibility campaign which began in February 2020 and focuses specifically on measures Nigerians need to take to protect themselves and loved ones during the Christmas and New Year period.
The agency’s Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu in a signed statement said ‘in the last two weeks, there has been a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country.’
‘On the 17th of December, a record daily number of 1,145 new confirmed cases was recorded. This increase is as a result of a convergence of circumstances which includes increased local and international travels, business and religious activities with minimal compliance with COVID-19 safety measures by the members of the public.’
‘As at 21st December 2020, a total of 78,790 cases and 1,227 deaths have been recorded in Nigeria across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, with over 70 million cases reported globally.’
According to him enforcement of adherence to the safety measures is not only the sole responsibility of the government.
‘Individuals and institutions have a responsibility too and need to play their part in ensuring adherence to the preventive measures,’ he stressed.
‘Federal Government of Nigeria, through the PTF-COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Information and Health as well as NCDC and its partners are therefore intensifying risk and crisis communication efforts to remind all of us about our collective responsibility.’
‘Critically, Nigerians are being urged to adhere to recommended measures by NCDC and other public health authorities, as they celebrate Christmas and New Year.’
The statement reads: ‘Please avoid all non-essential travel within and outside Nigeria to reduce the risk of transmission. The virus that causes COVID-19 is more likely to spread in mass gatherings especially when held indoors.’
‘We advise that people avoid mass gatherings during this time, or hold them outdoors with physical distancing, compulsory use of facemasks and provision of handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer.’
‘The campaign titled ‘Celebrate Responsibly’ is being implemented with the Federal Ministry of Information and other Government Institutions and partners involved in the COVID-19 response.’
‘It emphasises the responsibility of Nigerians, the government, private sector, institutions, associations, communities and individuals in implementing and adhering to the COVID-19 prevention and response measures.’
The latest initiative is specifically focused on the next four weeks.’
‘The NCDC urges all individuals, traditional and religious leaders, business owners, the media and other institutions to join the campaign.’
‘COVID-19 has continued to threaten lives and livelihoods and we must take all precautions necessary. Now is not the time to let down our guard.’
Meanwhile cases are escalating worldwide particularly in United States (US), India, United Kingdom (UK) and Germany.
Johns Hopkins University reported that ‘there have been more than 74.6 million confirmed cases and more than 1.6 million associated deaths,’ even as the US has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths in the world.
According to Healthline reports ‘more than 309,000 people in the US have died from the disease, with 17 million confirmed cases.
Cheerily, ‘vaccinations have started in the country, with healthcare workers at the front of the line.’
‘However, due to a lack of testing, the number of actual cases may be far higher for US and most countries.’
Certainly Nigeria, with no clear path for imminent arrival of the saving jab, faces huge risks, due to its weak health systems and poor infrastructure.
‘Nigerians should take all necessary precautions for a safe and healthy Christmas celebration.’
Not doing so would be calamitous to all.
.Ojukwu is a Fellow of Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, publisher, editor and serial newspaper columnist. She is a campaigner and advocate for improved socio-economic and health services for all citizens, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS). Please kindly send feedback to email@example.com