With less than two weeks to Christmas, the Nigerian Medical Association has warned that except people strictly adhere to COVID-19 protocols, especially social distancing, the country may witness an upsurge in new cases of the viral infection during this festive period.
The NMA expressed displeasure over what it described as total disregard for social distancing in public places and commercial buses, lamenting that this may escalate community transmission as many people will be travelling to their villages for Christmas.
President of NMA, Prof. Innocent Ujah, gave the warning during an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, revealing that except at the airports, social distancing as a measure to preventing COVID-19 was not observed anywhere in the country including in hospitals and among politicians.
Already, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had earlier warned that Nigeria might be on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, requesting that closed isolation and treatment centres be put on the alert for reopening.
Prof. Ujah said the recent increase in new COVID- 19 cases in the country may not be unconnected to the failure of the people to observe the safety protocols.
According to him, “We are not complying with the basic protocols that we should observe.”
Expressing concern that the Christmas celebration may fuel an upsurge in new COVID- 19 cases, the NMA president said, “People will come home; many people will gather together and many will have meetings. While people are preparing for all these, they should bear in mind that COVID-19 is real.
“They must be aware that the upsurge will be much this festive period but we can reduce the transmission by observing the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control protocols such as regular hand washing, wearing of face mask and observing social distancing.
“But social distancing is not working. That is the truth of the matter. It is not working because there is no compliance. You see everybody whether politician and even in hospitals, people are not observing social distancing.
“The only area it appears to be working is at the airport. I have been to many airports, people are observing social distancing. Apart from this area, social distancing is not working in Nigeria.
“The hospitals are not observing social distancing because of increased number of patients. Many people are sick as a result of poverty, so many of the facilities are overstretched.”
He called on the government to continue to be vigilant and monitor the situation.
“The government should evaluate what we are doing so that whatever that is not working can be corrected. And that can be done through research”, he added.
NCDC had in at the end of November issued end-of-year travel advisory on COVID-19 to all members of the public to increase awareness about the continued risks relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and measures needed to be taken to prevent the spread of the infection in the upcoming Christmas and New Year period.
The health agency among other things wants a limit to all non-essential domestic and international travel; limit festivities to members of 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 two 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”, NCDC had advised.
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