22 December 2021 | Abuja – COVID-19 Public Health Advisory for the Yuletide to Religious Organisations and Community Leaders
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) issues this public health advisory to guide religious organisations and community leaders ahead of events to mark Christmas and New Year celebrations. This is based on the high risk of spread of COVID—19 in Nigeria and the need for collective responsibility to prevent a bigger surge in cases.
In the past few weeks, Nigeria has recorded a rapid increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country including the transmission of both Delta and Omicron variants of concern. The rate of spread has been alarming with a 500% rise in cases from epidemiological week 47 to week 48 2021. The country is now in a fourth COVID-19 wave.
Therefore, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as NCDC and its partners are intensifying communication efforts to remind Nigerians of the risk we face and the need to take collective responsibility to reduce transmission of the virus. The emergence of new variants is also associated with unmitigated SARS-CoV-2 transmission
Despite this recent increase in the number of cases against a backdrop of low vaccination coverage in Nigeria, there is still generally poor adherence to the recommended public health safety measures. This has been especially the case at recently organised pre-yuletide events. With the foregoing, increased local and international travel due to end of year festivities will be a catalyst for the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron as well as the Delta variant across the globe and in Nigeria. There is an urgent need to promote compliance with the existing guidelines on public health and social measures at places of worship and other mass gathering events.
In 2020, despite better adherence to NPIs before and during the yuletide period, Nigeria still had an upsurge in cases and deaths in December 2020 to January 2021. Unfortunately, current trends indicate even more cases in January 2022, if we all do not adhere to the NPIs and get vaccinated.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is more likely to spread when people gather and do not adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures. As we celebrate this year’s Christmas and welcome 2022, we urge Nigerians to remain mindful of the high risk of spread of COVID-19, and adhere to the following preventive measures:
Limit all non-essential domestic and international travel. Travelers to Nigeria should adhere to the self-isolation, testing and other travel-related protocols
All fully vaccinated travelers to Nigeria must present negative COVID-19 PCR test result performed not more than 48 hours before boarding and perform day 2 testing on arrival in Nigeria
All partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers to Nigeria must present negative COVID-19 PCR test result performed not more than 48hours before boarding and on arrival in Nigeria must self-isolate for 7days and perform day 2 and day 7 PCR testing
Always wear a facemask that covers nose and mouth when in public settings or with people outside your household
Maintain physical distance of at least two metres from people outside household
Avoid direct contact with people such as hugging and handshaking. Avoid sharing items such as prayer mats and kettles
If you must gather, please do this outdoors; otherwise, ensure that indoor venues have enough space to accommodate attendees with appropriate physical distancing, adequate ventilation, and air flow. This must be in line with the existing COVID-19 health regulations
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser when hands are not visibly dirty and running water is not readily available
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue paper or use 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 for information on how to access testing. Do not mingle with others if you have respiratory and other symptoms such as fever, cough or sudden loss of sense of taste or smell
Vulnerable groups i.e., people 60 years and above and/or people with pre-existing medical conditions should avoid non-essential outings and visitors. Where possible, a friend or family member should safely deliver food or any needed supplies. See NCDC advisory for more information- https://covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/media/files/AdvisoryforVulnerableGroupsV2June2020.pdf
Get vaccinated but while the COVID-19 vaccine confers some protection against the disease, it is important for vaccinated people to continue practising these public health and social measures, to protect themselves and others.
We appeal to religious and community leaders to ensure adherence to safe practices at churches, places of worship and other venues, where religious and social gatherings occur. Finally, we urge all Nigerians to take personal and collective responsibility to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19, as we celebrate Christmas and the New Year. We wish all a safe celebration.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is the country’s national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. The Bill for an Act to establish NCDC was signed into law in November 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari. The mission for the NCDC (2017-2021) is ‘To protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities, using a One Health approach, guided by research and led by a skilled workforce’.
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