Nigerian gov’t places six states, FCT on red alert of COVID-19 third wave

Nigeria’s Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire

Following the emergence of the Delta variant of coronavirus infection in the country and the rising number of new cases and hospitalisations, the Nigerian government has put six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on a red alert.

The affected states, which are spread across four of the country’s six geopolitical zones of South-west, South-south, North-West and North-central are Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and the nation’s capital, FCT.

A statement issued early Sunday morning and signed by the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, noted that the nation has, in the recent time, continued to witness “worrisome early signs of the third wave of the pandemic.”

Mr Mustapha, who doubles as the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), therefore, advised the concerned states and the country as a whole against losing their guards.

The statement reads in part; “The PSC, however, warns that all States of the Federation should heighten their state of preparedness and continue to enforce all protocols put in place, given the renowned greater ease of spread of the Delta variant. These steps are critical as we begin to see worrisome early signs of increasing cases in Nigeria.”

The statement also announced some recommendations to avoid the spread of the infections during and after the celebration of the Islamic festival of Eid-el-Kabir which comes up on Tuesday, July 20.

On eid prayer

The committee recommends the decentralisation of the eid prayer on the day of the festival. It said rather than allowing large gatherings at community central prayer grounds, outside of the neighbourhood mosques where Friday prayers are usually said should be used for the eid prayer.

“The PSC felicitates with the Muslim Ummah on the occasion of the Eid-el-Kabir celebration. It however, urges all State Governments and Religious Leaders to be mindful of the potential for wider spread of the virus during large gatherings. The PSC, therefore, recommends the following preventive measures for a safe Eid-el-Kabir celebration: a) Decentralization of Eid Prayer to neighborhood Friday Prayer Mosques (outdoor); b) Suspension of Durbar activities; and c) Observation of limitations on all Indoor gatherings,” the statement added.

The durbar event, which has become a major tourist attraction, is an age long celebration organised in many northern Nigerian cities and usually involves colourful parades of the emirs and their entourage on horses, who are accompanied by musicians.

The event’s potential to attract large numbers of participants which may be difficult to control is said to have informed the committee’s recommendation.

On border posts

The committee promised that the surveillance at the nation’s border posts and particularly the airports will be strengthened, saying the existing quarantine protocols and restrictions shall be sustained.

“The PSC shall continue to minimise the risk of importation of Variants of Concern into the country by strengthening Surveillance at all Points of Entry (POE), enforcing extant quarantine protocols and sustaining the current restrictive measures against travelers arriving from India, Brazil, Turkey andSouth Africa,” it said.

FCT to shut parks

Meanwhile, the Abuja management has issued guidelines ahead of the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations, announcing the closure of recreation centres within the FCT throughout the festive period.

The management, in a statement issued on Saturday night, and signed by Anthony Ogunleye, the chief press secretary to the FCT minister, Muhammad Bello, noted that the decisions were taken at the meeting of an emergency operations committee on COVID-19 in the capital city.

The statement reads in part; “All Eid prayers in the FCT are to be held in the open spaces at Jumaat Mosques as well as the National Eid Ground…All open Eid grounds should have multiple entry and exit points with hand washing and temperature checking facilities; the holding capacity of Eid grounds should be reduced to 50% to ensure physical/social distancing.

“Imams should ensure that sermons are short so that the entire Eid prayers do not exceed one hour; all parks and recreational grounds and facilities shall remain closed throughout the festive period, and worshippers are enjoined to adhere to all prescribed non-pharmaceutical preventive measures of facial coverings, constant hand washing and physical distancing.”