The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has urged Nigerians to be weary of festivities such as Christmas carols as the year winds down.
It also warned against non-essential travels just as it asked Nigerians abroad to remain wherever they are or stand the risk of being stranded in the country in the event that the government takes a decision on international travels.
The call formed the theme of the speeches of the Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha; the national coordinator, Sani Aliyu; the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the weekly briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday.
Mustapaha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the PTF was escalating its surveillance and testing drive to ensure that the spread of the virus was effectively contained as the nation approaches the festive season.
“We shall continue to remind Nigerians that all non-essential trips should be put off this December. This is for your safety and good health,” he said.
Speaking on vaccines, the PTF chairman said while it was a significant achievement, it was however, important for the citizens to continue to comply with the non-pharmaceutical interventions before the vaccines would become available.
“The PTF is already working on the strategy for gaining access to the vaccine as soon as they are available,” he added.
The SGF also said over the past weeks, discussions have been held about the safety issues pertaining to the National Sports Festival scheduled to hold in Benin, Edo State.
He said new dates have been agreed upon early in 2021, before which, measures would be put in place to minimize infections.
‘Don’t come home for Christmas’
Aliyu advised Nigerians in the Diaspora not to consider coming home, urging them to celebrate Christmas and New Year wherever they are.
He said, “Nigerians outside the country, hopefully they will stay where they are. And for Nigerians in-country, we will also stay where we are.
The national coordinator disclosed that for every 1,000 passengers coming into the country, the nation records 10 positive cases of COVID-19.
He added, “Please, for this period, if your travel is not essential, stay where you are. We are actively discouraging Nigerians abroad from coming home this Christmas because of COVID-19 and the number of infections we have outside the country.
“So, the message is; if you do not want to get stranded, if you do not want to bring COVID-19 to your elderly relatives in Nigeria, please stay where you are. There will be other holidays.”
Christmas carols, travels ‘supper spreaders’ of virus
At the press briefing, Ihekweazu said Christmas carols, travels and other gatherings during festivities were capable of turning out to be “super spreaders” of the virus, hence the need for Nigerians to avoid them as much as possible.
He said, “This is really to re-emphasise the call by the PTF that many of the traditional meetings that we engage in at this time of the year, whether they are Christmas carols or festivals, trips, family gatherings, each of those could end up being a super spreader event. So, we must take this into consideration as we make our choices.”
Ihekweazu said a travel advisory has been issued detailing why both local and international travels must be avoided unless they are absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, the SGF said the national response to COVID-19 pandemic and security must be prioritised as security could not be relaxed even while tackling the virus in the country.
Mustapha also noted that the global number of COVID-19 infections crossed 63 million on Sunday, 29th November, 2020.
According to him, in Africa, Nigeria ranked 5th for both the highest cumulative cases and deaths.