As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ on Saturday, some churches in Abuja did not obey/enforce the COVID-19 protocols of wearing face masks and social distancing.
Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on Dec. 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent who went round some churches to monitor the celebration observed that some worshipers were not wearing their face masks, while others just kept it in their pockets, as some threw caution to the wind and did not have masks at all.
NAN reports that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 had appealed to Nigerians to imbibe the culture of civic responsibility and observe safety measures to reduce community transmission of COVID-19 during the festive period.
The measures include the avoidance of activities that involve mass gathering, especially in enclosed spaces, families are advised to limit the number of visitors to their homes and put in place precautionary safety measures, while any gathering in excess of 50 people should be done in open spaces with physical distancing.
The committee also cautioned against non-essential interstate travels at this period as it will increase the risk of spreading infection from one place to another, while people who intend to travel are encouraged to take a rapid COVID-19 test to confirm their status as many infected persons is asymptomatic.
The PSC also urged Nigerians to ensure they took a full dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, including the booster jab to reduce the risk of severe infection and death in case of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
According to Mr Tony Ejike, a worshipper seen in a Church in the Durumi area of Abuja, the fear factor is lost.
He said, “many Nigerians think that COVID-19 is just a fever and it has become difficult to convince them about the harm that the virus can cause and with the new variant in place.”
He urged the government to ensure strict enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols by deploying officers to public places.
Some worshippers in the Utako area of Abuja were also seen wearing a mask on their chin or clutching it in their hands even as the worship centres were crowded.
Madam Jakiri John, who was seen in Utako said “we have all been vaccinated, and there’s no big deal because we are in the presence of God.”
Dr Peter Gambo, a public health expert, said that the biggest challenge for the PSC this time was to ensure adherence to the safety norms.
Gambo said, “a fine should be charged for non-adherance; let the fear of paying a fine make people wear a mask and observe other protocols.”
Meanwhile, following the decline in compliance with the safety measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on security agencies to work alongside religious bodies to enforce the protocols during the festive season.
This was as the centre disclosed that 45 cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus had so far been detected in the country.
It added that the first Omicron case was detected in a sample on Nov. 9, 2021.
The variant, which was first detected in South Africa and Botswana, spread to other countries.
The NCDC said it was partnering with others in intensifying communication efforts to remind Nigerians of the risk they face and the need to take collective responsibility to reduce the transmission of the virus.
The centre announced that the country had slipped into the fourth wave of the pandemic following a 500 per cent increase in cases in the past two weeks.