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As Christmas Celebration Beckons, Is NCDC Prepared To Commence Sensitization On Covid-19?

By Isaac Asabor
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If there is anything that will differentiates the upcoming Christmas celebration from previous Christmases celebrated in Nigeria, it is the prevailing Coronavirus pandemic that is unarguably redefining how people live and interact with others during the period the festivity would last. In other countries across the globe, governments are preoccupied with how families and friends should get together during the long holiday that traditionally stretches into the first week of the New Year. Of more concern to authorities in other countries is how the citizens will celebrate the Christmas or rather spend the holidays amidst the observation of rules on social-distancing.

As it is not arguable that a wide spectrum of the population hardly know what measures should be taken to stay safe from the pandemic, it is not a misnomer to say that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which is the country’s national public health institute, has the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. In a similar vein, it is not false to say in this context that Nigerians are seemingly not seeing NCDC sensitizing Nigerians on Covid-19 ahead of the Christmas celebration.

Still in the same nexus, it is not an exaggeration to assert at this juncture that the NCDC is not established to be playing retroactive roles in the health sector but proactive. Prior to the emergence of Covid-19 pandemic, not many Nigerians know of NCDC as a public preventive health institution.

The reason for such high level unawareness and ignorance about NCDC among the people is that it has not been popularly seen to be consistently carrying out its mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies.

There is no denying the fact that there is collective foreboding fear among the people that relaxing the rules on Covid-19 for the sake of Christmas celebration would risks further spikes in the infections at a time when many countries are seeing a peak, and potentially a decline, in the number of cases. On the other hand, allowing families to get together without advisory or sensitization inputs from the NCDC portends danger for all those that are preparing to celebrate the Christmas holidays after a difficult year of much anxiety, loss and sacrifice due to the pandemic. Against the foregoing background, it would not be out of place to say that the situation foretells a Catch-22 situation on how celebrators would celebrate the Christmas, and the first day of the New Year.

As gathered, officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) have mooted the idea of outdoor gatherings as an option. Without any iota of exaggeration, the “New normal” way of celebrating may be difficult to adjust to but it is a way of life everyone should sacrificially adjust to.

Dr. Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO’s Europe office while pondering over the same issue in an online broadcast encouragingly advised that “It will be a different Christmas, but that does not mean that it cannot be a merry one.”

Kluge noted that during the recent religious celebrations of Ramadan and Diwali, people had turned to technology to get together, with virtual community celebrations online. As Christmas approaches, he said, the public should consider whether getting together with loved ones was prudent.

“Cherish the festive season with those close to you. If it’s a large gathering, with vulnerable people, you might postpone that gathering until you can safely gather. Despite the cold, if local restrictions permit, gather outside with loved ones for picnics in the park,” he said.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to advise the leadership of the NCDC to key into the saying of Dallas Clayton that says, “It’s never too late to start something new, to do all those things that you’ve been longing to do.” By doing that, NCDC will be in the position to enlighten Nigerians on steps to take to “Stay Safe” from Covid-19 throughout the period the Christmas holiday would last.

In doing that, NCDC should sensitize Nigerians that in as much as Christmas is usually a time to cheer, backslap and celebrate by winning, dining and dancing, that they should not forget the negative impact of coronavirus that they all outlived few months ago, and in that light, continue to guide them on how to conduct themselves in social environments. The reason for this cannot be farfetched as there would be wisdom in ensuring that the gory experiences that characterized the prevalence of covid-19 few months back are not witnessed again. Never again!

Against the foregoing backdrop, NCDC should in its message to the people emphasized the fact that the pandemic has meant that everyone, during Christmas holidays, has to make a lot of social adjustments or change in lifestyles to ward off the pandemic, even as they are equally required to put Christmas custom under strict review. There is no denying the fact that Christmas will have to be a little different this year. As a way of keeping spirits high and sending 2020 off with hopes for a brighter 2021, it is expedient we find safe ways of enjoying the Christmas period.

To my view, NCDC should, like never before, activate its mission 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’.

It would be recalled that NCDC has the core functions that cut across preventing, detecting, and controlling diseases of public health importance.

In the same vein, NCDC is mandated to coordinate surveillance systems to collect, analyze and interpret data on diseases of public health importance as well as support States in responding to small outbreaks, and lead the response to large disease outbreaks, develop and maintain a network of reference and specialized laboratories. Others responsibilities include to conduct, collate, synthesize and disseminate public health research to inform policy and lead Nigeria’s engagement with the international community on diseases of public health relevance.

At this juncture, it is expedient to reiteratively ask question, which is invariably the title of this piece, “Is NCDC Prepared to Commence Sensitization on Covid-19?”

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Isaac Asabor and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."