With the reality of the second wave of coronavirus (COVID-19), many Nigerians, particularly religious worshippers, still seem to have thrown caution to the wind by flagrantly flouting the protocols put in place by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
While government at all levels scramble with emergency actions to curb the spread, poor compliance attitude has remained a major challenge that undermine the control and prevention of the pandemic in the country.
This newspaper has observed with dismay that while the response rate in religious centres are actually below expectation, the adherence level in most of these centres stands at zero. They demonstrate nonchalant attitude with total lack of commitment to preventive guidelines issued by government authorities
In the last 48 hours, there has been a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country. As at December 21, 2020 for instance, a total of 78,790 cases and 1,227 deaths were recorded nationwide
The recorded increase is as a result of a convergence of circumstances which include increased local and international travels, business and religious activities with minimal compliance with COVID-19 safety measures by the members of the public.
As at Friday, January 8 , NCDC update showed that 1, 565 new cases were reported from 25 states within 24hours- bringing the number of confirmed cases to 95, 934, discharged cases 77, 982 and 1,330 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory -with over 70 million reported globally.
Unfortunately the death toll is mounting as the disease claims the lives of some prominent Nigerians, while other high profile persons at different times who tested positive to the virus, escaped the fatal consequence.
Depressingly, despite this development, and the huge number of cases and fatalities being reported lately, many Nigerians including religious worshippers remain unconvinced, holding tenaciously to some misconceptions about the virus, sometimes describing the disease as a “rich man’s syndrome” or a fraud altogether.
The truth is that nothing could be more devastating than losing lives due to avoidable causes. This is even more worrisome as it has become increasingly difficult to access other types of medical care since COVID-19 was first imported into Nigeria in February 2020.
Worse, in our view, is that for fear of exposure to the infection, many hospitals are shutting their doors against patients. Besides, the need to contain the pandemic has further stretched medical facilities to the limit. Many doctors that should have provided routine services have been thrown into the frontline of the fight against the deadly infection.
It is pertinent to point out that while virtually all sectors in the country such as health, economy, transportation, agriculture, education, security, politics, religion, and the entertainment sectors have been seriously affected and still being threatened by the virus, the negative impact will be enormous on people’ jobs, businesses, family life and social relations if nothing is done to curb the menace.
As a newspaper, we consider it important to warn that although vaccines for the treatment of COVID- 19 has been discovered, without positive behavioural changes in belief-systems and attitudes to completely dismiss some of the common misconceptions about the virus; concerted efforts to battle this pandemic may prove futile.
We are even more worried that government agencies responsible for implementing the stipulated protocols have greatly faltered. Federal and state governments have failed to stay committed to testing, contact tracing and other measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. The few people who still use their facemasks have almost become outcast as many of them are taunted by those who erroneously believe the virus has been defeated in the country.
In the meantime, we advocate that asymptomatic patients, too, need to be accommodated in the efforts to control the disease because they are silent spreaders who hardly get tested and may not be keeping to safety guidelines.
The federal and state governments should consider broader surveillance strategies for detecting infections, and make data on case count. Until the testing capacity is vastly improved, expanded, and utilised, it will be difficult to have a realistic measurement of meaningful testing strategy for the country, and an exact measure of the response impact.
This exposes the stance that among the assets that religious leaders offer is trust -perhaps the most vital key in a crisis for addressing fear and misinformation.
Reasons are that millions of people worldwide look more to religious leaders than civil authorities for guidance on how to behave and what to believe in a crisis situation. To this extent, we are compelled to recommend that religious groups should not relent in ensuring that worshippers change their attitudes and respect the protocols- social distancing guidelines, including sanitisation measures and wearing of masks. For everyone’s safety sake.