Churches shun safety as COVID-19 rises

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Amid rising cases of coronavirus infections, many churches across the country flouted safety precautions in celebrating Christmas.

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Worship centres were packed full in excess of 50 per cent capacity as many shunned   physical distancing and wearing face masks as preached by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19.

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The PSC had appealed to Nigerians to imbibe the culture of civic responsibility and observe safety measures to reduce community transmission of COVID- 19 during this festive period

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Mr Tony Ejike, a member of the Winners Chapel Church, Durumi said Nigerians have overcome the fear of COVID-19. “Nigerians now think that COVID-19 is just a fever and it has become difficult to convince them about the harm that the virus can do and with the new variant in place.”

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Ejike blamed the PSC on COVID-19 for its meek position on enforcement. 

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At the Family Worship Center, Wuye, attended by the Chairman, PSC on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, mask-wearing was at its barest minimum.  The church celebrated its   Christmas Carol and Service of Nine lessons but the COVID-19 directives on capacity and social distancing were not observed. 

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Worshipers were also seen wearing masks on their chin or clutching it in their hands even as the worship center was crowded. 

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“We have all been vaccinated and there’s no big deal because we are in the presence of God,” said Madam Jakiri John.

Dr Peter Gambo, a public health expert, said that biggest challenge for the PSC this time was that they refused to ensure Nigerians’ adherence to the safety norms. 

Gambo noted that there was no fine in place for flouting the protocols “because the authorities too were not keeping to the norm they put in place.”

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 safety 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 November 9, 2021. The variant, which was first detected in South Africa and Botswana, has 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.

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“Security agencies are also encouraged to ensure consistency of the messages to the community, as generated by relevant authorities as well as identify the right channels of communication. These include the Federal Ministry of Health, state Ministries of Health and the NCDC.

“Information and feedback should also be shared with relevant authorities to influence decision-making and strategies. We urge security personnel to be aware of the high risk of spread of COVID-19 and the great risk of exposure occasioned by their jobs and to ensure that they are fully vaccinated, including booster doses,” the NCDC stated. The NCDC, a few days ago, declared that Nigeria had slipped into the fourth wave of the pandemic following a 500 per cent increase

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