New Year celebrations: Experts project high infection rate as Nigerians shun protocols at fun spots.

Medical experts have warned that Nigeria risks a further surge in COVID-19 cases following complete disregard for safety protocols at crowded fun spots, including beaches, during the New Year celebrations.

Renowned virologists, who spoke to our correspondents in separate interviews, lambasted state and federal governments for not enforcing safety rules and bringing violators to book.

The experts said this as the Federal Government said it distributed 400,000 COVID-19 test kits in the last one week as the rate of recovery from the virus dropped by 73.2 per cent.

On Sunday, beaches in Lagos including the ones at Oniru, Eleko and Elegushi were crowded with fun seekers not adhering to safety rules.

Also, contrary to the directive by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, which restricts gatherings at religious centres to 50 per cent, crossover services at most worship centres were full to capacity.

In Lagos, government officials were not around to enforce safety rules at crowded fun spots and worship centres despite the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

On Monday, a professor of Medical virology at the University of Maiduguri, Professor Marycelin Baba; a former Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians, Professor Tanimola Akande and an associate Professor of virology at the Osun State University, Dr. Waheed Sule warned Nigerians that uncontrolled gatherings at fun spots, beaches and non-adherence to public health measures would lead to a surge in cases and fuel community transmission.

The experts also predicted that more individuals would be infected with the Omicron variant due to the high transmissibility of the variant.

Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH, Professor Baba stated that the omicron variant had the ability to spread faster than other variants.

She said, “One thing about the omicron is its ability to spread faster. This can only mean that more people will come down with the virus after the testing season. The sad thing is that most of them will not know this because they will refuse to get tested.

“The same set of Nigerians who refuse to follow public health protocols are the same Nigerians who will also refuse to get vaccinated. Nigerians need to see the need to adhere to these rules, from now, we will likely witness a huge surge in cases and most of those cases would be traced to the festive seasons especially when people start to travel back to their respective bases.

The former chairman, Association of Public health Physicians of Nigeria, Akande in a separate interview with The PUNCH agreed with Professor Baba. He said, “It does have an implication. We know that Omicron spreads faster than the other variants. The whole world has been wary of the holiday period because of a lot of travel and fun. The number of people that will come down with omicron will be so many.

“The best thing is to adhere to instructions. We should have been used to these instructions. Government needs to test people more because if they test people more, people who are infected will know but because we are not testing enough, people feel they do not have it hence they go around infecting others. That is the challenge.”

Also, an associate professor of virology, Osun State University, Dr Sule Waheed, said, “Disregarding the protocols has implications. The government can do little to stop people from gathering. It is very difficult for the government to enforce the protocols because Nigerians will never listen.

“We have been hearing news of enforcement but I am yet to see a case of enforcement or arrest. People should understand that if they can not adhere to the measures then they should stay at home.”

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