The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says mass gatherings can amplify the spread of infectious diseases; including Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.
The Director-General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told newsmen on Monday in Abuja that; mass gatherings were highly visible events with the potential for serious public health consequences; if they were not planned and managed carefully.
However, Ihekweazu disclosed that the NCDC is constantly monitoring the epidemiological situation in the country.
“In view of the rapid evolution and global transmission of COVID-19, NCDC will recommend the cancellation of mass gatherings; in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
“At this stage, we are not advising the cancellation of gatherings. But our advice may change as the epidemiological situation evolves. This is assessed on daily basis and regular updates can be found on www.covid19.ncdc.gov.ng.
“NCDC offers the following guidance with key planning considerations for organizers currently planning mass gatherings; in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
According to him, religious events like church services, calls to prayer, prayer meetings, and other gatherings; like sporting events such as football matches, social events like weddings, funerals, parties, music concerts; and others like youth service camps, conferences, and exhibitions, should be highly monitored.
Further, the NCDC boss said that organizers of such events must ensure adequate preparations before hosting.
He noted that “organizers should also consider using distancing measures to reduce close contact among people during gatherings; by providing more entry and exit points, more food points, ensure handwashing facilities with soap and water are readily available.”
Ihekweazu said that for pre-event or gatherings; state ministries of health should be informed of such an event. Also, locations must be assessed by officials from the ministry to ensure safety procedures were in place.
“Requirements should be assessed prior to events. Organizers should provide information to attendees prior to the event and at entry points,’’ the NCDC urged.
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Meanwhile, he reiterated the need for regular and thorough washing of hands with soap under running water; or use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Other preventive measures suggested are as follows;
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid shaking hands, hugging and any other form of physical contact where possible.
- Please stay at home if you feel ill with fever, cough or breathing difficulties.
- Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or tissue paper when you cough or sneeze and dispose of tissue paper immediately.
Additionally, he advised travelers who just returned from China, Japan, Italy, Republic of Korea, Iran, France, Germany and Spain; to remain in self-isolation for 14 days. The NCDC boss said that during events or gatherings; organizers should use the occasions to reinforce messages on hygiene and staying safe.
Ihekweazu encouraged religious institutions to demonstrate hand washing techniques before the start of prayers to their congregation; and ensure the provision of adequate handwashing facilities, including running water, soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
However, he said that people with symptoms such as cough and fever should not be allowed into the premises; noting that arrangements should be made to check for such on entry.
“Organisers should provide adequate human resources who will be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting communal places such as ablution areas; floors, toilets, and surfaces such as door handles, chairs and church benches with disinfectant or soap. Organizers should provide adequate waste management facilities such as closed trash cans; so that people can dispose of tissue paper and other waste properly. Organizers should review practices that put their congregation at risk, such as sharing of the communal cup; receiving holy communion on the tongue and shaking hands.”
Ihekweazu said that facilities in place for mass gatherings should have adequate ventilation and proper air circulation; handwashing facilities, running water and soap.