Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank has flagged the breach of the protocol for public gatherings at the burial ceremony of the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris.
The ceremony witnessed huge crowds that thronged the palace of the emir who passed away on Monday 21 September 2020. According to Anap Think Tank, while the outpouring of emotion as evidenced by the huge crowds was understandable, there was clear evidence that the public health rules were not followed.
The Think Tank says the breach was an indication that the Kaduna state government did not make adequate provisions to efficiently mitigate the risks of such an assembly despite the state’s efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in recent times.
“If in a State where genuine efforts have been made to limit the spread of the disease in the community this dangerous event nevertheless occurred, then it highlights further the key importance of the authorities’ preparedness,” the foundation said.
Anap Think Tank said there was A need for the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) to urgently address and put in place clear strategies to prevent such a recurrence. It also noted that incidences of social events where COVID-19 protocols were flagrantly disregarded are on the rise across the country.
“We call on the PTF, the Kaduna State Government, and all concerned especially civic, political, and religious leaders to take active steps to safely manage the crowds that are even now trooping daily to the palace for condolence visits. As we watch the world slip in varying degrees into a steep second wave of infection, this is not the time for Nigeria to relax in her efforts at controlling disease spread,” the foundation said.
One area of change it recommended was in behavior change communication. To bring about the change, authorities would need to leverage channels such as radio jingles, posters, cartoons, the information in the lorry parks. The campaign would also have to be sustained to make any reasonable impact on people.
The Think Tank also canvassed the involvement of security and law enforcement personnel who would be given regular re-training and clear guidelines on how best to anticipate and manage large social gatherings.
“Nigeria is beginning to relax its lockdown further as schools resume, and public places of entertainment and worship have reopened to different extents. This is the time to ensure that in those places and in those gatherings appropriate protocols are strictly adhered to. COVID-19 still has no cure. BCC remains our strongest weapon against COVID-19. We raise this issue now as the PTF’s continuous silence on this matter of large gatherings, such as witnessed in Zaria, is inappropriate given the need for their continued clear leadership at this present time,” they said.