Amidst the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 infection in the country and the rising number of new cases, the federal government on Sunday put six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on red alert.
The states, cutting across four of the country’s six geo-political zones of South-west, South-south, North -West and North-central are Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and FCT, the nation’s capital city.
A statement issued early Sunday morning and signed by Chairman Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 Boss Mustapha, said in recent time, the nation had continued to witness “worrisome early signs of the third wave of the pandemic.”
Mustapha, who is also Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), therefore, advised the concerned states and the entire country against losing their guards.
It said: “The PSC, however, warns that all States of the Federation should heighten their state of preparedness and continue to enforce all protocols put in place, given the renowned greater ease of spread of the Delta variant. These steps are critical as we begin to see worrisome early signs of increasing cases in Nigeria.”
Also, Mustapha listed some recommendations to avoid the spread of the infections during and after the celebration of the Islamic festival of Eid-el-Kabir coming up Tuesday, July 20.
On eid prayer
The presidential committee also recommended the decentralisation of the eid prayer on the day of the festival.
Rather than allowing large gatherings at community central prayer grounds, the committee recommended outside of the neighbourhood mosques where Friday prayers usually hold should be used for the eid prayer.
Mustapha said: “The PSC felicitates with the Muslim Ummah on the occasion of the Eid-el-Kabir celebration. It, however, urges all State Governments and Religious Leaders to be mindful of the potential for wider spread of the virus during large gatherings. The PSC, therefore, recommends the following preventive measures for a safe Eid-el-Kabir celebration: a) Decentralisation of Eid Prayer to neighborhood Friday Prayer Mosques (outdoor); b) Suspension of Durbar activities; and c) Observation of limitations on all Indoor gatherings.”
It called for the suspension of durbar event, which has become a major tourist attraction.
It said the event is an age long celebration organised in many northern Nigerian cities and usually involves colourful parades of the emirs and their entourage on horses, who are accompanied by musicians.
The committee said the event’s potential of attracting large numbers of participants which may be difficult to control, informed its recommendation that the event be suspended.
On border posts
Further to this, the committee promised that “the surveillance at the nation’s border posts and particularly the airports will be strengthened,” saying the existing quarantine protocols and restrictions shall be sustained.
It said: “The PSC shall continue to minimise the risk of importation of Variants of Concern into the country by strengthening Surveillance at all Points of Entry (POE), enforcing extant quarantine protocols and sustaining the current restrictive measures against travelers arriving from India, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa.”
FCT to shut parks
Meanwhile, the Abuja Park management has issued guidelines ahead of the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations, announcing the closure of recreation centres within the FCT throughout the festive period.
A statement issued Saturday night by the chief press secretary to the FCT minister, Anthony Ogunleye, said the decisions were taken at the meeting of an emergency operations committee on COVID-19 in the capital city.
“All Eid prayers in the FCT are to be held in the open spaces at Juma’at Mosques as well as the National Eid Ground…All open Eid grounds should have multiple entry and exit points with hand washing and temperature checking facilities; the holding capacity of Eid grounds should be reduced to 50% to ensure physical/social distancing.
“Imams should ensure that sermons are short so that the entire Eid prayers do not exceed one hour; all parks and recreational grounds and facilities shall remain closed throughout the festive period, and worshippers are enjoined to adhere to all prescribed non-pharmaceutical preventive measures of facial coverings, constant hand washing and physical distancing,” the statement said.
Southern senators preach unity at Eid-el-Kabir
Meanwhile, members of the National Assembly under the aegis of Southern Senators Forum have appealed to Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue in settling all differences, rather than threatening division and war.
The lawmakers said the country’s diversity has been its greatest strength, respect and reckoning in the global politics, maintaining that Nigeria has immeasurable dividends to savour in staying united than disintegrating into fragments.
They saluted Muslims for their contributions to the stability of this nation, urging them to sustain the tempo for Nigeria to regain its strength economically, politically and in all ramifications.
The forum’s chairman and lawmaker representing Ekiti Central, Opeyemi Bamidele said this in a Sallah message Sunday.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker warned that the country has nothing to gain with the deafening war drums being beaten over agitations in some quarters, saying such demands can still be achieved through dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.
Bamidele urged Muslims to offer prayer supplications for Nigeria as they celebrate Sallah for Allah to rescue the nation from the dungeon of kidnappings, carnages of multifaceted dimensions and threat of secession.
“This is the most challenging time for this nation and we need God’s urgent intervention to rescue us from this unpalatable situation.
“This is not the time for blame-game or exchange of tantrums on the basis of ethnicity, politics and religion that can exacerbate already tensed condition and stoke the ember of disunity amongst our diverse ethnic nationalities.
“The combined effects of the COVID -19 and insecurity have affected our economy adversely. Food inflation is crippling the economy and the masses are groaning in excruciating pains.
“We need collective efforts to save the nation from this parlous situation. Our Muslim brothers have made huge sacrifices and this time offers another opportunity to help the country further with their prayers.
“We rejoice with them at this festive time and wish them a happy celebration,” the forum said.