The federal government Monday announced new guidelines for the conduct of elections in the country during the coronavirus pandemic.
Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control (MCDC) Dr Chike Ihekweazu, who made the announcement at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on the Control of COVID-19, said political parties should use electronic media for campaigns.
He said political parties should also make use of mobile trucks with everyone onboard wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance and making frequent use of hand sanitizers.
““Today, I’ll take on two very important topics, one is today we are announcing and launching new guidelines for the conducting of elections during the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria.
“As you’re all aware, some states will be holding state and local government elections this year being the first time we’re holding elections of this significance during a pandemic.
“Therefore, we’ve developed these guidelines to support everyone involved political parties, INEC, but most critically Nigerians as we are going to vote in these difficult times, voting still remains a civic responsibility and even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic we have to find a way of doing this safely.
“We have to adapt to the new normal and as we know the virus thrives in mass gatherings, so there’s a challenge that we have in the way. We have conducted elections, pre-election, during election, post-election.
“In these guidelines, we try and offer advice on how to do this safely. We strongly encourage the use of TV, radio, mobile vans, social media, and other forms of communication as we solicit for votes as a politician solicits for votes. “We advise careful adherence to mass Gathering guidelines. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t really recognise whether we’re conducting elections, whether it’s religious gatherings, whether we are in business settings, it just thrives when people come together.
“We have provided specific guidelines for these settings, none of them will be surprising but we’ve been explicit about it. And finally in this particular case, we really want to urge our politicians, leaders to take responsibility and lead by example.
“Leadership will be critical in this era and we’re asking you to please think of the lives of the electorate first, the electorate staying alive is much much much more important than any vote you can win.
“Let’s take that into consideration, look at these new guidelines that have been very well considered and consulted on and I hope they can lead us to safe elections as these are from a public health perspective,” he said.
He said the NCDC has also launched a free COVID-19 Online Course on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC).
He said the course is for everyone, and not limited to health professionals.“The other thing is on the infection, prevention and control course. We have a new online course that we’ve been working on for months. This new infection, prevention and control course, while targeting healthcare professionals, will be enjoyable to anyone that has an interest.
“It is done for Nigerians, by Nigerians, by Nigerian actors acting out the scenes in Nigerian hospitals and healthcare settings. There’s never been anything like this. It brings infection, prevention and control to your doorsteps and the consciousness of everyone.
“We have worked very hard on this making sure that the examples are examples that each of us will be familiar with so that if you have a challenge in your office and you want to understand how to decontaminate your office after an event, you can go onto this course and learn how to do it.
“It’s open to health care workers, open to any Nigerian because IPC is those areas that we don’t really see as an outbreak response. We really want to transform how Nigerians, doctors, nurses, but also patients related to infection, prevention and control, we want next time patients go to a doctor they know exactly when to insist that that doctor wears gloves for what procedures he should be wearing a mask, and for now, obviously, he should be wearing a mask all the time.
“Our work around IPC at the Niger Center for Disease Control has actually started over two years ago with a project called turn Nigeria orange where we started preaching this gospel of IPC.
“Since the onset of this outbreak, we’ve trained over 15,000 healthcare workers across the country and this is a process that will be ongoing until we cover as many healthcare workers as we possibly can.
“Within NCDC we’ve created a whole new unit that focuses and will continue to focus exclusively on infection, prevention and control because this is one area that we have neglected for too long, we want to strengthen and we feel we’re in a good position to do so.
“The work that we’re doing on IPC has been recognized across the world and the Africa Center for Disease Control has asked us to lead on the expansion of the strengthening of IPC across the continent,” he said.