Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are among the measures adopted to check and contain pandemics like COVID-19.
Experts agree that preventing the spread of new diseases, with no known vaccine to check spread, is a huge challenge.
They say that adopting NPIs is imperative while the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) listed the measures as hygiene, isolation and social distancing.
They say that if clustering of people is considered a major catalyst in the spread of COVID-19, social distancing is therefore important for its control. But compliance, they noted, has remained a concern, especially in Nigeria.
Unfortunately however, some Nigerians who adhered to the NPIs measures were still infected with the virus.
Nigerians should avoid pandemic fatigue’ – NCDC boss
Addressing the issues, the director-general, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said it was not unusual that Nigerians had started to experience ‘pandemic fatigue’, a situation where there was less interest in adhering to public health measures.
He said, “If people become impatient with the non-pharmaceutical measures in place or they do not believe the warnings to be real or relevant, then we are faced with a huge challenge.
“It has been a very long one year. But if we stop adhering to public health and social measures like hand-washing, proper use of face masks, physical distancing and others, we are giving the virus a chance to spread further and affect more lives.”
The NCDC boss said that even though there could be a feeling on pandemic fatigue, Nigerians should not ignore warnings by public health authorities, adding that Nigerians must continue to take the pandemic and safety measures very seriously.
“Some people have let down their guards. They are attending mass gatherings with no public health and safety measures.
”Even if you have your mask on, how frequently do you touch your face?
“You can possibly forget yourself and contact the virus without knowing and cannot remember where you caught the virus from. This is a risk to lives and to livelihoods as well.
“Let us take responsibility to protect our country together,” he said.
Dr Akyala Ishaku, senior lecturer, Department of Microbiology, Nasarawa State University, who spoke on the issue, said there was no perfection in adhering to the COVID-19 standard protocols.
“An important driver of this increased disease activity continues to be informal social gatherings and activities both inside and outside our homes, newer daily cases could more than double in a few weeks if we do not follow health precautions in these more relaxed settings.
“It is natural for us to relax, but this can mean that it is easy for us to forget ourselves and let our guard down on the necessary preventives measures of this virus.
“Also, your personal experience does not change the fact that millions of people round the world have these painful encounters throughout the course of 2020,” he explained.
Ishaku, however, said people could actually be infected without knowing, while spreading the virus to others.
“Are we really okay with the idea of making our friends and family sick or possibly being the reason why some of them are no more here with us?
“Most likely not. Even if we do not get sick, it does not necessarily mean that we cannot spread the virus to other members of our family, our neighbours, or our friends.
“It is still very important that we continue to take preventive measures regardless,” he advised.
According to him, the masking recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) do not say that masks are only for people who have not had the illness. They’re saying masks are for everybody. Ishaku stressed this is not the time to give up.
“The best thing for us to do is come together as a group: the people who have thankfully survived the infection and those who have not been infected or diagnosed, to work together in order to prevent further infection especially now that the numbers are skyrocketing.
“We’re getting close. Now is not the time to take your foot off the gas. It’s not the time to unlearn everything that we have done over the last months. Let us not stumble at the finish line.
“We have to really keep up on everything we are doing, while we wait for these vaccines to get up in production to ensure that they are safe first and foremost.
“Once we can get distribution up, we can get people some extra protection against this virus in the country,” he said.
Need for social distancing
According to Dr Solomon Chollom, a Jos-based virologist, viruses in small, airborne particles called aerosols, could infect people at both close and long range.
“Aerosols are suspended in air like cigarette smoke. They are most concentrated close to someone who has the infection.
“They can travel farther than six feet, linger, build up in the air and remain infectious for hours. As a consequence, to lessen the chances of inhaling this virus, it is vital to take all of the following steps:
“Practice physical distancing the farther the better, wear a face mask when you are with others, even when you can maintain physical distancing.
“Face masks not only lessen the amount of virus coming from people who have the infection, but also lessen the chances of you inhaling the virus.
“Improve ventilation by opening windows. Learn how to clean the air effectively with methods such as filtration. If you are outdoor, you wear a face mask if you cannot physically distance by at least six feet or, ideally, more. Whenever possible, move group activities outside,” he advised.
Chollom said that whether people are indoors or outdoors, they should remember that their risks increase with the duration of their exposure and interaction with others.
He noted that the use of facemasks and hand washing were essential safety measures but were not absolute prevention.
Chollom noted that the most assured preventive measure was vaccination, as vaccination confers total protection.
“This is unlike the use of facemask where a moment of carelessness in terms of how you wear it or how you remove it as well as how hygienic your hands are can expose you to the infection.
“In essence, with facemask, we need to stay conscious yet you could still be in trouble, but with vaccination, you can take the highest risk and still be safe,” he explained.