Despite Omicron surge, Nigerians jettison Covid protocols




As Nigerians battle the effects of the deadly coronavirus, co-named Covid-19, its new variant Omicron is said to be far more contagious. Despite this, some Nigerians have jettisoned the Covid protocols; TOPE SUNDAY reports.

Nigeria, like other parts of the world, is challenged by the outbreak of the deadly Covid-19 and this has resulted in 3,087 deaths out of the 249,422 recorded as of Monday, January 9, 2022. Despite this development, Blueprint Weekend can reliably report that in major establishments in Abuja and other states, the strict Covid-19 safety measures, which was introduced before the emergence of the Omicron variant, has been relaxed as some Nigerians now jettisoned the pandemic protocols.

The Omicron variant  

Omicron, which was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, 2021, according to Wikipedia, is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

It stated that on 26 November, WHO designated it as a variant of concern and named it “Omicron,” the fifteenth letter in the Greek alphabet.

“The variant has an unusually large number of mutations, several of which are novel and a significant number of which affect the spike protein targeted by most Covid-19 vaccines at the time of the discovery of the Omicron variant. This level of variation has led to concerns regarding its transmissibilityimmune system evasion, and vaccine resistance. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that the Omicron variant is less virulent than previous strains, especially compared to the Delta variant.

“Omicron is believed to be far more contagious (spreading much quicker), to multiply around 70 times faster than the Delta variant in the bronchi (lung airways), but to be less able to penetrate deep lung tissue, leading scientists to consider this reason as the cause of reduction in the risk of severe disease requiring hospitalisation, when compared to previously identified variants of concern. 

“However, the extremely high rate of spread, combined with its ability to evade both double vaccination and the body’s immune system, means the total number of patients requiring hospital care at any given time is still of great concern,” it stated.

The Covid protocols’ rejection

As of January 11, 2022, 422 new confirmed Covid cases and one death were recorded in Nigeria. Also, according to covid19.ncdc.gov.ngwhich was accessed by this medium on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, a total of 249,154 cases had been confirmed, 220,195 cases discharged and 3086 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The data also stated that 422 new cases are reported from 15 States – Rivers (178), Kwara (87), FCT (57), Borno (20), Kaduna (17), Plateau (14), Katsina (12), Delta (6), Edo (6), Jigawa (6), Anambra (5), Ekiti (5), Oyo (5), Ogun (3), Nasarawa (1).

But despite this figure coupled with the reality of the Omicron variant, this medium can reliably report that residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and other states visited by our reporter had jettisoned the wearing of face masks, and other safety measures introduced when the pandemic broke out in Nigeria.

 Investigations and participatory observation by our reporter confirmed that some of them now use facemasks for cosmetic purposes, while some had completely dropped it. Also, this medium can confirm that facemasks are only mandatory in public places like banks and some of the government agencies.

However, this reporter, who boarded commercial vehicles within the Abuja metropolis, recently confirmed that most of the commuters and drivers hardly used facemasks.

This reporter, who embarked on a trip from Banex to Lugbe and Gbwagwalada axis, reports that except some of the students of the University of Abuja, who wore face masks, others commuters encountered on the trip flouted the rule. Also, in another trip from Zuba to Area One, the experience was the same.

A driver, who plies Abuja to Ilorin route, and identified himself as FM, claimed he observed the Covid while driving, but said he could not enforce the same on his passengers.

 “As a driver, I always wear my facemask and if you check inside my car, you will also see hand sanitiser. I know that Covid exists and there is another variant called Omicron, but at the beginning of our trip whether from Ilorin to Abuja or the other way round, we normally request our passengers to wear their nose masks. However, most of them barely less than one hour into the journey, they would have removed them. At times, some of them would adhere strictly to it. But in all, we don’t have the power to force our passengers to wear nose masks,” he said. 

Ignorance or defiance?

Though the refusal to observe the Covid safety measure could lead to a spike in the recorded cases of Covid, investigation by this medium further revealed that some Nigerians are not aware of the emergence of the Omicron variant, while those who know about it doubt its deadly nature.

A Kwara resident, Akeem Mohammed, an Okada rider, said he was not aware of the Omicron existence, arguing that he only knew about Covid-19, which he also called ‘the Oyinbo sickness.’

He said: “I am not aware of what you called the Omicron variant, I knew of the Covid-19, which they said is killing some Nigerians. But when you look at those who are dying in large numbers, you will realize that they are the Oyibo. Covid-19 is said to be in Nigeria, but… On the issue of facemask, I wear it if my passenger insists but not regularly’’.

An Abuja-based commercial driver, Suraju Hassan, on his part, said he uses facemask at will, adding that if he gets to where the Covid protocols are observed, he puts on his facemask, but removes it when he is with those who are not observing it.

 “Most times, I wear my facemask when I am where the Covid-19 protocols are strictly observed in order to get access and feel belong, but when I am with those who are not observing any protocol, I will remove it to avoid being seen as a stranger.

“Also, some of my passengers wear their facemasks while some don’t; I hang the facemask in my car in case of any enforcement. For my passengers, I must admit here that I don’t have the power to force them to wear facemasks,” he said.

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