Why you need to stay home this Yuletide

An important reason in the decision to lockdown by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) was the hope that restriction could be eased in time for Yuletide. The government has had a difficult decision to make between controlling the spread of the virus and limiting the economic damage caused by restrictions.

Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 notified that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries. Particularly, Lagos, Kaduna and the FCT have emerged as the new epicentres during this period, with over 70 percent of all confirmed cases.

As the holiday season approaches, Nigerians need to consider what effect it will have on people’s compliance with public health rules and the spread of COVID-19. Are concerns about broken rules and increasing cases unfounded?

However, in these holidays we face a different problem which has to do with the effects our behaviour has on one another and how people make decisions based on the information they receive and who delivers this information.

Individuals have had different experiences and perhaps more importantly, norms have been shown to be effective in changing behaviour. This is why Nigerians need to pay attention to the COVID-19 compliance guideline by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in taking responsibility to stay safe. They involve deep-rooted norms of behaviour that potentially have the power to pull us away from risk to exposure of contracting and spreading the virus with the previous behaviours we have adopted.

Combating the effects of behaviours of individual around the holiday season will be difficult, because people may have misperceptions. When this happens, individuals are likely to conform to behaviour that they think is familiar and are fake news. This can lead people to underestimate the prevalence of healthy behaviours or overestimate the prevalence of unhealthy behaviours, and then allow these assessments to drive their own decision making.

So overall, it looks like this holiday season, we have a problem and need to increase the level of awareness and communication. Without significant intervention, individual behaviours during this holiday period have the potential to overturn compliance that governments have worked so hard to establish. If this happens, cases during and after the holiday period are likely to rise.

Hence, between now and then, policymakers need to reinforce the necessity of complying with public health measures, and information campaigns need to focus on the heightened risk of not doing so. By offering clear and steady messaging on how people should behave, we might just be able to step a line between dangerously raising viral transmission on the one hand, and having to shut down for Yuletide altogether.

In response to the increase in cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and poor adherence to public health and social measures across the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is escalating its ongoing public communications efforts through a new campaign themed CelebrateResponsibly.

Critically, Nigerians are being urged to adhere to recommended measures by NCDC and other public health authorities, as they celebrate Yuletide and New Year.

The agency has earlier advised that as you celebrate this festive period, people should avoid all non-essential travel within and outside Nigeria to reduce the risk of transmission. The virus that causes COVID-19 is more likely to spread in mass gatherings especially when held indoors.

The agency also advised that people avoid mass gatherings during this time, or hold them outdoors with physical distancing, compulsory use of facemasks and provision of handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer noting that one might come in contact with infected people with no symptoms.

In the same way, Boss Mustapha, chairman of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19, has asked Nigerians not to travel during the festive season to limit the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Chairman of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 also said that new cases can emerge in places that have not been by affected if people travel and gather for festivities noting that ahead of the upsurge in travels for the Yuletide and New Year festivities, we urge strongly that for this year, such trips should be put on hold firmly because of the risks involved. The transmission rate has simply become astronomical.

The response of citizens to testing and detection are very low. The risk of importation will be higher with the opening of airspace, and the numbers in Nigeria, though appearing low over the weeks, has been rising gradually, PTF reminds Nigerians.

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