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Yuletide Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic In Nigeria

Author: Joshua Egbedimame.

Christmas and New Year are exciting holidays that people all over the world generally look forward to for a number of reasons.

First, it is a holiday, and as such, a time to rest from stressful office work. More so, it is a period to visit family members and old friends, as well as engage in fun and exciting activities. Above all, it is time to make merry, eat and drink freely.

Over the years, yuletide in Nigeria has been a time of great joy when families get together and celebrate. This season is arguably the most celebrated in Nigeria because it is a widely accepted and celebrated holiday. People are mostly seen shopping as early as the first week of December in preparation for the festivities. One could hear expressions like “December don detty” used to mean December would be spent vivaciously. On Christmas and new day, most homes are seen cooking all sorts of special meals to prepare visitors. Children may go from house to house to eat, drink and receive Christmas and New year money or gifts. Adults usually hang out at home, clubs or bars with friends or loved ones.

However, the era of COVID-19 pandemic has changed this normal pattern of celebration as restrictions have been placed on large gatherings. Clubs, bars and amusement parks are to be closed. This new normal is a major adjustment for Nigerians who typically look forward to making their Christmas and New Year “detty”. Despite this, Nigerians are known to be joyful and resilient people who can easily adapt to complex and difficult situations to ensure nothing hinders their celebration.

How then can Nigerians proceed to enjoy this festive season at the same time, stay healthy without compromising the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions as laid down by the authorities?

Virtual Christmas Caroling and Party

While Christmas is all about tradition, with a little creativity (and a strong WiFi connection), you can pull off your favourite Christmas celebration ideas during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually! If you’re unable to get together in person this year, so many holiday ideas can be done over Zoom. This is ideal for churches and offices who normally organise end of the year parties. You can make a playlist and include the link in your invitation to act as a songbook for everyone to follow.

Holiday Movie and Games Night

With family and one or two friends in the comfort of your home, you can plan a movie or game night. There are almost too many good Christmas movies for the season to use. Also, a board game is a great way to ease a small group into conviviality.

Small Holiday Gatherings

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) 2020, laid some guidelines to follow when hosting a gathering that brings together people from different households. Guests should be aware of these considerations and ask their host what mitigation measures will be in place during the gathering. Hosts should consider the following:

  1. Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live on state, local, territorial, or tribal health department websites or CDC’s COVID-19 Data.
  2. Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  3. Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  4. Avoid holding gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
  5. Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the safe and feasible extent based on the weather or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  6. Require guests to wear masks. At gatherings that include persons of different households, everyone should always wear a mask covering both the mouth and nose, except when eating or drinking. It is also important to stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not in your household at all times.
  7. Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down, so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  8. Encourage attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  9. Provide guests with information about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps in place at the gathering to prevent the virus’s spread.
  10. Provide and/or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help everyone to stay healthy. These include extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues. Stock bathrooms with enough hand soap and single-use towels.
  11. Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items, such as serving utensils.
  12. Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.
  13. Plan and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  14. Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people outside the household.

Handling Food and Drinks During Small Holiday Gatherings

It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main mode of transmission.

The following measures should be in place during a small holiday gathering:

  1. Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and members of their own household only.
  2. Wear a mask while preparing food for or serving food to others who don’t live in your household.
  3. All attendees should have a plan for where to store their mask while eating and drinking. Please keep it in a dry, breathable bag (like a paper or mesh fabric bag) to keep it clean between uses.
  4. Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible.
  5. Have one person wearing a mask serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
  6. Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments.
  7. Ensure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving, and eating food and after taking the trash out. Use hand sanitisers that contain at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  8. Designate a space for guests to wash hands after handling or eating food.
  9. Limit crowding in areas where food is served by having one person dispense food individually to plates, always keeping a 6-foot distance from everyone.
  10. Avoid crowded buffet and drink stations.
  11. Change and launder linen items (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins) immediately following the event.
  12. Offer no-touch trash cans for guests to throw away food items easily.
  13. Wash dishes in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water immediately following the gathering.

No doubt, the list is endless; however, the more of these preventive measures put in place, the safer the gathering will be. No one measure is enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Stay safe, stay healthy and do have a wonderful Christmas and New Year Celebration.

Joshua is an avid UHC advocate and is currently a Medical Doctor with the National Youth Service Corps Progamme, Nigeria.

You can connect with him on Linkedin here.

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