NUGA2022: In Conversation with NCDC Head of Comms

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By Temiloluwa Erinle

The 26th edition of the NUGA Games was officially jerked into motion yesterday, the 16th day of March, 2022. It was the day of arrival and registration of athletes, external organizers, and volunteers.

Buses after buses gliding through the gate of Olympia-esque UNILAG. Earnest university athletes arriving from all six regions of the nation; a mix of excitement and tension in the air.

Mandated by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as part of the registration process includes confirmation of COVID-19 vaccination and testing for the infection since the vaccination doesn’t prevent contamination of the world-devastating virus.

Despite the hectivity of coordinating the testing process, Head of Communications for NCDC, Dr. Disu Yahya generously agreed to an exclusive interview with the Press Club, UNILAG.

In the conversation, he shed light on reasons why the testing exercise was compulsory.

“We are in a pandemic era, and this is a mass gathering, this is a super-spreader. We are having over 8,000, close to 10,000 people participating in different types of sports in a location. We need to put measures in place to safeguard against transmission of COVID-19. People are coming from different parts of the country, to converge, and then it’s not like we have declared COVID-19 over.”

Truly, while most Nigerians and people from some parts of the global world live a post-pandemic life, with all its rollovers and tweak of culture and habit, the pandemic isn’t truly over.

According to the NCDC, 12 new cases were discovered on Monday, March 14. On a global scale, there were 4,485,392 confirmed new cases on the same day, according to data by World Health Organization (WHO) displayed on its COVID-19 data-tracking website.

Though, prevalence is low at the moment, the viral bodies swim in and out on the edges of waves, sometimes boisterous ones.

“We pray that we don’t have a variant that is very wild and causes more severity,” said Dr. Disu.

Sadly, Nigerians generally do not comply with interventions to limit the spread of the virus and eliminate it altogether. According to Dr. Disu, they hardly practise: “the use of facemask, hand hygiene, and, you know, physical distancing.”

“The number of people who are vaccinated is still very low and that is worrisome.”

Therefore, everyone coming for the now unfolding events is encouraged to be vaccinated and tested, to wear the guardian mask, and habituate oneself to hand hygiene, lest the virus “spreads easily here, and people go back to their states, and it spreads to different states and different institutions.”

When asked about the conduction of the testing exercise — and the experience so far — he praised every concerned person’s cooperation and remarked incidents of little misunderstanding with some testees, which nonetheless were quickly resolved. The testing is going on smoothly.

Yet, the large number of people to test might be challenging and require continuous testing work — morning, afternoon, and night.

“We are not sleeping, we are moving to the [Jelili Omotola] Multipurpose Hall. . . Some will arrive in the night, so we have to attend to them. Because if you don’t do the test, you cannot be cleared to go to the accommodation provided and, therefore, cannot participate in the sports.”

Since the operations started in the morning, all results have been negative as at 3 PM, when he last checked the test data. If the prevalence of COVID-19 were high, “we would not be talking about this, we would not even allow this,” he said. High number of positive cases could undesirably affect — and limit — the games, too.

He praised UNILAG for trying its best and allowing that due protocols be followed. “UNILAG have their medical centre [ready]. We trained their people, trained the staff of the medical centre, then trained all security [personnels], waste managers, the volunteers that are working; so that they understand the protocol and are able to enforce it. Right, we encourage people to comply with it.”

Concludingly, he said, “So, we have done that [the testing exercise]. It is now left for students to do their own part. That’s what we need now. That’s more important than every other thing that has been put in place.”

The testing exercise continues today, March 17, 2022 at Sports Center, University of Lagos.

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