Organisers to Inform state ministries of health

COVID-19: Events of mass gatherings must reinforce messages on general hygiene — NCDC

By Sola Ogundipe

In view of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has directed organisers and planners of events of mass gatherings in the country to inform the relevant state Ministry of Health about such event, while ensuring that such gatherings are used to reinforce messages on hand and respiratory hygiene and safety.

Giving the directive in its publication tagged COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Mass Gathering in Nigeria, the Agency noted that mass gatherings are highly visible events, said such events have the potential for serious public health consequences if they are not planned and managed carefully.

The NCDC Guidance states: “Mass gatherings can amplify the spread of infectious diseases including coronavirus disease (COVID-19), where this is circulating.
In view of the rapid evolution and global transmission of coronavirus, NCDC will make the recommendation for cancellation of mass gatherings in line with guidelines from the World Health Organization, WHO.

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“At this stage, we are not advising the cancellation of gatherings, but our advice may change as the epidemiological situation evolves. This is assessed on a daily basis. Regular updates can be found on www.covid19.ncdc.gov.ng

The NCDC said it has offered the guidance with key planning considerations for organisers currently planning mass gatherings in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“These include religious events e.g. church services, calls to prayer, prayer meetings, and other gatherings. Others are sporting events e.g. football matches; social events e.g. weddings, funerals, parties, music concerts, and youth service camps, conferences, exhibitions, etc.”

According to the NCDC guidance: “Organisers of these events must ensure adequate preparations are in place, before hosting an event.

Event organisers should consider using distancing measures to reduce close contact among people during the gathering e.g by providing more entry and exit points, more food points, ensure handwashing facilities (with soap and water) are readily available at entry and exit points. ”

For pre-event or gathering, the guidance states: “The State Ministry of Health should be informed of the event.

The location will be assessed by officials from the state Ministry of Health to ensure safety procedures are in place. The requirements listed below will be assessed prior to the event.

The guidance notes that prior to the event and at entry, the event organisers should provide attendees, information and advice on regularly and thoroughly washing hands with soap under running water or use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

“ Avoid touching of the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid shaking hands, hugging and any other form of physical contact where possible.

Stay at home if you feel ill with fever, cough or breathing difficulties.  Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of the tissues immediately.”

The guidance states that such a gathering should be used to reinforce messages on hand and respiratory hygiene and staying safe while religious institutions are encouraged to demonstrate hand washing techniques before the start of prayers to their congregation.

“Ensure provision of adequate hand washing facilities including running water, soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. People with symptoms such as cough and fever should not be allowed into the premises. Arrangements should be made to check this on entry.

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“ Organisers should provide adequate human resources who will be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting communal places such as ablution areas, all floors, toilets, and surfaces such as door handles, chairs, and church benches with disinfectant or soap.

“Organisers should also provide adequate waste management facilities such as closed trash cans so that people dispose of tissue and other waste properly and should review practices that put their congregation at risk (e.g. sharing a communal cup, receiving the Holy Communion on the tongue, shaking hands).

For facilities in place for mass gatherings, the guidance states that: “Room with adequate ventilation and proper air circulation, hand washing facilities- running water and soap, waste management facilities, health personnel to detect fever on entry and respond to emergencies, adequate resources to disinfect after the event must be provided.”

The guidance urges persons that have just returned from China, Japan, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Iran, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK to remain in self-isolation for 14 days.

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