CHIDO NWAKANMA examines new surges in Covid-19 cases worldwide and advises that Christmas 2020 holiday travel for Nigerians home and abroad should be approached with caution.
In line with the character of the year, 2020 is ending in an unusual tenor. Across the world, there are rising cases of coronavirus infections. Governments are clamping down with new restrictions and movement protocols, including lockdowns stiffer than the first ones in March through June.
For Nigeria, with six weeks until the festive season, Christmas of 2020 appears to be COVID-19’s latest casualty. An abundance of caution and concern thus informs the approach of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 as the year winds down.
2020 has been the year of the lockdown, masks, social distancing and regular washing of hands. 2020 has been the year of sudden departures of loved ones, here today, gone tomorrow, due to a brief illness with COVID-19. 2020 has wrought so much turmoil.
Change has been the central feature of 2020. It included a change in workplace location from the office to the home, the year when students took lectures listening to their lecturers from mobile devices and available screens. In forcing this change on the educational system, 2020 underscored the digital divide in Nigeria and most of the Third World as children from low-income households could not join the digital lessons. 2020 is poised to force the significant change in Yuletide traditions. It will be a change with consequences for individuals, families, and the global economy. It will also affect Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.
Across the globe, governments are urging citizens to stay at home, wherever home is, and avoid the usual holiday season travel to remain safe and prevent spreading COVID-19. The BBC captures the situation across Europe in a 13 November report. It states: “A number of European countries have warned that it is too early to plan for Christmas travel, as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the continent.”
In Sweden, people have been told to prepare for possible travel restrictions during the holiday period. Meanwhile, Irish and French authorities claim it was too soon to say if people should make travel arrangements for the upcoming holidays. The US Center for Disease Control warns that travel increases the chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19. “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others,” the CDC says. CNN reports that in the USA, health and government officials are increasingly urging people to stay home and avoid non-essential travel.” Governor Jared Polis of Colorado urged residents to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings, comparing the holiday tradition to playing “Russian roulette” with family members who are most at risk. He called on those who plan to attend inter-generational Thanksgiving gatherings to begin self-quarantining on 13 November, two weeks before gatherings on Thanksgiving Day.
“Canada’s Thanksgiving celebrations, which take place in October, have spurred a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases. “What we do in the coming days and weeks will determine what we get to do at Christmas,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently.
For Nigeria, with six weeks until the festive season, Christmas of 2020 appears to be COVID-19’s latest casualty. An abundance of caution and concern thus informs the approach of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 as the year winds down. The concern is the fear of community transmission with a mass return of Nigerians from the Diaspora, particularly from hard-hit Europe and North America. A European visitor was the vector of coronavirus into Nigeria in February.
PTF National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu, says the PTF is “taking a stance in actively discouraging Nigerians in the Diaspora from travelling this holiday season because of the risk of spreading COVID-19. There is no doubt that we can only sustain the gains we have made and continue to flatten the curve by preventing the surge in international passenger traffic that we see at the end of the year.”
Nigeria has had a relatively stable and low incidence of new infections since September. Nigerian health authorities thus say to those outside, “Enjoy your holidays at home; please don’t travel this season unless it is essential.” The message of limiting or cancelling travel applies equally to those in Nigeria. So, just like virtual meetings and virtual learning, this holiday season should be one of virtual celebration.
It is the colour of 2020.