…As Christians prepare for Christmas
By Constaincia Uruakpa
The global pandemic COVID-19 has put the human race on its toes for some time now, and unfortunately after over one year it was detected and lockdowns to contain its furious spread, when everyone thought the dust was about to settle, and that the world would at last be free from the disease, there comes the Omicron variant.
The corona virus, as it is also called, has continued to rear its head in different forms and inmultiple variants of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and now the Omicron variant which has been labelled a “variant of concern” because of its possible higher transmissibility. The Omicron variant has sparked alarm among epidemiologists who are worried that the new variant’s mutations could make it more transmissible.
Scientists all over the world have been put on the alert, as they carry out research to learn more about the Omicron variant as new cases are confirmed almost on daily basis around the world. According to Health authorities, the new variant, known by the Greek letter Omicron, was first identified in southern Africa in mid-November, confirmed November 25, and the scientists there quickly put the world on alert, as it is noted that the variant had an unusually high number of mutations, including some that could make it adept at evading the body’s natural or vaccine-acquired immune response.
As it is now, cases have been confirmed in over70 countries, including the United States, where officials have reported signs of community spread. This new development has led to world leaders placing new restrictions on travel, boosting vaccination drives, increasing testing and encouraging an already pandemic-fatigued public to double down on such measures as wearing face masks and social distancing. According to a WashingPost report on November 26,2021, there is too little research to draw conclusions about how omicron will affect the United States and the rest of the world. It further reported that in a recent address from the White House, President Biden said the variant is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
He told Americans, “We have more tools to fight the variant than we’ve ever had before.” In South Africa, where nearly 25 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated, the variant has spread rapidly. Daily new coronavirus cases there have risen sharply, tripling in three days, according to figures released recently. The positivity rate also has jumped, from 1 percent in early November to 22.4 percent in December 2, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.
Public health experts say there is a high probability that the new variant is already spreading in a number of countries beyond those where cases have been detected, as they noted that the variant had been earlier detected in the Netherlands before the announcement by South Africa. They added that a case was detected in Hong Kong, involving a passenger who landed on November 11.
In Nigeria,the daily COVID infections have jumped more than fivefold over the past week following the discovery of the omicron variant in the country of over 200 million people. According to data from the National Center for Disease Control, NCDC, the average number of Nigerians who tested positive for the pathogen has risen to 451 a day for the week ending December 12, compared with 76 in the preceding week.
The commercial hub of Lagos remains the epicenter of the illness in the nation, accounting for more than half of daily recorded infections. Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu in an emailed statement on Dec. 7, had warned of the beginning of the fourth wave of COVID cases after positivity rate jumped to 6% from 0.1% in the middle of November.
Nigeria announced the discovery of its first case of the omicron variant on December 1, in three travelers from South Africa. The NCDC says it has only found a total of six cases of the variant, though both the U.K and Canada have linked some of the cases found in their countries to travelers from Nigeria.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation has fully vaccinated just 1.9% of its people. Bloomberg further compares this with 26.1% in South Africa and 70% in the U.K. It goes on to reveal that testing is also limited in the country with just 3.63 million tests carried out, compared with 20.24 million tests in South Africa, which has a population of 60 million people. Speaking on Wednesday during a virtual media briefing, Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said Omicron was probably in most countries, even if it had not been detected yet.
He said: “Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. We are concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild.
“Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems. “I need to be very clear: vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis. Countries canand must prevent the spread of Omicron with measures that work today.
It’s not vaccines instead of masks. It’s not vaccines instead of distancing. It’s not vaccines instead of ventilation or hand hygiene. Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well. “Vaccines are tools that have the greatest impact when they are used to protect those who are most at risk, in all countries.” Speaking further, the WHO Director-General said in the past 10 weeks, COVAX had shipped more vaccines than in the first nine months of the year combined. Ghebreyesus also called for equity in the distribution of vaccines so as to put an end to the pandemic.
He stated: “Most countries are using vaccines as fast as they get them. A small group of countries are facing challenges rolling out vaccines and scaling up rapidly, and WHO and our partners are working closely with those countries to overcome bottlenecks. “Although, we expect further improvements in supply, there are no guarantees, and the hard-won gains we have made are fragile.
We continue to call on donors and manufacturers to put COVAX and AVAT first.” As it is, this scary variant has reared its head at a period when Christians all over the world are preparing to the celebrate Christmas. We have seen travel bans within countries owing to the fear of the spread of the disease. And unfortunately too, some events that have been planned for the festive period would certainly be cancelled for obvious reasons. Christmas also happens to be a time when Nigerians, especially those from the South-East travel to celebrate Christmas in the village.
But one wonders if the fear of Omicron would allow people to move freely the way they used to do in the past. According to Cyriacus Nnaji, Omicron cannot deter him from celebrating, as he said his Christmas will be sweet. Hear him: “Omicron or no Omicron, my Christmas will be sweet because I know that he who is in me is greater than Omicron.What the people don’t understand is that they have God who is capable to do all things, when he says yes, it is yes, when he says no, it is no. He has said no to Omicron in my life and that of my family and friends.
“Since the importation of COVID-19 in the country, have you seen a single person that the so called pandemic killed in the country except what they tell you on TV, radio and newspaper, just tell me one. People say instead of Nigerians to open industries they are opening Churches, but in the face of the COVID-19 you can see that God has saved those who open Churches than those who chose to open industries. The industrialized nations are dying while those who chose to follow God are saved.
“For me as a person, we have more pertinent issues to deal with than Omicron, inflation, scarcity of food, insecurity, bad governance, corruption, nepotism, wickedness in high places, just name them. But in all these our hope should be in God almighty who is the maker of heaven and Earth. “I am praying God to provide me the wherewithal to buy clothes for my children, on that day, let’s see money to buy rice and chicken for them.
I, as a person am particularly irked by the hype given to Omicron, there are some things that make me suspect the propagators of this sickness, it is not as wide spread as COVID-19 proper and people are talking as though it is killing people in droves. These people know that the world is skeptical about the billion dollars’ worth of vaccine and they came up with the campaign that Omicron has no symptoms, tell me a sickness in the world that has no symptoms.
“On a final note, I will celebrate Christmas by the grace of God, I am a humble person, thank God my family understand that, and we can’t kill ourselves because of Christmas, God understands.” For Stella Emeh, the fear of omicron will not allow her travel to her village for Christmas celebration. Hear her: “I always celebrate my Christmas in my home town of Akuwa Ibeku Okwuato in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, where Christmas is celebrated for eight days, that is from 25th of December to 1st of January.
This seems to be impossible with the fear of the spread of omicron variant.” She laments that corona virus deprived her from travelling last Christmas, as she added that shewill not travel for the 2021 Christmas to protect her family and herself from omicron. She said: “For two years now, coronavirus deprived me and my family the fun and fantasy of Christmas in my hometown. To keep my family and I myself safe from Omicron variant, I guess I have to suspend traveling to the village for Christmas.
Even though this holiday season will be different and difficult for me and my family since we have longed to celebrate this year’s Christmas in the village. I can take comfort in the fact that the sacrifice of not being able to travel will protect me, my loved ones and my extended family in the village.” The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019; a lockdown there and in other cities failed to contain the outbreak.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, and a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The virus since its detection over one year ago, has come in variants of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron variant,even as it continues to affect the world adversely, the people have risen to the challenge through the scientists to discover and offer ways of combating the different waves of the corona virus disease as it affects the entire globe.