Fr. Timothy ETSENAMHE
Wearing a mask is not a political statement. It is a very important measure in curbing or reducing the number of infections. Those who wear masks today in the villages are taunted and called Corona. It is important we wear our masks! We must put up the right respiratory behaviours.
We had thought that the pandemic would begin to fizzle out with the advent of Pfizer/BioNtech, Oxford University/AstraZeneca, and Moderna Vaccines. It is frightening however to hear of the recent spikes in the number of coronavirus infections around the world. This time it is a new strain of the ever infectious Covid-19 spreading across the UK. According to The Sun, it has been named VUI-202012/01- the first variant under investigation in December. Sky News reported that the strain appeared first in Kent. Mink (slender- bodied semi aquatic mammal having partially webbed feet; valued for its fur. cf Full English Dictionary) has been found to be a carrier of this new strain of Covid. It is believed that the first of the case of the new strain was found in a mink farm in Denmark. Other countries who now have this mutated Covid include the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the United State of America. Although in Nigeria there are insinuations that scientists discovered this particular strain since June 2020. What has happened is a case of mutation. It is a change in the virus’ genome, the set of genetic instructions that have all the information the virus needs to function. Obviously these minks were exposed to infected humans over a period of time and then acquired unique combinations of mutations. It seems to be the reason that there is surge in the number of infections especially in the UK. It is interesting to note that there are various strains of this virus (Covid-19) and that British scientists alone are currently monitoring about 4,000 deadly strains of Coronavirus.
The reality of this virus in Europe and America has made countries entered a third lockdown in a year. The UK has systematically categorized her counties and boroughs into tiers ranging from 1-4, depending on the degree of intensity of cases. Tier 1 is descriptive of areas with medium risk; tier 2 for areas with High risk; tier 3 encapsulates places with very high risk and tier 4 captures areas on lockdown. Every tier has measures peculiar to it to enable the flattening of the curve. International travels for leisure and pleasure are beginning to be discouraged and stricter measures are taken by the Uk Government and some other governments in Europe and America.
Here in Nigeria, there is a renewal once of the awareness of the pandemic as number of infections are rising especially among public figures. One would easily expect that cases will surge because the defaulting attitude so far by some Nigerians with regards to keeping the measures of preventing the coronavirus. Besides, there has been massive movement of Nigerians living abroad into the country for Christmas and New Year holiday and those who were unable to travel for one activity or the other during the summer. We only hope that the rising cases are of the covid-19 that we know and not its mutant variant. This is not to insinuate that the new strain is deadlier but to renew our hope and be assured that we are dealing with the type of Covid that was not devastating to those who were infected months past.
In other to calm the fear of VUI-202012/01 as to its devastating potency, Alan McNally, Professor in Microbial Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Birmingham, opines: ‘’let us not be hysterical. It doesn’t mean it’s more transmissible or more infectious or dangerous. It is something to keep an eye on.’’ Allen’s call for calmness is necessary because we have had challenges as a people since the early inception of the year, 2020. Rather than be confused and misled by panic let us maintain calm and scientifically watch the virus. Virologists believe it is a normal virus evolution and that when there is an outbreak of a virus we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time.
What we can all do as we await more efficacious vaccines is to be cautious of the preventive measures of Covid-19. In fact experts warn that vaccines alone cannot do it. We must keep good hygiene, wash our hands regularly with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub. Keeping of the rule of social distancing is a must owing to the number of ‘owanbes’ in this season. Wearing a mask is not a political statement. It is a very important measure in curbing or reducing the number of infections. Those who wear masks today in the villages are taunted and called Corona. It is important we wear our masks! We must put up the right respiratory behaviours. Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or grab a tissue and cough or sneeze in it and dispose properly. It is also important we stay at home in these trying moments in our world. Only essential travels should be embarked upon. Malls in Nigeria are flooded during festive season. This should be discouraged. In as much as we cannot effectively run the click-and –collect, drive- through or delivery, numbers of people entering malls, restaurants, bars and amusement parks should be reduced and made to wear mask compulsorily. Like a DSTV Ad would say, ‘we shall come together again’. Let us stay apart today to come together tomorrow. Let us rekindle our hope for a world healed of this heinous virus.
Fr. Timothy ETSENAMHE
Assistant Director of Social Communications, Diocese of Auchi