The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says Nigeria’s rules on face mask have not been completely abolished.
The Director-General, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said this in an interview with our correspondent on Friday in Abuja.
Adetifa said that the used of facemask indoors or in other high-risk settings such as in public transport was still recommended while the used in outdoor places was now discretionary in the country.
He stated that the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 was leveraging on available evidence such as the continuous downward trend of COVID-19 positive case numbers in the country to revise the Travel Protocol.
He said that the country had also implemented a four-tier consolidation phase of the COVID-19 pandemic response focused on continued surveillance, genomic sequencing, surge testing, and vaccination.
The NCDC boss stated that face mask use as a component of public health safety measures had been an important part of the COVID-19 response in the country.
“As vaccination coverage rises in countries, relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions including mask mandates is increasing.
“However, the recent COVID-19 surges in many countries have led to questions of whether face masks should be encouraged or required, and for how long.
“Proper mask use reduces the probability of transmission between an individual who is infectious and one who is susceptible to infection and helps protect those with a high risk of infection and severe disease.
“Example, the elderly and those with cardiovascular and other disease and particularly in environments with a high risk of transmission – indoors – and where there is crowding,” he stressed.
He said there were increased cases of the virus in South Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Russia, Netherlands, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Turkey, Austria, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Switzerland, New Zealand and Chile.
“In the past week, there have also been an increase in deaths in South Korea, Malaysia, and New Zealand. As long as there are cases elsewhere, Nigeria remains at risk.
“From our travel testing, we see the UK and U.S. as some of the countries with highest proportion of returning travelers with positive COVID-19 test results.
“Yet, some of these countries like the UK have fully relaxed pre-departure or post-arrival tests for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
“We cannot copy what countries do because of important differences.
“For example, the UK in addition to having better surveillance and greater capacity for sequencing in place, has vaccinated over 70 per cent of its population and even introduced second booster doses for some at-risk populations.”
Adetifa said that data had continued to inform the decision-making and the PSC on COVID-19 would continue to keep Nigerians informed as its had done with the new COVID-19 travel protocol changes.
He encouraged Nigerians to make every use of the opportunity provided by the government to get their COVID-19 vaccine at no cost.
“This is our best chance at getting back to normalcy as soon as possible as a country and we must work collaboratively to ensure it is done in the quickest time possible,” he said.
He added that vaccination also needed to be complemented with other safety measures including mask use to ensure full protection of the population.
“These other measures may need to be relaxed or ramped up in response to the patterns of COVID-19 test positivity seen,” he added.