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Fears ‘Kyari burial crowd’ might increase spread of coronavirus

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Nigerian President Chief of Staff Abba Kyari was buried on Saturday with hundreds of people gathered in Abuja to receive the remains and pay last respect during his “private” burial.

Kyari died on Friday after battling COVID-19, making him the highest-profile coronavirus death in Nigeria.

Kyari, aged 83 according to the Council on Foreign Relations, had underlying health problems, including diabetes. He was interred at the military cemetery in Abuja’s Gudu neighbourhood amidst tears from family members and supporters.

A presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the burial would be in “strict observation” of the protocol put in place for the burial of coronavirus victims by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the health ministry.

But footage and pictures available from the burial showed otherwise. Official advice of social distancing was defied while more than twenty people were at the “social gathering”.

In fact, Garba was conspicuously seen in front with other sympathizers.

Scientists and health officials have repeatedly warned that social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic portend several risks as participants of such gathering might be contributing to the spread of the virus.

Popular Nigerian actress Funke Akindele was convicted and fined for holding a party during the lockdown imposed to tackle coronavirus.

Many other violators, most especially in Lagos, have also been convicted for same.

Apart from violating the social distancing rules at the funeral, there are fears participants might contract the virus as transmission could happen during a funeral.

Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina, explained how viral transmission could happen during a funeral.

“Hypothetically, if you have someone who is very sick, and they are shedding [the virus] and they walk up to the casket, and they cough, those virus particles will stay in the air around that environment for about an hour,” she said. ”If someone came into that environment, within six feet, they could become infected.”

Several people have contracted and died after attending the burial of coronavirus victims.

On Saturday, Independent UK reported how six people in South Carolina died from coronavirus after attending the same funeral.

The funeral was held in Columbia in the first week of March and many who attended are now in quarantine, The State reported.

Nigerians on social media have also criticized the government’s failure to limit crowds at the burial. Critics say it was a missed opportunity to educate the public about the essence of social distancing.

Nigeria has 493 confirmed cases and 17 deaths, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.


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