As the National Sports Festival enters the final three weeks of preparations, medical experts believe hosting the nation’s biggest sporting event may be too big a gamble.
The festival is scheduled to hold in Benin City, the Edo State capital from February 14 to 28 amid the second wave of COVID-19 across the country.
With over 15,000 athletes and officials expected at the Games, the ability of the organisers, the Edo State Government and the sports ministry, to ensure athletes safety has been questioned.
As at January 26, the number of COVID-19 cases had risen to 122,996 with 1,509 deaths reported.
Following the latest development, top medical personnel advised the organisers of the event to put it on hold, saying athletes and officials risked contracting the virus at the event, if held.
Professor Adedeji Onayade, Head, Public Health Department, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, advised that the festival be postponed due to the surge in cases.
“Honestly, I think they should just postpone it because I don’t think we clearly understand the second wave (of the virus),” Onayade said.
“The second wave looks more severe and it progresses faster than the first. So, we need to study it more before exposing our sportsmen. That’s our own experience from Ife.
“During the first wave, things were better managed but now, we have seen a number of cases that appear to have progressed quickly and have not given people sufficient time to get to the hospital for treatment.
“We must be cautious because the numbers are rising and we are having more severe cases than the first wave.”
Professor of Virology at the Lagos State University, Adewale Sotade, also advised the organisers to reschedule the Games.
“Across the globe, the COVID-19 spike is on the rise and if you consider that in Nigeria we don’t have quality facilities to treat this virus, then we must be cautious on how we expose athletes.
“If it’s possible to reschedule, we should, to avoid the public from contracting the virus.
Dr Oladipo Kolawole, Medical Virologist, Department of Microbiology, Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, added,” We need to be very careful amid the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 in the country. The National Sports Festival is good, but can we be up to task?
“We have to be careful of the new mutant that is circulating currently because of its high transmissibility rate.”