The coronavirus ravaging the world is a wake up call to revisit some of our cultural practices. As a result of some measures imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, some activities regarded as a way of life could no longer hold.
Stakeholders say that the day, celebrated on May 21 of every year, should be used to revisit and reflect on the consequences of “this new normal way of life often referred to as social distancing or physical distancing.’’
According to Wikipedia, social distancing, also called physical distancing, is a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions or measures taken to prevent the spread of a contagious disease by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other.
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) started using the phrase “physical distancing,” instead of “social distancing,” as a way to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus from people to people, a move widely welcomed by experts as a step in the right direction.
At a news briefing on March 20, officials of the global health body said while maintaining a physical distance was “absolutely essential” amid the global pandemic, “it does not mean that socially we have to disconnect from our loved ones, from our family.”
The rapid spread of the virus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, has forced countries around the world to impose full lockdowns, shut down airports and impose tight restrictions on the movement of their citizens.
“Technology, right now, has advanced so greatly that we can keep connected in many ways without actually physically being in the same room or physically being in the same space with people,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said.
“We’re changing to say physical distance and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected,” she added.
The WHO recommends being more than one metre (three feet) away from the nearest person, while some health experts have suggested maintaining a distance of at least two metres from others.
A number of measures can be taken to increase the physical space between people.
They include staying home more often, working from home if possible, catching up with loved ones online instead of in person, strictly limiting the number of visitors to your home, avoiding large public gatherings or public transport, and staying away from other people when you are in a public space.
“Social distancing makes it sound like people should stop communicating with one another, while instead we should be preserving as much community as we can even while we keep our physical distance from one another,” Jeremy Freese, professor of sociology at Stanford University in the United States, told Al Jazeera.
Martin Bauer, professor of social psychology and research methodology at London School of Economics, welcomed WHO’s change in terminology, saying it was “long overdue.”
Mr Makan Sallau, a former director in the Ministry of Information and Culture, said that social distancing has drastically affected our relationship with one another, because we are a people close to one another.
“Abuja carnival, the masquerade festivals, are carnivals that draw crowd and make many people come together.
“Our people are still skeptical about the virus, and not yet practising social distancing in the rural areas, but in the cities people are practising physical distancing and awareness is being created about the pandemic.
“ This year, the event won’t be holding for obvious reasons and we pray we get over this soon,’’ he said.
Mr Augustus Ajibola, Director, Entertainment and Creative Services, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, said that Nigerians are very sociable, “we love festivals for communal bonding and we love partying, we like to hug and we love to dance, black people are known for their dancing abilities.
“Dancing has a level of interaction, but the coronavirus will not permit us to dance.’’
Veteran Nigerian actor, Mr Sam Obuagu, shared similar sentiments, saying that “our culture is a warm culture and the pandemic has its toll on our culture.
“As a people, we are a community-based people, we need each other to survive, our traditional marriages and burial ceremonies are no longer holding.
“Starting from the old moonlight stories, we can’t gather children to tell them stories every day, these are all part of our culture, age grade meetings cannot hold for now ,we are grounded.’’
He stressed that things will never be the same again, adding that the normal thing today is online meetings, cultural festivals etc are all done online.
He noted that most of Nigerian festivals are home coming for a lot of people, stressing that they have spiritual bonding.
Dr Amogu Kalu, a public health physician based in Abuja, stressed the need to adhere to physical distancing, regular hand washing ,face masking when in contact with others.
He said that they were essential in tackling the pandemic, and that if all these were done correctly, coronavirus would be contained, while socio-cultural life would return to pre-coronavirus era. (NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria