To avert the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) the Catholic Church may have suspended some aspects of service. These include hand to mouth communion and handshake.
For instance, officiating priests during holy masses in all parishes in the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, will from next Sunday, not give Holy Communion directly with their hands into the mouths of the congregation. This is even as some residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are coming hard on the Minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed, for allegedly not doing enough in enlightening residents on the deadly disease.
In the Catholic Church, Onitsha, the traditional rite of peace where worshippers shake hands or hug each other during masses will also be skipped henceforth. This procedure was also sidelined in some Catholic churches in Lagos yesterday.
The Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha, Most. Rev. Dr. Valerian Maduka Okeke, announced this during an emergency meeting with all parish priests in the archdiocese Saturday evening as part of measures to control the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
Already, the priests had already announced in all the masses celebrated yesterday in their various parishes while some among them demonstrated the practical aspect of the new communion method to the congregation to avoid creating confusion next Sunday.
Shedding light on the new directive, the Director of Social Communication in the Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Pius Ukor told Daily Sun that the Archbishop also told the parish priests to carry out sensitization programmes in their parishes to educate the congregation on how to avoid contracting the EVD and to maintain healthy lifestyles.
He said under the new arrangement, priests will now place holy communion into the palms of the receivers who will put it in their mouths while the rite of peace in the liturgy is now optional during holy masses.
Fr. Ukoh said Archbishop Okeke also urged intensive prayers by the church while the new directives may be reviewed if the need arises.
Speaking on Ebola scourge during a homily yesterday, the Parish Administrator, Blessed Iwene Tansi Independent Station, Iba Pope, Awada, Rev. Fr. Paul Nwosu said the spread of the killer disease is a manifestation of signs of end time. He advised Nigerians to insure their lives by living righteously.
Meanwhile, many FCT residents told our correspondent at the weekend that unlike in other states, the minister has not done enough in educating the public on how his administration intends to respond if the virus breaks out in the territory.
A hotel executive, Mr. Jemuel Akpan said the FCT administration has not taken the threat posed by Ebola virus seriously. “Nothing has been done as far as enlightenment is concerned. We need publicity and sensitisation in all the six Area Councils.
“Since there are no known cure, awareness on lifestyles, habits and other things that should be known must be advocated. Special centres for screening, quarantine and management should be established,” he said.
Senator Iroegbu, resident, also believed that the level of awareness among rural and urban dwellers in FCT is poor, adding that “the minister has not tried enough. He seems non-commital and at most reactive.”
Iroegbu said: “Apart from the frantic and spirited efforts of the Minister of Health, the FCT minister has not risen to the occasion to provide information, enlightenment and reassurance. This accounts for the ignorance, rumours and misinformation,” he said.
Another resident, Mr Wakare Audu, said the FCT inhabitants have fallen victim of rumours because the minister has not provided adequate enlightenment.
“The FCT minister has created awareness about the terminal illness caused by Ebola virus through the FCT health department, but the information given has done more harm than good even the FCT residents have fallen victims of the ‘Ebola salt solution’ rumour.
“Most of the people health workers are informing, are those who own mobile phones or have access to computers. The poor man on the street has no indepth knowledge on how to prevent the spread of Ebola or how to avoid contracting the virus.
“The FCT minister should send his officials to the villages and enlighten them on the ‘dos and donts’ in times like this to avoid rumours like that of the bitter kola and salt therapy,” Audu advised.
But Edegbe Odemwigie disagreed. He said the fact that the Federal Ministry of Health is in Abuja leaves little or nothing for the FCT minister to do. “I guess the fact that the Health Ministry is located in Abuja has dwarfed any enlightenment effort by the FCT administration. With the rumours and false information being spread on Ebola, clearly, more enlightenment needs to be done especially in the distant area councils,” he said.
Although the minister has not publicly designated any part of the territory as Ebola emergency centre, residents of Kuje Area Council have already staged a protest over alleged plans by the FCT administration to use one of the clinics in the area as an emergency centre.
Chairman of the Area Council, Ishaku Tete Shaban, has reportedly threatened to lead a protest naked if the FCT administration goes ahead to set up Ebola emergency centre in his domain.
Last Friday, there was apprehension in Abuja, following an alleged Ebola patient in Garki Hospital. A senior health official of the FCT administration who spoke to our corresondent on condition of anonymity, said the patient had been isolated at the Garki Hospital.
Although he could not categorically state if the patient is a carrier of the disease, he, however, said the had shown all the signs of Ebola virus.
The senior health official further revealed that samples taken from the patient were being tested to ascertain the true position.
According to him, the patient came from Lagos last week and is suspected to be among those who came in contact with the late Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, who brought the virus into the country.