From all indications, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is ravaging the global community would not deter the government of Akwa Ibom State from planning the yearly Christmas festival come December 2020.
In going ahead with the party hwever, the State Government said the 2020 Christmas edition especially activities at the Christmas village would be held with strict adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols as detailed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). To avoid overcrowding and allow visitors to maintain social distancing, the government has allocated 11 hectares of land for the construction of this year’s Christmas village as against 4.5 hectares in 2019.
Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Orman Esin stated this at the weekend at the Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort Uyo during a press conference to unveil this year’s Christmas activities. Esin said that other Covid-19 safety measures had been put in place such as less activities, spacing of stages, hand washing and aggressive testing of visitors to the Christmas village.
He said the state was passionate about improving on its tourism potentials hence will use the 2020 Christmas festival to consolidate on the economic and commercial gains of the 2019 edition, judged the biggest in the country. The commissioner said last year’s festival provided jobs for no fewer than 2,450 people at the Christmas village who had the ample opportunity to make money for themselves and boost the local economy.
Esin disclosed that the net income generated by kiosk owners and other businesses was put at about N2.5billion within 30 days of the jamboree. ”The Christmas festival added to the economic strength of the state within the period. By January people were able to pay school fees, pay house rent and do all manner of things. I know of three persons who showed me what they were able to achieve from the Christmas village.
“I believe that the activities at the Christmas village are not just about entertainment and popularity but also to ensure that people are gainfully employed within the period to enable them live well. So the State Executive Council has approved that the 2020 Christmas festival should be held but with strict observance of the Covid-19 safety protocols.
“For the 31 days, we will have everyone who comes to the Christmas village fully masked. In line with NCDC guidelines facemask will be compulsory, the kiosks, stages and stalls will be spaced, and hand sanitizers provided at various places. Strict hygiene will be the order of the day”.
He said the event was open to partnership with the private sector and multinational oil companies, adding that there would be advertising and branding opportunities. On security, the commissioner disclosed that security intelligence and checks would be at the Christmas village and its surroundings to forestall criminal activities.