In what appears like a confirmation of its worst fears, Nigeria’s federal government on Monday, announced officially the resurgence of the third wave of the SARS-COV-2 infection in the country. The announcement came as the American government boosted Nigeria’s fight against the virus with the donation of 4.08 million doses of the Moderna vaccines.
On the diplomatic scene, Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama announced a new COVID-19 port of entry policy for diplomats as ratified by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19. The policy will apply to diplomats from two categories of countries – the five restricted countries and others.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, corroborated the federal government’s announcement on Monday, when he raised the alarm about the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state. Sanwo-Olu said the state recorded some 4,300 confirmed new cases of the virus, with 30 fatalities in July alone.
But the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) warned that with the current rate of infections, the deadly Delta variant might spread to many more states if conscious efforts were not made to control it.
Unfortunately, resident doctors in the country commenced a strike on Monday to press home their demand for a better working environment. According to THISDAY findings, the strike has started disrupting healthcare services in different hospitals across the country.
At some of the hospitals visited on Monday by THISDAY in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), doctors were seen outside their offices and were not attending to patients.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, confirmed the resurgence of the disease at a media briefing by the PSC on COVID-19. Ehanire said Nigeria began to record a sharp increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since July, as global anxiety over the Delta variant spread.
The minister stated, “All data indicate that we are now, no doubt, in the third wave of resurgence of the SARS-COV-2 infection, which we saw coming long ago. As at today, Nigeria has recorded a total of 174,315 COVID-19 cases from 2,542,261 samples tested, with 7,151 active cases, and sadly, 2,149 deaths in all.”
Ehanire said of particular concern was the fact that the Delta variant of COVID-19 spread more rapidly and had become prevalent in many countries, constituting 93 per cent of COVID cases in the United Kingdom.
The minister said the federal government had stepped up efforts to increase testing to identify positive cases for isolation and treatment. He stated that anyone with suspicion of infection should go to the nearest testing centre to get a COVID-19 test.
He disclosed that all treatment centres had been put on alert to receive cases especially, in the face of the threat of the third wave.
Ehanire explained that only 17 states had made data or sample submissions in the last cycle, with Lagos and Akwa Ibom states.
But hope of a considerable degree of containment beckoned yesterday with the donation of 4.08 million doses of Moderna Vaccines by the US government. Director General, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, announced this on Monday, saying the donation came through the COVAX facilities.
Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, thanked the government and people of the United States for the gift, which he promised would be utilised judiciously.
On the new safety protocols, the foreign affairs minister emphasised the special protocol of 72 hours PCR test before travelling that was in place for diplomats coming from UK, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey and India or had passed thorough those countries in the last 14 days. He said diplomats from the non-restricted countries would only have to do the 72-hour prior PCR test and within seven days of arrival do a test in an approved private laboratory in addition to the mandatory 14- day self-isolation at home.
He warned that the diplomats that had no PCR test would be quarantined in a government facility.
According to him, diplomats with mild COVID-19 conditions would be isolated at home while those with moderate and severe symptoms would be isolated in accredited facilities.
Diplomats from non-restricted countries could get special waiver from the seven-day isolation, but applicable only to high profile diplomats visiting the president or the vice president.
With respect to diplomats, who had visited the restricted countries in the last 14 days, the minister said they might likely get a waiver on special recommendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the airport to be granted by the PSC.
He maintained that all diplomats coming from the restricted countries in the last 14 days would have to quarantine in approved facilities, adding that the exception from isolation at home and approved facility.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, raised the alarm about the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic, saying in July alone, some 4,300 confirmed cases were recorded with 30 fatalities. Sanwo-Olu said the current figures were worse than what obtained at the height of the pandemic last year, when a total of 64,032 cases were recorded with 56,336 recovering and 320 death.
According to him, “From the beginning of July, we started to experience an increase in the number of daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lagos State, with the positivity rate going from 1.1% at the end of June 2021 to 7% at the end of July 2021. As at the 1st of August 2021, the positivity rate in Lagos is 8.9%.
“This is an 8-fold increase over the recorded figure a month ago, and it should rightly alarm all of us. This has resulted in 4,300 confirmed cases in July alone and 352 admissions into our isolation facilities. But let me make it clear that this necessary sense of alarm should not be responded to with panic, but instead with a firm resolve and determination to reverse the trend.
“We have done it before and we can do it again. We dealt with the first and second waves and did our best to prevent a third wave. Now that it is fully upon us, we must dig deep into what we have learnt from the previous waves, as well as summon the will to do everything necessary to bring down the numbers, on the way to eventually defeating the virus once and for all.”
Sanwo-Olu explained that with the epidemiology update from the beginning of the outbreak in February 2020 to date, Lagos State had recorded a total of 64,032 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and of this number, 56,336 had recovered in community, while 2,755 cases were currently being managed actively in community.
He added that while managing the COVID-19 pandemic, about 5,029 patients had been admitted into the various COVID-19 centres in the state.
He said, “We have, sadly, recorded 390 fatalities in Lagos State, 30 of which have taken place in this current 3rd wave of the pandemic. Essentially, we have recorded on average 6 deaths per day since last week. With Home-Based Care Given the huge population of our state and the rising numbers of confirmed cases during the first and second waves of the pandemic, it became necessary for us to deploy telemedicine in managing positive patients.
“In this vein, we launched a homebased programme, driven by our EKOTELEMED call center service. The home-based programme works by delivering care packs to symptomatic Covid-19 patients – those who do not require admission in a treatment facility – in the comfort of their homes, and making specialist care available over the phone.”
According to Sanwo-Olu, following the receipt of the first instalment of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the federal government, it was administered to a total of 404,414 first doses and 243,374 second doses of the vaccine to residents.
He said, “As of today, the percentage of residents of Lagos that have received two doses of the vaccine stands at one per cent. This is quite low, especially, considering that we are now confronted by a third wave, and we are exploring all avenues possible to ramp up access to vaccination so as to reach our herd immunity target of administering vaccines to at least 60 per cent of the population of Lagos State.”
He stressed that experience from other regions of the world showed that a majority of the confirmed cases that resulted in death were in unvaccinated persons.
The governor stated, “This is why we are seriously looking to scale up vaccination coverage for our people. On the 1st of August 2021, Nigeria received 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. It is our expectation that as the epicentre of the epidemic, Lagos State will receive a sizeable amount of this allocation.
“This vaccine cannot be mixed with the AstraZeneca vaccine, so it will ONLY be for people that have not been previously vaccinated.
“We are still expecting the second five allocations of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and will inform you when it is received. We will ensure that all future vaccine administration exercises are based solely on appointment, to avoid a situation in which vaccine administration turns into a super-spreader event.”
The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the deadly Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus may spread further to many more states if conscious efforts were not made to curtail it. Confirming the mark-up in the number of cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country, Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said current data showed that one in every 10 persons that were tested in Lagos State came out positive.
Ihekweazu, who spoke at a media briefing by PSC on COVID-19, said the positivity rate of the virus test in states, like Lagos and Akwa Ibom, had gone up to 10 per cent.
He said, currently, the national COVID-19 positivity rate was six per cent, adding that the detection of increases in positive cases in some state like Lagos, Rivers, Oyo and Akwa Ibom was an indication that the surveillance architecture put in place by NCDC had worked well.
The federal government said the four million and eighty thousand doses of Moderna vaccines donated by the US government would undergo efficacy test evaluation by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) before their deployment. Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, stated this while inspecting the vaccines that arrived the country since Sunday.
He said it would take up 48 hours for the evaluation results to be out before the commencement of the inoculation.
Shuaib, who led other top officials of the Federal Ministry of Health to inspect the vaccine doses at the National Strategic Cold Store, Abuja, said an effective cold chain management of any COVID-19 vaccine was key to ensuring the success of the national vaccination programme.
He stated, “The vaccines would assist in stepping up efforts to battle a third wave of COVID-19 infections. The donation was part of President Joe Biden’s promise to give 500 million vaccines to the world by the end of 2022.”
Shuaib said Nigeria had storage facilities that could store COVID-19 vaccines, including the Moderna vaccine.
According to him, the federal government had earlier acquired an additional 60 ultra cold freezers that would accommodate both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
Shuaib said, “The Moderna vaccine was expected to remain stable at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2° to 8°C (36° to 46°F) for 30 days. Shipping and long-term storage conditions are at standard freezer temperatures of -20°C (-4°F) for six months while mRNA-1273 to be distributed using widely available vaccine delivery and storage infrastructure.
“Once the vaccine is removed from the refrigerator for administration, it can be kept at room temperature conditions for up to 12 hours.”
Representative of the US government, Dr. Melissa Freeman, said the vaccine doses were part of a donation that was set up to boost the country’s vaccination rollout campaign. Also, representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Anne Baptiste, said Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was effective against several variants of concern, including the Delta variant.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Hawkins, said the donation would help the country implement its expanded vaccination programme by reaching more people.
Hawkins said the life-saving vaccines had arrived at a time, when Nigeria was seeking to vaccinate a total of 110 million citizens.
Meanwhile, the strike embarked upon by resident doctors on Monday morning adversely affected healthcare services at the hospitals. At some of the government hospitals visited by THISDAY in Abuja, doctors were seen going about without attending to patients. Only few ones, mainly the consultants that were in their offices, attended to patients.
Speaking on the development, Ehanire said the Federal Ministry of Health had started to engage the doctors with a view to quickly resolving the issues.
“While this is on-going, medical directors at federal and state hospitals are directed to ensure that service delivery is not disrupted in their centres,” he said.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja and Segun James in Lagos