Nigeria: Covid-19 - How Does a Third Wave Sound?

A family is being tested for COVID-19 in Nigeria (file photo).
18 July 2021

WHO, Lagos State Government and the NCDC are agreed that COVID-19 pandemic's third wave has made landfall - even as the deadlier Delta variant sneaks into the country.

A statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional office in Africa disclosed the continent is currently facing its third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with resurgence in 12 African countries.

"Africa is facing a fast-surging third wave of COVID-19 pandemic, with cases spreading more rapidly and projected to soon overtake the peak of the second wave the continent witnessed at the start of 2021," the agency stated.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, had stated late last month, "The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa's worst yet."

Recently, new cases of the Covid-19 pandemic have surged, climbing to 1,249 cases between 1st July and 13th July 2021, with Lagos State being the epicentre of the spread. The recent report released by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) revealed that Nigeria recorded 154 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, 13th July 2021.

Lagos State recorded 119 cases last week, representing 77% of the total cases recorded in the day. The new cases take the total tally in the country to 168,867 cases with the number of active cases surging to 2,119 patients. Nigeria is clearly joining the likes of Haiti, Lesotho, Sierra Leone amongst others currently battling with the third wave of the pandemic.

The country currently stands 9th on the ranking of African countries with the highest cases of coronavirus disease. However, with the recent spike in the number of cases, Nigeria is at risk of a new set of lockdowns.

More, early last week, the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force had uncovered the virulent Delta variant of Novel Coronavirus in the state. The State Incident Manager and coordinator of the Emergency Operations Centre, Dr. Olabode Ladipo, who confirmed the development, said the public was notified of the need to take extra caution and consistently apply all advisories earlier released by the task force.

The Delta variant is a highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 originating from India and it infects people more rapidly than the other known COVID-19 variants. This is coming after the federal government penultimate week confirmed the first case of Delta variant in the country.

The state government warned residents to continue to comply with all advisories aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19, including all in-bound travellers being mandated to isolate for seven days and submit themselves for tests.

On his part, a sober Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, stated last week that the state had started experiencing a potential third wave of the pandemic with dire consequences. Sanwo-Olu, who gave the alert while updating on the pandemic situation in the state and ongoing response as a government, added that the country stood the risks of losing both lives and livelihood on a devastating scale.

In a reflective mode, Sanwo-Olu recalled that starting around the end of March 2021, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos began to wind down, and "we began to enjoy some reprieve from the worst effects of the virus.

This allowed us to further open up the economy to allow the start of the journey towards full normalcy in our lives and the pursuit of livelihoods, after what has been a very difficult year."

Further, according to him, "Regrettably, in spite of the hard work and dedicated efforts towards sustaining the return to normalcy, over the last three months, we are now finding ourselves at what appears to be the start of a potential third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Lagos State.

"From the beginning of July, we started to experience a steep increase in the number of daily confirmed cases, with the test positivity rate going from 1.1 per cent at the end of June 2021 to its current rate of 6.6 per cent as of July 8, 2021. The rapid increase within a week gives great cause for concern.

"Also, within the last two weeks, the occupancy rate at our isolation centres increased from an average of 1 per cent to 6 per cent. This is the new and disturbing reality that now confronts us."

Meanwhile, as dictated by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC), passengers from red list countries are required to observe mandatory isolation. Nigeria has added South Africa to its "red list" of countries for which there are stringent restrictions for arriving passengers, due to the spread of the Delta variant in the country. South Africa joined the likes of India, Brazil, and Turkey on the list.

Lagos State has so far successfully isolated 2,386 passengers. But out of this number, 15 per cent have absconded, the Lagos State governor revealed. It's hardly disputable that a continuous surge in the number of cases in Lagos State can be a danger for the entire country at large, given that Lagos is the economic hub of the country, with large movements in and out of the state.

If not quickly contained, it could push Nigeria into another round of lockdown, especially, with the highly transmittable Delta variant on the loose.

Clearly, ahead of the Sallah celebration and beyond, greater vigilance is required in churches and mosques and other places of religious worship. It would simply be foolhardy for Nigerians to permit themselves to be swayed by the illusion that normalcy is back. It certainly is not.

A mandatory public compliance with all protective protocols, compulsory use of facemasks in all public places, social distancing, temperature checks, provisions for hand-washing and sanitisers, and a maximum of 50 per cent occupancy in enclosed spaces are clearly the way to go.

Just as the NCDC Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, had noted, the responsibility to prevent a surge in cases was not with the government alone, but requires adherence to public health and social measures by all members of the public.

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