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COVID-19 likely to raise TB deaths by 1.4m


Tuberculosis patient

• Report predicts 6.3 million new cases by 2025
• PSN lauds import waiver for drugs, others
• World leaders pledge N3.1trn for research, vaccines

About 1.4 million more people may die of tuberculosis (TB) globally by 2025 as a fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report. The report premised its prediction on the observation, in a study, that the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic is having unintended consequences on tuberculosis cases, with lockdowns and limitations on diagnosis, treatment and prevention services. Consequently, the situation is expected to increase the annual number of TB cases and deaths over the next five years.

The modelling analysis released by the Stop TB Partnership shows that under a three-month lockdown and a protracted 10-month restoration of services, the world could see an additional 6.3 million cases of TB between 2020 and 2025, and an additional 1.4 million TB deaths during that same period.

TB, a bacterial infection that affects the lungs, kills 1.5 million people per year more than any other infectious disease. Lamenting the situation, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership, Dr.Lucica Ditiu, observed that governments faced a torturous path, navigating between the imminent disaster of COVID-19 and the long-running plague of TB.


He said choosing to ignore TB again would erase at least half a decade of hard-earned progress against the world’s most deadly infection and make millions more people sick.

“We never learn from mistakes. For the past five years, TB has remained the biggest infectious disease killer because the ‘TB agenda’ consistently became less visible in front of other priorities,” she said.

The report noted that incidence and deaths due to TB have been declining steadily over the last several years as a result of intensified activities by high burden countries to find people with TB early and provide appropriate treatment.

In 2018, during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level meeting on TB, heads of states and governments committed to significantly scale up the TB response. In the same 2018, this resulted in identifying an additional 600,000 people who could access TB care.

According to the report,” In 2019, we also saw very promising progress. But the COVID-19 pandemic, especially considering the mitigation measures put in place, has proven to be a major setback in achieving the UNGA targets, as TB case detection has dramatically fallen, treatments have often been delayed and the risk of interruption of treatment and potential increase of people with drug-resistant TB has increased.

With a lockdown and a protracted 10-month restoration of services, global TB incidence and deaths in 2021 would increase to levels last seen in between 2013 and 2016 respectively, implying a setback of at least five to eight years in the fight against TB.”


The Stop TB Partnership suggested that to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB, save millions of lives and get the world back on track in achieving the UNGA targets, national governments need to take immediate measures that ensure the continuity of TB diagnostic, treatment and prevention services during the lockdown period and undertake a massive catch-up effort to actively diagnose, trace, treat and prevent TB.

Recognizing that this is an unprecedented situation, “the Stop TB Partnership is continuing support for national TB programmes and partners through its multiple technical, innovative and people-centered platforms. To ensure access to TB and COVID-19 resources, the partnership is sharing actions, experiences and recommendations from countries and partners through a dedicated TB and COVID-19 webpage and has recently published interactive maps with TB and COVID-19 situations in countries.”

The report said the study which was commissioned by Stop TB Partnership and carried out by Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins University and Avenir Health, with the support of USAID, looked at the impact of coronavirus measures in India, Kenya and Ukraine — three “high burden” nations, meaning they have a large number of estimated cases.

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has commended President MuhammaduBuhari for a blanket waiver on medical supplies and expedited clearing of all imported health care equipment, medical and pharmaceutical supplies at the ports.


President of PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said the order by Mr. President would help in containing the spread and fatality of COVID-19 in Nigeria. The PSN had earlier appreciated the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the N100 billion intervention funds to the pharmaceutical industries for growth stimulation, and appealed to President Buhari for import duty waiver for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and speedy clearing of pharmaceuticals from the ports as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ohuabunwa, however, requested that the waiver be extended to all essential drugs and not only those related to COVID-19 specifically, for some reasons.

“There is no established treatment protocol the world over for the novel coronavirus, so clinicians have employed combinations of different drug regimen to treat the manifested symptoms.

“Most of these repurposed medications are already in use by other patients leading to pressure on the supply chain thereby instigating price increase. “Also, Nigerians who are on lockdown have reduced disposable income to buy medicines. Government is giving food palliative but no medicine palliative. Removing duties and levies on all essential medicines will be one way to provide medical palliative for the Nigerian poor,” he said.


At the global stage, the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that world leaders had pledged additional €7.4 billion (N3.119 trillion) to the solidarity fund established to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic, as part of activities to mark the Hand Hygiene Day and the International Day of the Midwife.

Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in his opening remarks at media briefing on COVID-19, said around the world, less than two-thirds of health care facilities were equipped with hand hygiene stations, and three billion people lacked soap and water at home.

“Ten days ago, I joined President Emmanuel Macron, President Ursula von der Leyen and Melinda Gates to launch the ACT Accelerator, to support the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics against COVID-19.

“Today, leaders from 40 countries all over the world came together to support the ACT Accelerator through the COVID-19 Global Response International Pledging Event, hosted by the European Commission.

“During today’s event, some €7.4 billion was pledged for research and development for vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. This was a powerful and inspiring demonstration of global solidarity.

“Today, countries came together not only to pledge their financial support, but also to pledge their commitment to ensuring all people can access life-saving tools for COVID-19, accelerating development of products, but at the same time, access for all.”


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