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Eternal vigil against COVID-19 Delta variant

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(Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

The confirmation that SARS-CoV-2, also known as the Delta variant of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has been detected in the Nigeria is a call for everyone to be alert and responsive to the disease in order to ensure that it is defeated. The Delta variant according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is deadly; and the Director General of the global health body, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has warned that the variant is ripping around the world at a scorching pace, driving a new spike in cases and deaths from COVID-19.

This high transmissibility of the Delta variant is undoubtedly why the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) urged all Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures already in place. There are indications that the new variant has a high rate of mutation; and the worst part, is that it does not have exactly the same symptoms like the variants experienced in the first and second waves. It presents just as body ache, devoid of dry cough and fever. Hence, the need to be mindful of the symptoms and seek medical help at any feeling of being unwell.

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In addition, having majority of Nigerians vaccinated against COVID-19, which is a major pharmaceutical intervention in containing the disease is one sure way of de-escalating a spike and resurgence of COVID-19, flattening the curve and defeating the pandemic. However, the vaccine has been greeted with myths and misconceptions, leading to low uptake in Nigeria; as available evidence suggests a high rate of low compliance due to misleading information, which has become the order of the day in an era of fake news.

While it is true that the vaccine is yet to fully unravel regarding its long-term effects, the efficacy of the various brands and its effect on emerging new strains, it remains, so far, the only confirmed antidote to the virus. Chances of death from the disease have been shown to drastically reduce, if not eliminated by the vaccine. It is unfortunate therefore that just when it seemed the end of the disease is in sight, the COVID-19 vaccine is being greeted with misleading information by anti-vaccine groups.

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Notwithstanding debates on vaccine, at present it is still a very wise measure to adopt. So, NCDC and other relevant government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) should persuasively dispel the rumours on COVID-19 vaccine and latch on the facts to discountenance the myths and misconceptions with expert views.

Furthermore, those who have taken the two jabs of the vaccines should be aware that the vaccine only reduces their susceptibility but does not rule out their chances of contracting and infecting others who have not been vaccinated. So, apart from getting vaccinated, there is a need to keep to other public health advisories by NCDC and relevant MDAs. Those who have taken the jab should remain cautious and comply with public health and social measures, because eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Civic education and media sensitisation campaigns on public health advisory should be stepped up to encourage personal hygiene, including wearing of face masks to cover nose and mouth when in public settings or with people outside household members; covering mouth and nose with a tissue paper, disposing same properly immediately after use and washing of hands; or using the elbow when sneezing and/or coughing; regular hand washing with soap under running water or using a hand sanitiser when hands are not visibly dirty and running water is not readily available; practising physical distancing rules at all times; avoiding crowded places; and staying away from offices, markets, places of worship and social gathering, particularly, if sick. Again, the populace should be sensitised to avoid direct contact with people such as hugging and handshaking and avoid sharing items such as prayer mats and kettles. Also, all non-essential domestic and international travel should be limited and for essential travels, travellers should adhere to the self-isolation, testing and other travel-related protocols.

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Religious and traditional leaders have a role to ensure adherence to safe practices at places of worship and other venue. People should avoid crowded places, particularly indoor space where ventilation is inadequate as COVID-19 particles can linger in the air in aerosolised form for hours and contracted by breathing. Delta is spreading quickly; especially infecting unprotected and vulnerable people and will steadily put pressure back on health systems in the absence of collective efforts to de-escalate the spread. Nobody should relax on guiding protocols, because the country cannot afford another lockdown!

Therefore, Nigerian citizens and residents should train their minds to remain individually and collectively responsible in the fight to combat COVID-19. It is important to activate a collective sense of self-preservation. COVID-19 is a lethal agent of equal opportunity; and death by COVID-19 is avoidable and preventable. Together, Nigerians and the world can reduce COVID-19 vulnerability and eventually conquer the disease, provided the eyes are properly trained on the ball.

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