COVID-19: Delta variant sends NCDC, states back to drawing board
The recent confirmation that the SARS-CoV-2, also known as the Delta variant of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), has been detected in the country has put agencies of both the federal and state governments on their toes to contain its spread.
Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who confirmed that the deadlier variant had entered Nigeria, said it was detected in a traveller to the country, during the routine travel test required of all international travelers and genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies the Delta variant as deadly. The Director General of the global health body, Tedros Ghebreyesus, in a recent speech posted on WHO’s website had warned that the variant was ripping around the world at a scorching pace, driving a new spike in cases and deaths from COVID-19.
Ghebreyesus stated that last week marked the fourth consecutive week of increasing cases of COVID-19 globally. He stated that after 10 weeks of decline, deaths were increasing again. “Not everywhere is taking the same hit though, we are in the midst of a growing two-track pandemic where the haves and have-nots within and between countries are increasingly divergent.
“In places with high vaccination coverage, Delta is spreading quickly; especially infecting unprotected and vulnerable people and steadily putting pressure back on health systems,’’ he said.
Due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and its detection in Nigeria, the NCDC boss urged all Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures already in place.
In a swift response, Lagos State, which tops the chart of COVID-19 infections in Nigeria with 60,757 confirmed cases, 58, 515 recoveries and 456 deaths as at 9:06am, yesterday, admonished residents to be ready to tackle the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who gave the advice, disclosed: “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 to its current rate of 6.6 per cent as at July 8.”
The governor, who spoke on the issue six days ago, further disclosed that only one per cent of the state’s population of more than 20 million had been vaccinated, adding that managing the latest wave should be the responsibility of “all of us.”
He specifically reminded churches, mosques and groups to adhere strictly to the existing COVID-19 protocols, including not having more than 50 persons in an enclosed place. He also warned that in-bound travellers that fail to comply with isolation protocols risked prosecution.
Investigations by The Guardian showed that the state’s isolation centres were still operational with NCDC records showing that 1,786 persons were still on admission at various facilities.
Like Lagos, other states in the country have been reactivating their responses to COVID-19 in anticipation of the third wave.
In Osun State, visits to the isolation centres in Osogbo and Ejigbo revealed that they were locked as no patient or health worker was seen around the facilities. However, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, said the health workers for the pandemic were very much available to handle any emergency following the detection of the deadly Delta variant of the virus in the country.
“Our health workers who are in charge of the pandemic are still available to handle any situation that arises. It’s not that we really shut down the isolation centres like that.
“At the last executive meeting of Osun State, we warned our people neither to disregard the COVID-19 protocols nor lose focus. They should continue to observe safety measures for their life and health. For the state, we will continue to do what we are doing,” he said.
The Commissioner of Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, also urged residents not to let down their guards following the arrival of Delta variant.
She said: “The government of Osun State is advising its residents not to let down their guards or be lured into a false sense of security that the world is totally out of the grips of COVID-19.
“The arrival of the new Delta variant is a signal to us that we cannot let down our guards. It has ushered in a third wave in other parts of the world, and its strain has been found in Nigeria – as a matter of fact, in Oyo State.
“Therefore, we cannot pretend that Osun is an island considering that our people engage in trade and social activities with this neighbouring state.
“We should also be aware that the new variant has a high rate of mutation and it is deadlier. The worst part is that it does not have exactly the same symptoms like the variants experienced in the first and second wave. It presents just as body ache, devoid of dry cough and fever. So, we need to be mindful of the symptoms and go to the hospital when we feel unwell.
“Those who have taken the two jabs of the vaccines should note that the vaccines reduce their susceptibility but doesn’t rule out their chances of contracting and infecting others who have not been vaccinated.
“Everyone should protect himself at all times by putting on a face mask in public places, avoid crowded spaces, disinfect hands and surfaces with alcohol-based sanitiser.”
On the level of vaccination in the state, Isamotu said the programme was ongoing, adding that Osun had received 245,000 doses of vaccine. He, however, said a large number of residents were yet to receive the first jab.
In Ekiti State, the government said it was set to heighten surveillance and strict enforcement of all existing measures aimed at containing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It called on all indigenes and other residents to adhere to the government’s public health advisories and regulations in the collective interests.
The government said it would continue to work closely with the Federal Government and its agencies, as well as its development partners to prevent the spread of the disease, no matter the strain. It also advised residents not to relent in the practice of preventive measures.
Speaking with The Guardian on telephone, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Public Health, Dr. Jimlas Ogunsakin, also explained that the state had concluded the second round of the vaccination.“The numbers are not in my head at the moment but we have finished the first and second for both part one and part two. We don’t even have enough doses. We had a low turnout for the second phase. We had 30 per cent turnout. But we had to start giving people as first doses.”
Asked whether the state was still conducting tests, he said: “We are still conducting tests. We now conduct tests in every local government testing centre in the General Hospitals.”
On the state of isolation centres, he said they were still in operation. “In fact, we have four COVID-19 active cases. This new variant is keeping us on our toes again. We are trying to step up our preventive measures.
“What we are doing to forestall the third wave is establishing emergency operational centres at every local government and we are doing a lot of sensitisation in all the local governments as well,” the governor’s aide said.
Despite the continuation of testing by the Plateau State government to stave off the third wave, residents are not turning up to be tested because some of them do not believe in the existence of the virus.
The state Epidemiologist and Incident Manager on COVID-19, Mrs. Matina Nuwan, lamented that testing in the state had become very poor because those who don’t believe in the reality of the disease were discouraging others.
On whether the isolation centres that were created at the peak of the disease were still operational, she explained that the centres were treatment points before the outbreak of the disease that were merely designated as isolation centres during the pandemic.
Nuwan told The Guardian that the government was very much aware of the deadly Delta variant of the virus and was seriously preparing to tame it.
It was observed that most residents of the state no longer keep to the safety protocols against the disease, such as wearing of facemask and observing social distancing. In busy streets like Terminus, Ahmadu Bello Way and Murtala Mohammed Way, people moved about without any precaution.
In Abia State, about 26,000 persons have so far been vaccinated against the virus. Findings showed that the exercise was ongoing at designated centres in the state.
The Epidemiologist, Dr. Peace Nwogwugwu, who confirmed this said that there were no in-patients in any of the isolation centres for now.
Director of the state’s Primary Health Development Agency, Dr. Chinagozi Adindu, revealed that initially, there was poor response to COVID-19 testing and vaccination due to skepticism, but the situation later improved when high profile persons, including Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and other top government officials presented themselves for testing and vaccination.
“We mounted and sustained aggressive campaigns through the electronic media, engaged town criers in communities and the churches. We are ready for the second phase of the vaccination,” he said.
The Executive Secretary, Katsina State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Shamsudeen Yahaya, said the state received a total of 111,700 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and that 75,983 persons had been vaccinated for the first dose.
Yahaya, who said 32,128 people had been vaccinated for the second dose, explained that the differential was due to some people taking the dose outside the state.
“In a nutshell, we were able to exhaust all the vaccines given to us before the due date. We stopped vaccination on July 7 and we have exhausted all the vaccines. What we are waiting for now is the next consignment. Once we receive from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, we will go ahead and make plans for the csecond phase,” he said.
Asked if the isolation centres in the state were still operational, Yahaya answered in the affirmative, but noted that currently there were no patients on admission.
On steps being taken to forestall outbreak of third wave of the virus in the state, he said various standing committees were working through surveillance, media messages and focal persons to educate the people about the virus and how to avoid contracting it.
“We have the overall Emergency Response Committee headed by the deputy governor. They are working with other relevant team members, and we have the Emergency Preparation Technical Response Committe, chaired by the Commissioner for Health.
“We also have the Emergency Operation Centre at the State Emergency Healthcare Development Agency. We have always been working. We operate what we call Incident Management System. The surveillance pillars are vigilant; they go round to see if there is any unusual happening and report.
“Then we have the Risk Communication pillar. When you listen to your radio, you will hear jingles about COVID-19, how to prevent oneself from contracting the virus. We are also doing a lot of town hall meetings and community engagement using our religious focal persons.
“Then we have the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) pillar whereby we institutionalise the IPC in our facilities and even to the general public. We are quite aware of what is happening in other places and we are very alert in case we have any outbreak of the variant,” he said.
Findings in Cross River State showed that since the COVID-19 isolation centres erected at the peak of the pandemic were vandalised during the #EndSARS protests, the state has not fixed them. Only the isolation centres at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) and the Ogoja General Hospital are currently functional.
The Director General of Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCDA), Dr. Janet Ekpenyong, told The Guardian in Calabar that the state was making arrangements to successfully contain the new Delta variant and possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ekpenyong, who revealed that over 58,000 residents had been vaccinated, stated that sensitisation and awareness progammes were ongoing at the local government level to ensure that people remain conscious of the virus and are encouraged to take the vaccines.
“Everyone is on alert. We are already intensifying our surveillance even in our various local councils. At the state level, we have had to actually meet to discuss to see how we can intensify surveillance. We also want to see how we can improve on the number of testing carried out daily because it is only through testing that you will be able to identify if someone has COVID-19 or even the new variant.”
The Imo State government said it was ready to curtail the third wave of the pandemic.
According to the COVID-19 Situation Report, which was released on Tuesday, July 3, the state recorded 1,663 cases out of which 37 have died and 1,622 cases discharged while there are six active cases in the various treatment and isolation centres.
In anticipation of the third wave, the state government, through the COVID-19 Response Task Force led by Prof. Maurice Iwu, has activated the isolation centres and put the Epidemiology Surveillance Team at work once again.
Also, the government said that the Viral Haemorrgic Fever (VHF) and Infection Prevention Control (IPC) were working to ensure that contact tracing and reduction of contraction are achieved.
In Benue State, there is anxiety among residents over possible outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus.
However, the Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Joseph Ngbea, told The Guardian that the state was on top of the situation. He disclosed that Benue received about 78,170 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines at first instance but later got additional 20,800 doses.
Ngbea, who is the secretary of the State Steering Committee on COVID-19, stated that although tests were not being conducted as supposed, the isolation centres in Makurdi, the state capital, and three others at the zonal areas of Katdina-Ala, Gboko and Otukpo had been reorganised to handle any eventuality.
He stated: “The state government has approved some money for purchase of some necessary equipment to step up action in case the Delta variant arrives Benue. A molecular laboratory has been built at the state Epidemiological Unit and is being stocked with necessary facilities for action against any vital disease.”
The state incident manager for COVID-19, Dr. Terungwa Ngisher, revealed that only 60,000 people in the state had received the first and second doses of the vaccines.
He expressed regret that majority of the Benue residents were not observing the safety protocols against the disease due to misinformation and misconception, appealing for attitudinal change.
Also in Enugu State, the residents have let down their guards against the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. Poor adherence to safety protocols has continued even with the presence of the deadly Delta variant in the country.
A medical doctor, who would not want his name in print, told The Guardian that both the state government and residents were not serious with the management of the virus.
The State Epidemiologist/Manager, Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), Dr. Chinyere Ezeudu, however, stated that the state government was reactivating its response pillars, adding that the acquisition of diagnostic test kits would facilitate rapid results.
Ezeudu, who stated that facilities provided by the state government during the first wave of the COVID-19 were still on ground, stressed that action review of the first and second waves of the disease was held within the week.
“The rapid diagnostic test takes about 10 minutes to give results when it is administered on a person. That test is very highly sensitive. With the surge in the Delta variant, I don’t think we have time for patients to wait for long before getting their results. We might even take their samples to know if it is Delta variant, but if you are positive, you are positive. We will continue with taking of samples to dictate those that are positive.
“We are activating all response pillars, laboratory surveillance, logistics and case management. For now, where we have for case management is ESUT Park Lane. We have the infectious disease unit that is ready. People that will work there are already on ground,” she said.
Secretary of the State Taskforce on COVID-19, Mr. Chris Amalu, also said that testing and sensitisation of residents on safety protocols had continued in the state.
“We are intensifying public enlightenment. The information is that we should be more careful. We are also reaching out to facilities and health managers. We have deployed the antigen diagnostic test so that we can quickly pick up any COVID-19 infection. Currently, the state has rapid diagnostic kit for antigen dictation. So, once you present any COVID-19 symptom in any facility, it will be administered on you,” he said.
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