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COVID-19: Second wave looms amid lax safety protocols

26 September 2020   |   4:24 am
With 125 additional new cases as at last Thursday, the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in Nigeria stood at 57, 849. Out of this number, 49,098 have been discharged while 1,102 deaths have been recorded.

Even law enforcement agents have abandoned the use of facemasks in Lagos PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

With 125 additional new cases as at last Thursday, the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in Nigeria stood at 57, 849. Out of this number, 49,098 have been discharged while 1,102 deaths have been recorded.

Many health analysts consider the figure impressive given the projections that were made when the country recorded its index case of the virus on February 27, this year.

Lagos State alone, which is seen as the epicentre of the pandemic in the country, had projected that the number of confirmed cases in the state might reach 120,000 by last August. But the state has so far recorded 19,123 cases and 205 deaths, with 15,246 recoveries as at the date under review.

Outside Lagos, other states have been recording lesser cases of the disease lately. As last Thursday’s figure indicated, out of the 125 new cases, Lagos accounted for 37, Plateau, 18; Federal Capital Territory (FCT), 17; Ogun, 15; Rivers, 10; Benue, seven; Kaduna, seven; Anambra, seven; Oyo, three; Cross River, two; Ondo, two; Edo, one and Imo, one.

Speaking during the briefing by the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19, on Thursday, September 17, the Chairman of the taskforce and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, declared that Nigeria had made tremendous progress in containing the disease, citing data from other nations.

He specifically noted that the COVID-19 curve was flattening, but warned that this “positive development should be taken with vigilance and cautious optimism based on the fact that we are convinced that we have not tested enough, as we have only recently reopened our international flights.”

Second Wave Looms
DESPITE the warning, observations showed that many Nigerians perceive the decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country as the end of the pandemic. With the markets now open, schools reopening, worship centres in operation, movement across states unrestricted and local flight/international flights in operation, a lot of people have thrown caution to the wind and now live as though the country has suddenly become immune to the pandemic. In the markets, commuter buses, offices and some social gatherings, the safety protocols advised by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), are brazenly and increasingly being defied.

Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, had, however, warned at the beginning of the eased lockdown that, “the re-opening of society means that more people will come in contact with each other, which is how the virus spreads.”

He added: “This is why we have provided guidelines and measures, such as physical distancing, compulsory use of facemasks in public settings, limited the number of people that can meet, etc. It is very important that Nigerians adhere to these measures, so that we can protect each other. Our health systems are stretched and we must take responsibility as individuals to reduce the risk of spread of the virus.”

Against the backdrop of the disdain with which Nigerians have treated this appeal lately, a technical adviser in the implementation of NCDC’s action plan in Adamawa State, Fahad Mohammed, warned two days ago that there was the likelihood of an even more devastating second wave of coronavirus in Adamawa and other states of the federation.

Mohammed said there had been non-compliance to COVID-19 health guidelines, stressing that low numbers does not necessarily mean the virus has left the shores of the country.

“Where you observe low numbers, it means tests are not being undertaken. There are about seven local councils in Adamawa where testing has never taken place. You can’t say there is no such disease in the areas.

“There is serious concern (though we don’t pray and God forbid) that there is likely to be even more devastating second wave of coronavirus in Adamawa and other states due to the non-compliance to COVID-19 health guidelines and people declining tests,” he warned.

The Federal Government had also last Monday warned against flouting COVID-19 safety guidelines during school reopening to avoid a spike in infections.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, confirmed that there was growing complacency among Nigerians as the number of infections appears to be reducing.

According to the minister, records show that 10 per cent of all positive cases treated in the country were below the age of 19.
His words: “The daily figures of the past few days seem to show a downward trend in numbers of COVID-19 positive cases as well as fatalities, but we unfortunately cannot afford to rejoice or speak of success, for many reasons.

“International news media shows scenes of upsurge in COVID-19 cases, called the second wave in several high income countries, many of which had been thought to have defeated COVID-19 and which now see threat to their health systems. This is a situation we must endeavour to avoid, and for that, all steps must be taken.

“It is important for us to generate national and international confidence in our data by conducting more targeted testing before we draw conclusions. It means that all states and local government areas must cooperate with NCDC by raising sample collection rate, using criteria listed, to increase testing to a desired rate and to report promptly, as we are still far from the target of two million tests.

“With regard to COVID-19 and growing complacency, it is important to stress that, even though adults, especially those 60 years and above are more vulnerable, complications do occur in all age groups. Records show that 10 per cent of all positive cases we have treated are below the age of 19 years.

“They are also the same mobile group that can be without symptoms, but can easily spread the disease. Therefore, as schools begin to reopen in some areas, I urge caution and adherence to the protocols and advisories for reopening schools, in order join us to prevent COVID-19 surge.

“As we reopen our economy, it is time for us to take preventive measures even more seriously. I have directed all our hospitals to be alert and watch for unusual increase in number of persons reporting at our hospital as emergency centre.”

Speaking in the same vein, the Anap Foundation COVID-19 Think Tank, last Wednesday, raised the alarm over the breach of COVID-19 protocols at social gatherings.

In a statement by its chairman and vice chairman, Atedo Peterside and Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, respectively, the Anap Think Tank noted that all public health rules had been forgotten, pointing at the crowd recorded during the burial of the Emir of Zazzau in Kaduna State recently.  

“While the outpouring of emotion as evidenced by the huge crowds that spontaneously assembled around the palace is very understandable, given the high esteem in which the Emir was held, it was evident that all public health rules were forgotten,” the group said.

The statement added: “This leaves room to ask what government could have done to anticipate and mitigate the risks such an assembly must raise in this period of pandemic. The Anap Think Tank acknowledges the efforts of Kaduna State and its leadership in the area of non-medical interventions especially in encouraging social distancing, hygiene and wearing of face coverings. We acknowledge the leadership by example set by its government.

“This, however, makes the question more pertinent. If in a state where genuine efforts have been made to limit the spread of the disease in the community this dangerous event nevertheless occurred, then it highlights further the key importance of the authorities’ preparedness.

“We therefore wish to flag this issue as one that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) should urgently address and put in place clear strategies to prevent such a recurrence. The country is increasingly witnessing numerous incidences of social events where COVID-19 protocols are not being followed and a renewed clarification by the PTF would not be amiss at this time.

“As we watch the world slip in varying degrees into a steep second wave of infection, this is not the time for Nigeria to relax in her efforts at controlling disease spread.”

Fears Of Second Wave Genuine
AS countries continue to reopen their economies, Coronavirus cases in Europe have increased sharply over the last few weeks, with case rates highest in Spain and France. According to the latest 14-day cumulative figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control released on September 13, there were 270.7 cases per 100,000 people in Spain, 153.9 per 100,000 people in France and 51.1 cases per 100,000 people in the United Kingdom (UK). The World Health Organisation (WHO) also recently reported increases in India, the U.S. and Brazil. The WHO also warned that Europe could expect to see more deaths from COVID-19 by next month.

“It’s going to get tougher. In October, November, we are going to see more mortality,” said WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, in an interview with AFP.

To tame the second wave of the virus in the UK, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, last Tuesday, imposed new restrictions, appealing to Britons to obey the new rules and work from home where possible to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Johnson’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance warned last Monday that without action, the UK was on track to register 50,000 new COVID-19 cases a day by mid-October.

In response to the warning, Johnson announced new restrictions, which he told the Parliament could be in place for “perhaps six months.” These include: Office workers to work from home if they can; pubs and restaurants limited to table service, must close at 10 p.m; shop workers, taxi users, hospitality staff and customers to wear face coverings; wedding ceremonies limited to a maximum of 15 people; conferences, exhibitions, large sporting events won’t re-open for crowds on October 1 and fine for failing to wear mask will double to 200 pounds.

The UK risks “many more deaths, many more families losing loved ones before their time” if people fail to do their part, the prime minister said in a televised address. “The tragic reality of having COVID-19 is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell,” he warned, adding, “military will be available to help free up police,” in implementing the rules.

Way Forward
A CONSULTANT Epidemiologist at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), who spoke with The Guardian but pleaded anonymity, urged relevant governmental agencies to enforce “strict compliance” with all the preventive measures against the deadly virus.

“The virus is new and scientists the world over have not fully grasped its culture and characteristics. It rises and falls. But that should not be misinterpreted as reduction in the rise,” he warned. The coming days, weeks and months would show whether the concerned authorities and entire citizenry would heed this call.