Worried by the spread of virulent third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is also known as the Delta variant, the Federal Government has placed six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on red alert. The six states are Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano and Plateau. The alert was issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha. He explained that the government took the measure following the confirmation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in some states and the rising number of infections and hospitalisation in the country.
The SGF further enjoined all states of the federation to be on guard and continue to enforce all protocols put in place to check the spread of the disease.
According to Mustapha, “these steps are critical as we begin to see worrisome early signs of increasing cases in Nigeria.” He pointed out that the committee will continue to minimise the risk of importation of variants of concern into the country by strengthening surveillance at all points of entry, enforcing extant quarantine protocols and sustaining the current restrictive measures against travellers arriving from India, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, had earlier confirmed that the deadlier variant had entered Nigeria and was detected in a traveller to the country during the routine travel test required of all international travellers and genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.
To underscore the dangers of the new variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified it as deadly. The Director-General of the global agency, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, had warned that the variant was cutting through the world at alarming pace, driving a new spike in cases and deaths from COVID-19.
The alarm by the Federal Government is in order. It comes on the heels of the disturbing disclosure by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, that with the onset of the Delta variant, Nigeria is seeing an increase in the number of new cases, especially among unvaccinated populations. In Akwa Ibom State, the disease has claimed three lives already.
Statistics by the NCDC as at July 25 2021, indicated that 216 new cases had already been recorded in the country, pushing the figure to 171,111 cases confirmed, 164,789 cases discharged and 2,132 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The 216 new cases were reported from eight states- Lagos (108), Akwa Ibom (96), Oyo (4), Rivers (3), Edo (2), Ekiti (1), Kano (1), and Osun (1). The rate would have gone higher considering the virulent nature of the disease.
According to experts, the distinctive trait of the Delta variant is that it has increased transmissibility. The fear is that where the Delta variant is identified, it takes off rapidly and spreads between people easily. The seriousness associated with the disease accounts for the recent closure of the hostel facilities at the University of Lagos, where the virus had swept through, affecting some students and officials.
It is unfortunate that there is a resurgence of COVID-19 with the new variant. The outbreak indicates that Nigerians have lowered their guards in observing the prescribed protocols to keep it in check. The way out is a return to the strict enforcement of the established protocols of checking the disease. We enjoin Nigerians to ensure enhanced personal hygiene, frequent hand washing and wearing of face mask. Let them observe physical distancing, good ventilation and avoiding crowded places or closed settings.
They should stop treating medical issues with levity. Living in denial or ignorance is a major obstacle in tackling the disease. Those in charge of markets, worship centres, events centres and other public spaces must rise up to the occasion in creating awareness on the dangers of the virus.
We advise the government to take the issue of vaccination seriously and make it easily available to the people. It is good that the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, has given assurance on the availability of other COVID-19 vaccines other than Astra Zeneca. While efforts should be intensified to vaccinate more people, there is also need to look inwards for local remedies to combat the disease.