Rage of COVID-19 into second wave: ‘How about 50, 000 travelers into Nigeria escaped testing’

Project Safeup provides 2.5m free PPE to Nigerians…NCDC: International travelers not cause of upsurge in cases

…Averting new lockdown to save economy already in recession’

By Chioma Obinna

The Federal Government, on Thursday, confirmed that Nigeria was in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and was considering a second lockdown.

But the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and experts in the health sector are warning against returning to lockdown as it would crumble the economy.

Meanwhile, a professor of virology, Oyewole Tomori, said that despite measures in place to contain coronavirus, nearly 50, 000 travelers into Nigeria were not tested for the virus within a period of eight weeks, saying this may have contributed to the spread of the virus even if insignificantly.

Quoting figures from the NCDC website, Tomori said there was no need for second lockdown since, according to him, the first lockdown was ineffective.

According to data from the NCDC, last Thursday, for the first time since the pandemic started in February, the country crossed 1,000 daily COVID-19 infections with 1,145 new confirmed cases with one death.

The day previous (Wednesday), Nigeria recorded 930 confirmed cases, the second-highest daily infections since the start of the pandemic.

On December 11, NCDC reported a total of 796 confirmed cases within 24 hours while the fourth highest number of infections was during the first wave when 790 cases were reported on July 1.

According to the NCDC figures, a total of 76,207 cases have been confirmed, 67,110 discharged and 1,201 deaths recorded in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

States worst hit include Lagos which leads with 25,895 confirmed cases, 1,850 on admission, 23,812 discharged and 233 deaths.

Abuja follows with 9,053 confirmed cases, 2,480 on admission, 6,485 discharged and 88 dead.

Next is Kaduna which has 4,236 cases with 47 deaths, Plateau, 4,179 cases and 34 deaths, Oyo 3,785 cases and 46 deaths.  Rivers has 3,234 cases and 60 deaths.

Edo is second to Lagos in the number of deaths with 113 and 2,755 confirmed cases. Ogun has 2,360 cases with 33 deaths.

It will be recalled that Nigeria, since August 23, witnessed a decline in the number of positive cases.

The country also had as low as 37 cases on October 21, 2020.

However, when, on December 11, Nigeria suddenly started having exponential rise in confirmed cases, there were speculations that the country was in the middle of second wave.

But what have countries recording high number of cases done?

Just like Nigeria, countries in Europe are no doubt seeing resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Portugal, Hungary, and England, are among nations already in second lockdown because Covid-19 cases skyrocketed.

Consequently, the question on the lips of many is, can Nigeria’s economy survive a new lockdown while under recession?

Averting second lockdown

The NCDC, in answering the question, has warned that a second lockdown would have grave effects on the economy.

The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakweazu, in a chat with Sunday Vanguard, said averting a second lockdown requires collective responsibility of all Nigerians.

According to him, the nationwide lockdown in Nigeria at the beginning of the outbreak in March was put in place to initially limit the spread of the virus, but more importantly, allow for a scale up of response capacity, through contact tracing and monitoring of COVID-19 cases.

Ihekweazu, who stated that the role of NCDC was to provide the required data and recommendations based on public health, to the Presidential Task Force (PTF), dismissed the insinuation that the upsurge was from inbound travelers, saying the majority of the new cases recorded in Nigeria in the last two weeks were from people who have not traveled internationally in the last 14 days.

“Notwithstanding, we have also recorded cases among travelers who tested negative before travel, but were infected between the point of initial testing and the test taken seven days after arrival”, he said.

“In addition, most travelers have adhered to the requirement to carry out a test within 120 hours or less of travel. This has been as a result of the collaboration between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and airlines for enforcement.

“However, we have witnessed less than average turnout for the repeat testing on the 7th day”.

The NCDC boss pointed out that it was extremely important for travelers into Nigeria to be aware of the associated risks. “We urge people to adhere to the travel protocol especially remaining in self-isolation for 7 days and getting tested on the 7th day”, he said.

“This has evolved into a largely seamless process and is extremely important given the increase in COVID-19 cases.”

Assuring that the NCDC would rise to the challenge, he disclosed that with support from the Africa CDC, they have maintained a small team of responders across most states since the end of the peak phase of the pandemic in August and working with the states to deploy additional teams to support the response as needed.

“We are also escalating our risk communications and providing additional medical/laboratory supplies to ensure testing continues and patients are well managed. We continue to support every state in Nigeria based on their needs”, Ihekweazu said.

Ineffective first lockdown

Also speaking, a virologist and former President of the Nigeria Academy of Science, NAS, Prof Oyewole Tomori, said there was no need for second lockdown as the first one was ineffective.

Tomori stated that the first lockdown was badly managed and poorly implemented.

Speaking on speculations that travelers into Nigeria may have escalated cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, he explained that, according to data from NCDC website, of over 56, 864 inbound travelers between weeks 42 and 48, only about 13 percent, that is, 7, 541 were tested and only 48 tested positive.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 and Nigerians by Rotimi Fasan

“According to data from NCDC site, between epid weeks 42 and 49, we received 56,864 inbound travelers and managed to test only 7,541 or 13.2 percent of them.

“Of these, 487 or 6.5 percent were positive and these contributed about 5.2 percent to the number of national positives for the same period.

“Some people may have contracted infection from these travelers, but it will be fair to say that the upsurge in number of COVID-19 cases we have now is more of internal transmission via community spread.”

Also speaking, a professor of public health at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof Akin Osibogun, said while a lockdown helps to curb transmission, it is a tough decision even in developed countries and a tougher decision in developing countries with poorly developed social infrastructure.

Osibogun, a former Chief Medical Director of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, said the best bet was to educate and encourage the public to adopt public health measures and avoid a lockdown.

He said the main culprit in the sharp rise in the number of cases was non-adherence to public health measures including use of face masks, hand washing, physical distancing and avoidance of crowded events.

According to him, a visit to any of our markets will show why one is not surprised at the resurgence.

Further, Osibogun said to tackle the resurgence, Lagos State government has increased testing capacity and strengthened capacity for home-based management in addition to its experienced case management personnel in its isolation centres.

He said public education campaigns are also being intensified to prevent and reduce transmission.

On his part, a medical lab scientist and public health analyst, Dr Casmier Ifeanyi, said Nigeria has failed to comply with interventions which resulted in the upsurge.

Describing the current situation in the country as “worrisome”, Ifeanyi expressed worry that the situation may escalate with the yuletide.

“Across the globe there have been projection of second wave and some countries in Europe, Germany and France, last week, issued guidelines for lockdown and that was so because these countries have systems and they are providing testing for their population”, he stated.

“They have been able to define COVID-19 and the disease burden. It is from the modeling data that they done that they have been able to project that there will be second wave and they prepared for it.  In our own case, we are not prepared.

“Nigerians are highly travelled people. Since the return of international travel, Nigerians have moved across the globe in droves for diverse reasons.

“It must be said that although our Port Health Services and the NCDC are doing their best, their best is not comprehensive enough to deal with the issue of forestalling second wave.

“Most times, they skip the protocol and there are reports that people have procured fake COVID-19 test results. All these have helped to bring in more cases into the country.

“International travel is a major factor but we must not lose sight”.

He described COVID-19 as the disease of closure, saying that anything that would promote gathering of people in an enclosure with limited ventilation will spread respiratory diseases.

“In Nigeria today, people will make mockery of you even when you try to promote personal hygiene. These are our major problems”, the expert added.

Vanguard News Nigeria

The post Rage of COVID-19 into second wave: ‘How about 50, 000 travelers into Nigeria escaped testing’ appeared first on Vanguard News.

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