By Rasheed Sobowale
Looking back a month ago, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Nigeria was lesser than half of a thousand.
In April 15, according to a report by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the number of people infected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was 407 while only 12 sadly lost their lives. On the good side, 128 of the total cases as at then recovered and were subsequently discharged.
Recall this was two days after the President, Muhammadu Buhari, addressed the nation for the second time on the COVID-19 pandemic and also ordered that the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) be extended for an extra 14 days as part of renewed efforts to tackle the coronavirus in the country.
As at the date of the president’s address (April 13th), the nation only recorded 323 confirmed coronavirus cases and 10 deaths.
Fast forward to May 15, a month later, the nation’s number of coronavirus cases have skyrocketed; increasing by 1,237.8 per cent. Figure-wise, the April 15 number of confirmed cases which was 407 had increased to 5,445, a month later.
Sadly, the number of people who have lost their lives to the virus has also increased by 1,325 per cent. Figure-wise, as at April 15, the number of fatalities recorded was 12; but as at May 15, the number has increased to 171.
Why the increase?
The number of coronavirus cases as seen across the world is proportionate to the number of tests conducted by the concerned nation.
The number of tests conducted by the Nigeria government in proportion to the nation’s total population is low; although this has significantly increased till date.
For instance, as at April 13, the nation has only tested about 5,000 people and reported 323 confirmed cases. This in comparison to its total population of more than 200 million is on the low side.
In comparison, as at the same time, South Africa, with a population of 59.3 million conducted about 75,000 tests of the COVID-19 and recorded more than 2,000 confirmed cases.
However, Nigeria as at May 15 has tested more than 30,500 people; and recorded 5,445 confirmed cases. It can, therefore, be inferred the more a country test, the higher the probability of the number of confirmed cases increasing.
Countries like South Africa, on the other hand, has conducted almost 200,000 testings so far, while targeting daily testing of more than 10,000.
Ease of lockdown
President Buhari in his national address (the third) on April 28th approved a phased and gradual easing of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun states, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The lockdown was ordered to be eased starting May 4.
By May 4, the number of confirmed cases has already spiked to 2,802 with 92 fatalities, and happily, 407 recovered from the infection.
There has been fear of community transmission of the coronavirus since the ease of the lockdown in Nigeria considering the violation of the lockdown preventive measures by Nigerians hustling their way to work and other activities.
In his concern, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu expressed displeasure over non-compliance by residents to safety guidelines and directives in the wake of gradual easing of lockdown, warning that government would not hesitate to review the terms of easing if the level of compliance continues to nose dive.
Lagos State is the epicentre of the coronavirus cases in Nigeria with a number of cases almost three times that of the second-highest state.
The Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu speaking during a daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 berated the manner in which many Nigerians violated the government’s safety measures and noted the authorities could be forced to impose another lockdown.
“…what we do not want is an explosion of new infections. If we do have that explosion, there would be almost no choice left for the leadership of the country than to ask all of us to go back into our homes.”
Cases expected to increase
In spite of the poor health facilities in Africa, experts are still amazed at how the number of cases has not yet surpassed Western nations like the United States (US) where the virus has infected more than 1.4 million people.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi said considering the current trend of the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the state may possibly record between 90,000 and 120,000 cases by July or August.
Likewise, the World Health Organisation (WHO) modelling study reported by AFP has estimated the new coronavirus could infect a quarter of a billion people in Africa and kill 150,000 people a year unless urgent action is taken.
Authors of the research, published in the journal BMJ Global Health, predicted a lower infection rate than in other parts of the world like Europe and the US, with fewer severe cases and deaths. But while they said many African nations had been swift to adopt containment measures, they warned that health systems could still quickly become overwhelmed.
Presently, all 54 African countries have recorded at least a case of the coronavirus, while there are concerns the number of cases was under-reported.
“The testing system is quite overloaded,” admitted a doctor working at a private clinic in Lagos, who asked not to be identified.
“It takes time for… the results,” he told AFP. “And are they accurate? We don’t know.”