Call for reactivation of response programme nationwide
By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Nigerian scientists and public health experts on Monday described the Federal government’s declaration of red alert in six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, as “typical short-sightedness and failure to be proactive”, insisting that all states in Nigeria are at risk and should be put on red alert.
On Sunday, in the wake of the confirmation of the Delta variant and the rising number of infections and hospitalisation in the country, the federal government placed Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and the FCT on red alert as part of its preventive measures against the virulent third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In separate chats, the medical experts who also called for the reactivation of COVID-19 response activities nationwide urged the government to be more proactive in its response to the pandemic.
Speaking with Good Health Weekly, a renowned virologist and former President, Nigeria Academy of Science, NAS, Prof Oyewale Tomori said the whole of Nigeria, not just selected states, is at risk and should be on red alert.
“COVID goes where we take it. From Ikotun Egbe to Oba Ndemili South or North, the entire country should be on alert,” Tomori remarked.
He said after the Sallah holidays and the recent burials that violated all Non-Pharmaceuticals Interventions, NPIs, celebrants who may have asymptomatically harboured the virus before and afterward, would travel and return to their different destinations.
Tomori said the Presidential Steering Committee, PSC, is basing its decision on the faulty towers of poor uncoordinated testing in the country.
“I say declare Nigeria at the reddest alert, and not some states,” Tomori said.
Corroborating his views, former National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, Dr Casmier Ifeanyi said although the declaration was a step in the right direction, it was half smart as there is no hard or fast dividing line between the states listed as flashpoints and the other parts of the country.
He said: ”Virus does not travel, and the virus does not move but people move. We have a highly huge mobile youth population and a couple of days ago, people from most of the cities mentioned trooped into Anambra state, far into Oba village, you will see the need for a red alert in one country. I consider that red alert as being half smart and proactive.”
Insisting that all the states in the country are at risk, Ifeanyi said there is no limit or division between states like Lagos and other states.
“You can see people from the red alert zone entering into other zones. I expect the Presidential Steering Committee, PSC, that rather than limiting red alerts to some states as flashpoints because of the increasing number of cases, they should have rather made it national and reactivated the entire response programme and structure across the country.”
Also speaking, the President of the Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, Prof Oladapo Ashiru, charged the Federal government to step up its response to the pandemic.
Ashiru who urged for strict compliance with the safety protocol said it is very worrisome the way the Delta variant has been spreading.
“Now the variant has been reported in Lagos and Oyo states. The public must be very concerned and take personal protection using face masks and social distancing.
“The expected third wave of COVID-19 is here in Nigeria and we must as a people and with the leadership from our government apply brake and pull back from the various relaxations.”
Taking into consideration the current finding that the very infective Delta variant of the virus has overwhelmed health systems in countries, he said the Delta variant has been reported to be responsible for the current emerging 3rd wave of the pandemic in Nigeria.
He called on the government to establish strong grassroots-based surveillance and monitoring systems for rapid detection of the virus
“Funding should be provided for rapid and continuous sequencing of Covid-19 so as to track all emergent variants,” he argued.