By Chioma Obinna
Unlike the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic when Nigerians abandoned safety protocols, the news of Nigeria slipping into the third wave has caused a lot of concerns in the country.
From Lagos to Maiduguri, Sokoto to Ogun, there is growing anxiety over the gradual return of the disease.
The situation is being heightened by the emergence of the highly infectious and transmissible type popularly known as Delta Variant. It was first discovered in India.
The fear among many Nigerians may not be unconnected with the announcement by the World Health Organisation, WHO, last Thursday that new weekly cases in Africa have now overtaken the weekly numbers recorded at the height of the second wave in January this year.
According to WHO, Africa is witnessing the fastest surge ever in COVID-19 as cases have risen for eight consecutive weeks, topping six million as of July 13, 2021.
It disclosed that the continent recorded a 43 percent week-on-week rise in COVID-19 deaths, increased hospital admissions, and shortages in oxygen and intensive care beds.
Further statistics released by WHO showed that fatalities increased to 6, 273 in the week ending on 11 July 2021 from 4, 384 deaths in the previous week.
Africa is now less than one percent shy of the weekly peak reached in January when 6, 294 deaths were recorded.
The continent’s case fatality rate, which is the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases, currently stands at 2.6 percent against the global average of 2.2 per cent. Medical experts fear that such statistics spell doom for the region
However, in Nigeria, as of July 14, 2021, 48 new confirmed cases were recorded in Nigeria
To date, 168,915 cases have been confirmed, 164652 cases have been discharged while 2,125 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
Sadly, there are strong indications that there has been a steady rise of positive cases in Nigeria particularly in Lagos which is the epicentre of the pandemic.
According to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the state alone has witnessed a rise in cases. Declaring that a third wave was imminent, he said the bed occupancy in its isolation centres had increased from one per cent to six per cent.
Sanwo-Olu lamented that between May 8 and 7 July 2021, 18 percent (9,057) of 50,322 “passengers of interest” who arrived in Lagos via the Murtala Mohammed Airport could not be reached for mandatory isolation.
Soon after the governor spoke, the NCDC detected a case of Delta Variant in Abuja followed by more cases in Oyo State.
Since then, the developments in the country have stirred up a kind of consciousness regarding ways to prevent the spread of the virus.
At the same time, more conspiracy theories took centre stage in the country. While some Nigerians went back to the non-pharmaceutical guidelines as recommended by the government and the use of sanitisers, fake and unverified reports took over social media.
A case in point is the news of a Ward B at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idiaraba, Lagos, said to have been overfilled with COVID-19 patients.
The report titled: “Lagos in Trouble” caused panic among Lagosians. There was also fake news about cases of Delta Variant discovered in Ogun State. The news of COVID-19 vaccine magnetic theory trending on social media is now commonplace and gaining ground in the minds of many Nigerians. However, these and more fake reports have since been debunked by the appropriate authorities.
But medical experts said the third wave of the virus in Nigeria is as real as life itself, insisting that the public should stop living in denial.
They warned that the impact of the pandemic may be worse than the first and second wave if appropriate precaution is not taken.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, a Public Health Analyst, Dr Casmier Ifeanyi, said Nigerians must guard against the danger of dismissing the reported third wave in the country.
“You need not be a public health expert to decipher that something strange was unfolding in our country from the rising number in the reportage of detected positive cases of Covid-19 as published daily by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC),” he said.
Ifeanyi said the current reported situation at the University of Lagos can best be described as a large-scale instance of how real the third wave has become for Nigerians in Nigeria.
“My concern is not how real the third wave is, rather our plight in the face of our glaring challenges and predicaments. Foremost of the challenge is the fact that Nigerians long ago abandoned compliance with the non-pharmaceutical intervention protocols despite all appeals and persuasions from the health authorities and government,” he added.
Ifeanyi, who warned that more worrisome is the country’s age-long weak health system and infrastructure, said the fact that COVID-19 vaccine coverage is relatively low remains a major problem.
“As of today, less than 4 million Nigerians so far have received varying doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The steps taken recently by the management of UNILAG are quite commendable. Surely, it will help curb the spread of the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos and its environs,” he added.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, a renowned Virologist, Prof Oyewale Tomori, warned that Delta Variant is causing havoc not only in other parts of the world but also in some African countries.
He said Nigerians should begin to comply with government guidelines by wearing masks and observing safe distancing.
“Government should be aggressive and proactive lab testing should be extended to the communities, “ Tomori said.
Tomori, however, questioned why Nigerian government should be waiting for free vaccines.
“South Africa, Ghana and one other country have gone ahead to purchase vaccines. They are not waiting only for COVAX. Has your country done so? How long shall we wait for free vaccines? We have been shouting about buying vaccines. Billions have been allocated in the last three or four months,” he added.
Meanwhile, WHO has warned that the COVID-19 surge in Africa has been the fastest the continent has seen as the death rate has climbed in five weeks.
WHO said in Africa, the demand for medical oxygen has spiked and is now estimated to be 50 percent higher than in 2020, yet supply has not kept up.
A rapid WHO assessment of six countries facing a resurgence found that just 27 percent of the medical oxygen needed is produced.