•Akwa Ibom State records 3 deaths in 2 weeks — SSG
By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Chioma Onuegbu
IN the wake of the emergence of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal government says Nigeria has begun to see a pandemic of two tracks – where the Delta variant is tearing through unvaccinated populations.
Disclosing this yesterday during a virtual press conference organised by the Africa Regional office of the World Health Organisation, WHO, facilitated by APO Group, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, explained that although the Delta variant, tagged a variant of concern by the WHO was first detected two weeks ago, Nigeria is seeing an increase in the number of new cases.
Ehanire, who said that the federal government has paid high priority to COVID-19 response, recalled the unfortunate surge in cases in India a few months ago and regretted that a similar surge is now being seen in most African countries.
Noting that despite the support by the COVAX Facility led by WHO, CEPI, GAVI and UNICEF who have so far delivered 3.9 million vaccine doses to Nigeria, he lamented that Nigeria and most other African countries have continued to suffer from the gross inequity in global vaccine access.
“The most at-risk – health workers, older populations and those with underlying conditions are unprotected in lower-income countries, while richer countries are vaccinating those much less at risk and procuring booster shots.
Calling on richer countries to share doses now with countries like Nigeria through existing mechanisms such as COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, AVATT, managed by the Africa CDC, Ehanire said it was also important that richer countries support the Intellectual Property waiver and facilitate free movement of vital raw materials for vaccines to scale up production capacity.
“We appeal to vaccine manufacturers to make it as easy as possible for countries to share doses and prioritise technical transfer agreements to expand global production.
Noting that no country in the world was safe until every country is safe, Ehanire called for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and other tools including diagnostics and therapeutics.
On local vaccine production, the minister said Nigeria was keenly interested in being the hub in local production of vaccines in Africa, adding that the government has worked out a business plan with a private company in Nigeria.
“We are going to bid for technical support and we will be one of those considered for the COVID-19 vaccine production in Africa,”
Noting that Nigeria has received over four million vaccine doses so far, the Minister said the country had expended all the doses with 126 percent of the target population of just over two million people receiving the first dose and 70 per cent receiving two doses.
“Less than 2 per cent of target 112 million populations have been reached, to reach herd immunity of 70 per cent.”
Delta variant: Akwa Ibom records 3 deaths in 2 weeks — SSG
The Secretary to State Government, SSG, and Chairman, Akwa Ibom State COVID-19 Management Committee, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem said the Delta variant has claimed three lives in the state in the past two weeks.
Ekuwem who made this known to newsmen on Thursday in Uyo, explained that the three deaths were among the 156 cases that tested positive within the period.
He noted that the increase, calls for renewal of collective effort at preventing the spread of the virus infection in the state.
Calling for caution and vigilance, he disclosed that government has reactivated all Covid-19 monitoring mechanisms to ensure strict compliance with Covid-19 guidelines and protocols henceforth.
“Over the past two weeks, cases of COVID-19 within the state have risen from five to 156.
“This increase, when considered in the light of the Delta variant of the virus, which has now been isolated in Nigeria, calls for a renewal of our collective effort at preventing the spread of COVID-19 virus infection in our state.
“Accordingly, the government calls on all citizens of the state to obey all COVID-19 guidelines and protocols earlier enunciated by the state government and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
“All non-essential social gatherings should be reconsidered with the view to drastically reducing the scale and scope or suspending same at this time. These include: burials, weddings, birthday celebrations etc”
The SSG warned that social distancing in tricycles and in mini-buses, wearing of face masks are to be strictly complied with, while religious houses would now run at half capacity and services should last not more than one hour.
Responding to the claim by the Akwa Ibom State government, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said while not all cases and deaths are caused by the Delta variant, it is important to understand that the variant spreads faster.
“We have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across states, and remain grateful for the Akwa Ibom State Government’s proactive leadership in recognising this risk.
“We continue to work with all states to highlight the risk of a surge in COVID-19 cases and strengthen preparedness. The public health laboratories are still functional and continue to test samples, we have ensured no laboratory or treatment centre runs out of supplies and now begun to scale up our risk communications.
“We urge Nigerians to adhere to all public health and social measures. These measures including regular handwashing, physical distancing and proper use of face masks are proven to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.”