August 13, 2021

COVID-19: No lockdown for now, says FG as cholera rages



…Lock-down is last measure, says Health minister

…Our problem is not another lock-down but getting people to adhere to safety guidelines – AMLSN

…Nigerians have thrown caution to the winds — NARD

…As FG spends N122bn to procure J&J vaccines

Cholera outbreak now in 22 states, infects 31,000, leaves 816 dead 

Nigeria shuts UK High Commission as diplomats test COVID-19 positive

By Sola Ogundipe, Health Editor, Chioma Obinna, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Haruna Aliyu

The Federal Government said yesterday that though the Delta variant of COVID-19 is on the rise in the country, it would not lock down the economy.

But experts said though they agreed with the government, they blamed it for failing to enforce COVID-19 protocols, whi-ch had led to rising cases.

This came as the Nigerian High Commission in London in the United Kingdom was yesterday shut after officials tested positive for COVID-19.

It will be recalled that the infection rate of the variant had spiked since it was first discovered in Nigeria in June, with daily infection rates as high as between 500 and 790 as at Wednesday, August 11, 2021.

But medical experts, including Nigeria Academy of Science, National President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists, AMLSN,  Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, said government shoulg enforce the COVID protocols to srop the spread of the virus.

The spread of the virus is coming as at least 22 states of the federation are battling cholera, which has infected over 30,000 persons, with more than 1,000 deaths.

Lock-down is last measure, says Health minister

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who stated this at the ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, said a lock down would be the last measure because doing so would stifle the economy and restrict people’s freedom.

He said: “We are not at the level yet where we are feeling that threat to do any lock-down. Lock down is the very last measure that countries are taking because it stifles economic activity, restricts your own freedom and your business — corporate business, government business, private business all are affected.

“So, it’s not something you do easily.  Of course, when we were compelled to have that lock-down at the beginning, we learnt a lot of lessons. You know at that time, government provided palliatives to ease its impact, if you couldn’t go to market, if you couldn’t do your business.

“But this is not what government is aiming to do, no government wants to do a lock-down. In countries where they have had serious threats, they have had to do what they call a precision lock-down like in the UK. In fact, Israel the other day announced that they’re doing some lock-down, but there’s no more generalised lock-downs but precision lock-downs of certain areas.”

Noting that many countries are currently doing precision lock-downs so that not everybody will be affected, Ehanire said it was only being done in certain areas to avoid too much damage to the economy and to social life.

“We are not at the level yet where we are feeling that threat to do any lockdown. As I speak to you now, there are several countries that are on one kind of lock-down or the other, if my recollection is correct at least six or seven countries that are doing one form of lock-down or the other. We do not have that on the table right now,” he said.

Beware fake vaccine jabs, minister warns

The minister alerted that there had been reports that some unscrupulous persons had been faking the vaccines in some other countries just as he cautioned the people against patronage of unofficial channels for their COVID-19 jabs.

He assured that the government had been sourcing its vaccines from designated manufacturers in order to checkmate incidences of faking.

Ehanire also counseled the people not to jettison the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) meant to curtail the spread of the disease, even after taking the jabs, cautioning that vaccinated persons could still suffer mild sickness if exposed to the virus.

FG spends N122bn to procure J&J vaccines

In order to further combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Federal Government also said yesterday it had procured over 29 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines at the cost of $298.5 million (over N122 billion) to enable Nigeria vaccinate 70 per cent of eligible members of the population.

The Executive Director/CEO of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuiab, who disclosed this in Abuja, said the 176,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines that arrived the country on Wednesday to roll out  next Monday, was part of 29 million doses procured by the government.

Not locking down wise move  — Nigeria Academy of Science

But reacting to the Federal Government’s position yesterday, an infectious disease expert and immunisation specialist who spoke for Nigeria Academy of Science, Professor Richard Akingbola, said it was a wise move on the part of the government not to lock-down now.

Akingbola, a Fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Science, NAS, told Vanguard that the implications of locking down needed to be compared with not locking down before taking a decision. “It would be wrong for me to say whether the government is right or wrong because I do not know what they have on hand before making that kind of decision. 

“But personally I think it is a wise decision not to lock down now because we need to look at the implications of locking down and compare that with not locking down and make people aware of other things they can do.”

READ ALSO: Cholera kills 146, infects 282 in Kebbi

Explaining that the Nigerian community is one in which people depend on going out everyday to make a living, Adegbola said a lock-down should be carefully considered.  “So you have to consider what the lock-down would do to people. There are other things that people can do that can protect them and prevent getting exposed to the Delta variant that is highly transmissible.

“Vaccines are available and the ones we have are probably the best that we have at the moment, and then there are the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions that people tend not to be adhering to, like wearing face masks, washing of hands from time to time, use of hand sanitisers and avoiding crowds.”

Nigeria shuts UK High Commission as diplomats test COVID-19 positive

Meanwhile, the Nigerian High Commission in London in the United Kingdom was yesterday shut after officials tested positive for COVID-19.

The Chairman of Association of Nigerians in UK, Ayo Amife, confirmed last night that the high commission was shut by 7pm yesterday by the High Commissioner, Sarafa Ishola.

In memo dated August 12, 2021, titled, “Closure of Nigeria High Commission, London,” the country’s High Commission to UK detailed circumstances leading to the move. It read: “This afternoon (yesterday), the Head of Immigration Section and two other officials went for a meeting at the Home Office.

“At the entrance, COVID test was administered on them and one of them tested positive to COVID-19. The affected officer immediately isolated while the other officials, who tested negative, will also isolate for the next 10 days.

“In response to this challenge, the Mission embarked on testing all officials of the mission, after which another official of the Mission tested positive.

“In line with COVID-19 regulation and the need to adhere to the rules and regulations of the host country, the Mission will close down for the next 10 days, in order to observe the mandatory isolation of those who were in contact with the affected officials.

“While the High Commission regrets any inconvenience that this may have caused, we solicit the cooperation of the general public.”

Getting people to adhere to safety guidelines is proble-matic – AMLSN

In his reaction, the National President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists, AMLSN, Professor James Garba Damen, ruled out another lock-down, saying the major problem of Nigeria is non-adherence to safety precautions by Nigerians. Damen posited that another lock-down would knock the economy of the country further down and escalate the economic crisis the country was already experiencing.

“I don’t think another lock-down is advisable. You know we already have a lot of economic challenges and I know that the government has invested a lot in the laboratory sector. Government has spent a lot of money and a lot of it has not been properly utilised.

“The major problem we have is the people who are not adhering to the safety precautions. Everybody has been educated on how to prevent this virus but people are refusing to adhere to it. And government is not even enforcing these protocols.

“The most important thing is, we also have a role to play. The guidelines for protecting ourselves are already laid down. Go out and see how many people are observing them or wearing a facemask, keeping social distance in public places. All these constitute to the increase in reported cases of the virus.

“Even the media should take up the responsibility of sensitising the people on preventive and safety measures, wearing of face mask, maintaining social distance and distribution of alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

“Try to also avoid over-crowded environments. There will be need for the government to enforce policies as regards the observation of these safety precautions.”

Continuing, he said the leaderships of hospitals were not helping matters. As an individual, I am not comfor-table with the fact that government only recognised private labs for test for international travels. ‘’So what happened to our public labs? So what is the problem? Government should be able to look at our public labs and see what they can do, so we will be able to do test for people who are also travelling.”

Govt should do more of enlightenment, vaccination, not lock-down — PSN

Also reacting yesterday, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Pharm Sam Ohuabunwa, said there is no need for another lock-down as the economy is yet to pick up.

He called for immediate enforcement of compulsory wearing of face mask and other safety measures.

Ohuabunwa said what the country needs at this time is to increase awareness about the pandemic.

“I really do not think that we need another lock down. What we need now is massive awareness about the disease as well as people complying with the safety measures. Also, there is need for government to increase vaccination of people because it is difficult for the government to sustain a lock down at this time. The evidence that the virus is real is clear.

“All they can do is enlightenment to let people know what the situation is. There is nothing the government can do about those who think they are immune to the disease and that they will not take any precaution. We can’t because of those ones punish the other people and the economy again. The economy that people had to restart will now begin to crumble. If need be, the defaulters of the safety precautions should be arrested.”

Nigerians have thrown caution to the winds  — NARD

Reacting in the same manner, the National President of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, lamented that Nigerians had thrown caution to the wind, adding that all the country needed at the moment was to increase awareness.

“It is not about lock-down but more awareness about the disease. There is need to reach out with the National Orientation Agency, NOA, for proper sensitisation of Nigerians.  Nigerians have thrown caution to the winds and most people are no longer complying with the non-pharmaceutical guidelines.”

Cholera kills 146, infects 2,208 in Kebbi

Similarly, the outbreak of cholera has continued to spread and is currently in 22 states of the federation, with over 31,000 people infected and over 1,000 deaths. Kebbi is the latest state where the epidemic is currently spread-ing. Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said recent outbreak of cholera was now in Kebbi State which has claimed over 146 lives.

Chief Medical Director and Permanent Secretary, Yahya Memorial Hospital, Dr Aminu Haliru Bunza, who confirmed this yesterday,  said 2, 202 persons were also infected, saying, however, that the state is in control of the situation through the creation of isolation centres manned by health personnel who freely test and administer drugs to victims.

Bunza said the epidemic started in Zuru Emirate in Dirin Daji   and spread to at least 20 local government areas in the state, but noted that the rapid response of the team of professionals   assisted in putting it under control.

Other states affected by the epidemic, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, include Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gom-be, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Cross River, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Kwara, Enugu, Adamawa, Katsina, Borno and the FCT.

Vanguard News Nigeria