As Nigeria enters the second wave of a pandemic that has gripped the world for much of 2020, the number of daily reported deaths is on the increase, while both the number of infections and admissions to hospitals continue to rise. Nigerians still do not want to experience another lockdown.

COVID-19 was, before another sudden upsurge, believed to have died a natural death’, “an assumption” drawn out of the sudden decrease in the number of cases as some state did record not even a single case for weeks. The assumption, lead to the hypothesis that most Nigerians had contracted the pandemic and unknowingly must have been healed due to our strong immune system as believed by many. Some asymptomatic carriers believed that most cases recorded are mere malaria, some believing “the testing kit is not able to differentiate between the virus and malaria.”

On the 18th of August, a Kwara based COVID-19 survival, Yusuf  Bolaji Ridwan, revealed on his Twitter page, though later deleted, how asymptomatic patient claimed the pandemic is a scam and agitating to go back to their various families while some wanted to stay and continue enjoying the food served to them at the isolation centre.

Yusuf  Bolaji Ridwan,a Kwara based COVID-19 survival

Ridwan disclosed: “It got to a point the state government kept on announcing new cases and no one is showing up at the centre, we all started thinking are they giving out fake numbers?

“Well, I wouldn’t know, they are still doing contact tracing or the individuals are running away from the centre.”

The tweet almost cost the Kwara state government its integrity as it was later revealed the state government spent N1, 569,107944.70 on the management of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the state between April 1 and June 29.

On March 25, 2020, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state stated in a video on his Facebook page which later went viral that “90% of the noise about covid-19 is for Political, Economic, and Financial Material gain”. He furthered that the other 10% is for ordinary flu like the common colds Nigerians generally suffer.

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialGYBKogi/videos/1557057917778710/

Kogi state commissioner for health, Saka Audu, on Thursday, May 28th, 2020 rejected the two index cases of coronavirus reported by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for the state. NCDC announced 389 new cases and two were from Kogi State.

Audu, said the government will not accept any test result “conducted outside the state”.

“We have also continued to insist that we will not be a party to any fictitious Covid-19 claims which is why we do not recognize any Covid-19 test conducted by any Kogite outside the boundaries of the State except those initiated by us. Any attempt to force us to announce a case of Covid-19 will be vehemently rejected.

“We continue to enjoin our people to take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic into the State and give no listening ears to rumour peddlers and mischief-makers. We are more than prepared to secure the life of our people and have no interest in playing politics with their health concerns,” Audu said.

Audu’s statement prompted NCDC Director Chikwe Ihekweazu to fire back a reaction, he stated that the agency stands by the results it made public despite kickbacks from the Kogi government.

“We stand by our results and it is as simple as that. We have no reaction for its acceptance or rejection,” he said.

Despite several victims’ narrations, many Nigerians still believe the virus is a scam, while a few others who believed lived with the insinuation that the cases recorded in the first wave of the pandemic were inflated to get funds and grants for states to enrich some officials through contracts award.

“Negligence and the imminent return”

During the significant drop of the cases recorded between September and November 2020 that lead to the relaxation of the lockdowns and re-opening of the economy to prevent the second phase of economic meltdown, the isolation centres in most states were partially closed, and the country relaxed the usage of facemasks in public places such as markets, public offices, event centers, restaurants, and bars.

Social distancing, important in the early days of the virus, has also been jettisoned as more people congregate in public places without adhering to the health requirements.

Hundreds of workers and professionals returned to work in major Nigerian cities after authorities relaxed the month-long lockdown across the country.

Shoppers packing a local market. Few are wearing face coverings. (Arinze Chijioke)

The health minister, meanwhile, Dr. Osagie Ehanire warned on December 10 that a second wave is imminent because of the rising number of cases; he added that the rise in cases was mostly driven by an increase in infections within communities and, to a lesser extent, travelers entering Nigeria.

“The Second Spark”

The spike in the virus cases, which led to the closure of schools in some Nigerian states, has confirmed that the country has entered the second wave of the pandemic as the country on Thursday, 17th December 2020 recorded its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases with 1,145 new infections.

Before the resurgence of the pandemic in December, Nigeria never had a higher number of daily infections than the 745 reported on June 19.

For two weeks now, the daily COVID-19 cases continue to be on the increase in the country with Isolation and treatment centers in the country re-opening.

Noticing the alarming increase, Medical practitioners from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) hinted that the huge number of recorded cases point to a spike in communal transmission.

The president of the Association of Resident Doctors at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (ARD LUTH), Dr. Judith Jolayemi, on December 14, warned that Nigerians should be wary of COVID-19 second wave noting that patients discharged with COVID-19 in the past are coming down with the virus again. It was posited that a recent event suggests the country is in the middle of another pandemic.

On December 16, The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 officially confirmed the indications that the country had entered the second wave of infections.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Federal Capital Territory (FCT) branch, on December 25, while calling for a review of hazard allowance of doctors, said that at least 20 doctors have died of COVID-19 across the country in the last one week.

“Renewed contact tracing, a daydream”

Unlike the first wave of the outbreak that met the country prepared, the sudden and unexpected emergence of the second wave, at a time when the nation had relaxed almost all safety protocols, seems to be potentially difficult to contain as contact tracing is fast becoming a nightmare. Patients mostly could no longer tell where, how and when they came in contact with the virus.

 

“Possibility of a second shutdown”

The spike in the number of new cases resulted in the closure of schools in some Nigerian states, with others placing restrictions on religious gatherings, prompting the revisiting of the earlier lifted protocols.

After the highest daily cases recorded on December 17, Nigeria began to record a downward trend in numbers of daily COVID-19 positive cases and fatalities. Reacting to this, on Monday 21st September, at the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19, the Honourable Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire, admonished Nigerians to continue to adhere COVID-19 protocols and health advisories to avoid the 2nd wave of infections.

The Minister stated that Nigeria cannot afford to rejoice or speak of success as a result of dwindling figures, because many countries of which had been thought to have defeated the virus are now experiencing an upsurge in cases called the second wave, threatening their health systems.

Dr. Ehanire said that the second wave of infections is a situation that must be averted and for that to happen all steps must be taken.  He emphasized the need for Nigeria to generate, national and international confidence in its data, by conducting more targeted testing before a conclusion could be reached.

“It means that all States and Local Government Areas must cooperate with NCDC by raising sample collection rate, using criteria listed, to increase testing to the desired rate and to report promptly; as we are still far from the target of 2 million tests. In this regard we can support States with community volunteers for contact tracing, case finding, and investigation,” the Minister had stated.

After the rate curved to 356 cases on December 21, the country experienced another upsurge in the number of new cases, recording 999 cases on December 23.

“Will Nigerian economy withstand a second wave?”

According to the recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS); Nigeria had entered its second economic recession in five years. NBS report shows that Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted for the second consecutive quarter by 3.62 percent in the third quarter of the year, compared to a growth of -6.10 percent.

The lockdown of some states due to COVID-19 leading to the disruption of the movement of goods and services as well as production is the known major cause of the second economy recession.

With the arrival of the second wave of COVID-19, there has been a prediction of another lockdown in the country as a number of states have started placing restriction orders already, ahead of the New Year celebrations.

If the upsurge continues, the country might start to cancel events, flights, and virtually everything that requires social, official, and religious gatherings.

The impact of these measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus will hit the economy hard. These impacts are likely to further bring down the already collapsed economy.

“New COVID-19 strain in Nigeria?”

The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), John Nkengasong, on Thursday disclosed that the new UK variant of the coronavirus disease which is described as deadlier than the original strain was reportedly found in Nigeria.

According to a working research paper seen by a non-profit news agency headquartered in New York City, the Associated Press news agency; the variant was found in two patient samples collected on August 3 and on October 9 in Nigeria’s Osun state.

The paper although stated that unlike the variant seen in the UK, “we haven’t observed such rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria and do not have evidence to indicate that the P681H variant is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria. However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs the UK may imply a reduced power to detect such changes”.

The paper although stated that unlike the variant seen in the UK the rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria is yet to be observed and no evidence to indicate that the P681H variant is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria. “However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs the UK may imply a reduced power to detect such changes”.

However, The Director-General of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu on Thursday, December 24, 2020, said that the new mutant strain of the coronavirus disease in the UK has not been discovered in Nigeria.

The NCDC boss, during the daily briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja said, “Over the last few days, we have monitored reports of the virus mutating in the UK, South Africa and some other countries, but it is important to establish some facts about what we know, what we do not know and what we are willing to learn over the next few years.”

He said that NCDC would collaborate with other stakeholders to collect new samples for sequencing in order to determine their variants.

“We haven’t found the UK strain but it is not something we have been looking for…To find that you have to do sequencing and our focus has not been on sequencing. We did some sequencing in the past but we haven’t found that.

“However, we are doing more sequencing now. Is it possible that they are circulating? Yes. This is because there are a lot of travels between the UK and Nigeria.

“NCDC would collaborate with other stakeholders to collect new samples for sequencing in order to determine their variant.”

Ihekweazu advised state governments to reopen testing centres as the health agency cannot conduct all the tests alone.

“Suitable COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges in Nigeria”

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on Wednesday 16 December 2020, said the government would receive 20 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.

The minister disclosed how the government set up a committee to select the vaccine most suitable for the country against the virus, since different temperatures are required to protect vaccines, they must choose the most appropriate one from the existing vaccines.

National Coordinator of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, On Wednesday 23 December, while speaking on the acceptability of the vaccine by Nigerians on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily program disclosed that about 40 million Nigerians would be vaccinated when the country receives the first batch of vaccines.

Discussing the challenges, Aliyu said Nigerians would hesitate to take vaccine shots just like the challenge faced during polio vaccinations.

He said, “The biggest challenge we will have with the vaccine is not going to be the logistics, the biggest challenge will be the public acceptance of the safety of the vaccines and allowing them to be vaccinated, the challenge will be very similar to the one we have with polio.”

Aliyu also mentioned the most particularly challenge with some of these vaccines has to do with storage. Where they have to be stored at -70 degrees and transport around the country before they could be used.

He said that the Federal Government is working on modalities to ensure efficient storage and transportation for the vaccines.

Meanwhile, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said the PTF cannot employ foreign methods to solve the pandemic issue in the country.

Bello, on a live television programme on December 22, while advising the federal government to focus more on reviving the economy than on how to procure COVID-19 vaccines, said that Nigeria cannot afford another lockdown in its present economic state.

He said members of the presidential task force on COVID-19 are supposed to advise the president based on current realities and not get involved in things that would make life difficult for citizens

He stressed that spending huge amounts of money on getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a misplaced priority.

He added, “I think I would rather be excused from the discussion of COVID-19. I have taken a position and I don’t see myself shifting from it any time soon.

“I say this against the backdrop of the fact that we saw a lot of gimmicks and antics, merchandising of foreign products that is not marketable in Nigeria at all and I said this long ago and some people advising Mr. President continue to take a wrong trajectory. I will say that.”

 

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