Home column - Friday COVID-19: Managing Nigeria’s 3rd wave surging cases, By Isaac N. Obasi

COVID-19: Managing Nigeria’s 3rd wave surging cases, By Isaac N. Obasi

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Photo illustration… Courtesy: Reuters

It is no longer news that the coronavirus (COVID-19) third wave is here in Nigeria, and unfortunately its emergence coincided with the discovery of the highly transmissible and deadly Delta Variant of the virus in some parts of the country. Confirming this development, the Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC on COVID-19), Mr. Boss Mustapha, announced during a briefing of the Committee on Monday, 2 August 2021 that officially, Nigeria is now in the third wave of the ravaging virus. According to him again, “Nigeria has been recording about 500 cases daily in the last seven days”, as “Nigeria’s Test Positivity Ratio has increased to about 6 per cent”, against the background “that the Delta variant has made its way into Nigeria”. Furthermore, the PSC, he said, is “particularly concerned about the situation in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Rivers, Kano, Plateau and FCT as this variant has made its way into these states and accounts for the rising cases in these states and across the nation…. And Lagos alone accounts for over 50 per cent of the number of cases”. 

Lastly, according to the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, “Nigeria has recorded 32 cases of Delta Variant of the COVID-19” (See https://allafrica.com/stories/202108030672.html based on original report by the Leadership newspaper). More worrying is the emerging fact from the NCDC that 747 new cases were recorded on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.   

The arrival of the Delta Variant into Nigeria was not unexpected even though the PSC on COVID-19 had long taken pro-active measures to prevent the importation of the virus into Nigeria. It would be recalled that the PSC had banned air travels to and from India, Brazil and South Africa over two months ago because of the emergence of the deadly Delta Variant and other variants in those countries. The PSC also took other measures with respect to testing of all passengers arriving into the country. But given the behaviour of some unscrupulous Nigerians, we knew that it was only a matter of time before the deadly variant would be imported into the country. Sadly, the PSC has now revealed that as many as over 500 travellers violated the travel protocol meant to prevent the importation and spread of the deadly variant. The unscrupulous and unpatriotic behaviour of some of these Nigerians is a national embarrassment to say the least. The PSC should come harder on these flagrant violators of our well-reasoned and well-intentioned safety protocols.

Although policy measures to manage the surging cases so far by the PSC and the NCDC are commendable, there is still a lot more to be done. Nigeria and Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the serious threats posed by this ravaging Delta Variant. Business-as-usual mentality has re-emerged against the little gains we made in the past. In actual fact, the expected psychological state of consciousness of an emergency is yet to prevail in official and unofficial quarters. For example, the risk communication strategy is yet to be fully activated to gain traction. One or two messages from the NCDC have been received in recent past which is commendable but the messages have to come back fully as it was the case during the lockdown days. The Lagos State Government has reactivated its full enlightenment campaigns on COVID-19 as everyone can see these days in its Lagos Television (LTV), but as I would argue later, this laudable measure is not enough. Enforcement of the safety protocols is what is seriously required now.  

Perhaps the NCDC is still in a fatigue mood or perhaps still, it is experiencing financial constraints with respect to the intensification of its risk communication measures. But the current threats posed by the Delta Variant demands adequate funding for it to fully activate its risk communication messages. The increasing danger signs from other lands are very instructive enough to force Nigeria into a full emergency situation once again. The WHO reported over a week ago that global cases have been rising for the fifth consecutive week. Some countries for example, have been setting up make-shift hospitals as existing hospitals were filled to capacity. In Senegal (an African country close to us here in Nigeria), patients were rejected in hospitals for lack of bed spaces. Officially Nigeria should by now be in a psychological mood of a lockdown, without physically imposing national or regional lockdown measures. 

In the absence of imposing lockdown measures, the way to proceed is to begin a total enforcement of compliance with safety protocols. For instance, defaulters of the non-pharmaceutical protocols should be arrested and prosecuted as was done during the lockdown period. And this can begin right away in the states earlier mentioned (i.e.Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Rivers, Kano, Plateau and FCT). The enforcement of the non-pharmaceutical protocols in these states is very urgent because the prevailing official approach is more like an advice, appeal or moral preachment, all of which lack legally prescribed sanctions for non-compliance. 

Since a good number of Nigerians are still sceptical about the reality of COVID-19, the time has come for the government to take the enforcement of compliance very seriously. In our campuses for example, many staff and students pay lip service to the observance of social distancing, wearing of face masks and some other safety protocols. It takes repeated announcement of the necessity to observe the safety protocols by some us in lecture rooms, before students comply fully. It is as bad as this.

•Prof. Obasi of the University of Abuja, is a Visiting (Adjunct) Research Professor at the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, (ACAN), ICPC, Email: [email protected].  

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