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Is It True That COVID-19 Is No Longer In Nigeria?

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A member representing Alimosho Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the National Assembly, Olufemi Adebanjo, has claimed that coronavirus is no longer in Nigeria and abroad.

He also urged the green chamber to relax the rule on wearing of face masks, saying “masking has been very painful and the earlier we relax the rule that compulsorily asks honourable members to wear the mask the better.”“If you look around you can see how many people are wearing the mask,” he said.Adebanjo, who spoke at a plenary on Thursday, equally said masking “affects our respiratory system and our lungs,” concluding that “there is no more COVID-19 in Nigeria, there is no more COVID-19 abroad, in fact, let us relax the rules, Mr Speaker.”Highlights of the lawmaker’s statementThere are four claims in Adebanjo’s remarks: he asserts that masking is very painful; that the earlier the House rule on compulsory wearing of face masks is relaxed the better; that wearing face masks affects respiratory system and the lungs and that COVID-19 is no longer in Nigeria and abroad.Verifying the claimsWearing face masks is one of the major non-pharmaceutical methods of curtailing the spread of COVID-19 which has ravaged the world. While “mask wearing could be uncomfortable for the majority of people,” there is no evidence it causes pain, a virologist, Prof Oyewale Tomori, said.“Of course people with asthma may be much more uncomfortable wearing masks,” Tomori explained further “but certainly (wearing face masks will) not affect the lungs as the lawmaker claims.”“If face masks so affect the respiratory system and the lungs as he claims, many surgeons and nurses involved in operations would probably die before they complete their operations,” he added.Coincidentally, on Thursday, March 10 when Adebanjo claimed that COVID-19 was no longer in Nigeria, the country recorded 33 new confirmed cases in five states, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. This outright invalidates the lawmaker’s claim.Twenty three of the cases were recorded in Lagos where the lawmaker hails from and one recorded in the Federal Capital Territory, the seat of the National Assembly.As of 4pm on Saturday, the NCDC data shows that Nigeria recorded 3,142 COVID-19 related deaths, 254,894 laboratory confirmed cases out of which 2,426 were still active while 249,326 had been discharged.Of the mortality figures, Lagos has the highest with 769, followed by Edo, 312 and FCT (Abuja), 248. In Lagos alone, there were 98,980 confirmed cases followed by Abuja with 28,502.Also, Adebanjo’s claim that the virus no longer exists abroad stands truth on its head. On Friday, a day after he made the claim, a fresh lockdown was imposed on China city of Changchun due to another coronavirus outbreak, while Shanghai has shut down schools.China’s National Health Commission announced on Saturday that another 1,524 locally-transmitted coronavirus cases had been detected in provinces across mainland China, up from 1,100 cases reported on Friday, the New York Times reports.“To summarise, on March 10 2022, there were a total of 1.8 million new covid cases reported globally with US and UK reporting 38,658 and 40,031 new covid cases respectively. South Africa reported 1,868 cases and Nigeria reported just 33 from five states,” said Tomori, a member of the World Health Organisation’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 vaccine composition. “The low figures from Nigeria are more a reflection of many states no longer testing.”VerdictThree of the four claims made by Adebanjo are outright false. While wearing of face masks could make some people feel uncomfortable, there is no evidence it causes much pain as the lawmaker asserted.Antecedent to false COVID-19 related claimsThe lawmaker is not only the first influential Nigerian politician to make false remarks on the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 6,037,895 globally as of Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University.There have been some variants of the virus, including Delta, Omicron and most recently Deltacron, which WHO on Wednesday said it had slowly begun to surface in France, Denmark, and the Netherlands.Yet, the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in July 2020 expressed doubt over mutations of the virus.“I don’t want to believe the language of mutation; coronavirus behaving like chameleon, change to white today, tomorrow, change to black,” he had claimed.Also speaking to a crowd in January 2021, Bello doubted the authenticity of the vaccine, and warned people to have a second thought before getting the jabs.He however did not provide any evidence to support his claims that the vaccine could be dangerous to the health.Bello had said, “Vaccines are being produced in less than one year of COVID-19. There is no vaccine yet for HIV, malaria, cancer, headache and for several other diseases that are killing us. They want to use the (COVID-19) vaccines to introduce the disease that will kill you and us. God forbid.“If they say they are taking the vaccines in public, allow them to take their vaccines. Don’t say I said you should not take it but if you want to take it, open your eyesbefore you take the vaccines.”Pandemic far from over, says WHO On Wednesday, WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said COVID-19 was far from over two years after, lamenting that the virus was still evolving and surging in some parts of the world.“Two years later, more than six million people have died,” Tedros told a press conference. “Although reported cases and deaths are declining globally, and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over — and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.”*

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