With the feared resurgence of COVID-19 in Nigeria and the spread of the new delta variant and as the country faces the risk of a third wave of the deadly virus, the federal government may need to enforce stricter compliance to the pandemic guidelines to prevent it spreading further. The urgency involved is made more compelling as the rainy season sets in.
As a proactive measure, the authorities have already placed six states, namely: Lagos, Abuja, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, and Plateau on ‘red alert’ for the delta variant also known as lineage B.1.617.2. This variant of the virus is said to be highly contagious. Available reports indicate that it is about 225 per cent more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strains.
A study from China point to the fact that those infected with the delta strain have on average about 1000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than those infected with the original strain. It has been discovered that while vaccines are effective against the delta variant, it is still possible to get infected as the vaccines would only reduce the risk of the gravity of the illness which would have led to a victim being hospitalized or even worse, in some cases death, a study from the United Kingdom reveals.
Latest report from the health authorities claim that Nigeria had recorded a total of 169,329 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,531 active cases; while 164,672 patients had been discharged. The deaths recorded as at the time of writing this editorial were 2,126.
In all of these, Lagos State records the highest cases of the virus, with number of laboratory confirmed cases at 60,936, the cases on admission at 1,965 the number discharged is at 58,515 and number of deaths at 456 as of July 18, 2021.
Kogi State records the lowest cases with number of laboratory confirmed cases at 5, with 0 cases on admission and 3 discharged while deaths have been recorded at 2 as of July 18, 2021.
However, World Health Organization (WHO) Nigeria Vaccine Progress records that the first dose of vaccine was administered to 2,534,205 that is 1.6 per cent of the population, while the second dose was administered to 1,404,740 that is 0.9 per cent of the population as of 12 July, 2021.
According to global records by the same WHO, as of 16 July 2021, there have been 188,655,968 confirmed cases and 4,067,517 deaths. In the Americas for example, there have been confirmed cases of 74,411,952, Europe 57,636,847, South-East Asia 36,525,388 and Eastern Mediterranean 11,644,006. The records also claims that Africa has 4,531,636 confirmed cases and Western Pacific 3,905,375. Also, as of 15 July 2021, a total of 3,402,275,866 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide according to WHO.
The organization had previously warned that Africa was facing a third wave of the virus. It also said that the current rate of infections, the on-going surge, was set to surpass the previous one by early July. Data obtained from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that the country recorded only two cases on June 27th with no case in Lagos. On the 28th there were 65 cases, with Lagos recording 44 cases. 75 cases were recorded on 30th of June.
The delta variant was discovered in India last year December but it was in May 2021 that WHO named the delta variant while declaring it a ‘variant of concern.’ It was this new variant in April 2021 that was responsible for the new COVID-19 cases in India.
The Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, disclosed that the delta variant is ‘dangerous’ and continues to evolve and mutate, and as such requires constant evaluation and ‘careful adjustment of the public health response’. He disclosed that the variant has been detected in about 98 countries and is spreading rapidly in countries that have low and high vaccination coverage.
Given the import of this report and data, this newspaper is of the opinion that the federal government should, at this period, place further restriction on international travel. And while it might not be good for the country’s economy to impose another lock down, the government should put in place stricter measures and public enlightenment campaigns as regards wearing of face masks in public places, hand washing regularly, the use of alcohol based hand sanitizers, regular cleaning of frequently used surfaces as well as temperature checks.
The federal government should also create more awareness on the delta variant, urging the public, especially those who have not been vaccinated to go for tests and take the vaccines. Those vaccinated should equally still abide by the guidelines as the chances of being infected and falling ill are still high.
Furthermore, as a Nigerian scientists previously implored, Nigerians should keep warm and safe in this rainy season as the chances of catching influenza is high. Catching a flu could weaken one’s immune system, leaving the body susceptible to the COVID-19 virus thereby leading to a spike in the spread of the virus.