By Olatunji Saliu
Nigeria has recently seen a surge in COVID-19 cases and fatalities, a development that has brought renewed pressure on the health system and further compounded by an ongoing industrial action by resident doctors in the country.
According to data from the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the country recorded 747 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the highest daily count in about six months. And the new cases have been rising in the past weeks. In the week between July 26 and Aug. 1, the number of newly confirmed cases increased sharply to 3,218 from 1,579 reported in the previous week.
“All data indicate that we are now in, no doubt, in the third wave of the resurgence of the SARS-COV-2 infection, which we saw coming a long time ago,” said Osagie Ehanire, the minister of Health, at a press briefing in Abuja Monday.
Ehanire said the government are considering strategies to scale up testing and identify positive cases for isolation and treatment, and called for more participation of states in sample collection, preparing isolation and treatment centers.
Meanwhile, Nigeria grappled with the more deadly Delta strain of the coronavirus discovered in the country since early July.
On July 8, Nigerian health authorities first announced they detected the Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2, in a traveler to the country, following the routine travel test required of all international travelers and genomic sequencing at a laboratory in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
Three days later, another case of the variant was reported in the southwestern state of Oyo.
As of July 27, the country had recorded up to 10 cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19, with the NCDC, which spearheads the national response to the pandemic, assuring that it will continue to intensify its surveillance to prevent an alarming rate of the spread.
The Delta variant caseload rose to 32 and had been reported in five states across the country, Chikwe Ihekweazu, head of the NCDC, said at a press conference in Abuja Monday.
According to Ihekweazu, the disease control agency has now scaled up its sequencing capacity to have a better understanding of the burden of the variants of concern in the country.
“We will continue to scale the weekly number of samples sequenced as part of our surveillance,” he said, stressing that the risk of virus mutation was higher when there was a high transmission of the virus. “While sequencing is important for us to understand the situation, handwashing, physical distancing, and the proper use of face masks are very important to prevent the spread of the virus.”
The NCDC disclosed Thursday that the COVID-19 average positive test rate in Nigeria was 6 percent, and the case fatality rate was at 1.2 percent since the onset of the pandemic in Nigeria last year.
Local analysts say that managing the situation could further be a challenge, with the ongoing strike by the resident doctors who are supposed to be at the frontline.
Resident doctors in Nigeria downed their tools Monday due to “the failure by the federal and state governments to attend to the issues affecting their welfare.”
Ehanire said the health ministry is engaging resident doctors with a view to quickly resolving the issues.
The country is currently expanding vaccine sources in order to meet the target of vaccinating 70 percent of its population by 2022.
Nigeria received nearly 4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX facility. On Monday, the country took delivery of 4 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX facility.
Faisal Shuaib, head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, told media that about 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected soon and another 3.9 million doses will be received later this month.
The country expects to receive up to 40 million doses of vaccine by the end of the year, according to Ehanire.
The NCDC data show Nigeria had recorded 176,577 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, out of which, 165,333 cases had recovered and been discharged, and 2,178 related deaths had been recorded.