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As the COVID 19 third wave looms, is Lagos ready?

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Image Credits: REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja, Guardian Nigeria.

There has been an increase in recorded covid-19 cases across Nigeria and Lagos state which is at the nucleus has not been left out. With the upsurge in recorded cases, at a time when residents believe that the pandemic has relaxed and lifestyle is being restored to normalcy, there may be a third wave hitting the state soon. This was disclosed by the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu as he made the declaration on Sunday July 11, 2021, that there is a potential COVID 19 third wave. While calling on Lagosians to be cautious, he reassured residents of government’s commitment to fight the pandemic.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Chief Incidence Commander for Lagos State

Recall that it had been speculated that the manifestation of a mutant covid variant is imminent, especially in areas where there has been previous waves. Lagos state has experienced the first wave from 2020 when its earliest outbreak was identified and carefully managed the second wave which began to wound down in March 2021. In a bid to revive the economic space, the government had opened its doors to investors and encouraged business partnerships within the state. This has however, given way for a potential third wave to seep through.

Governor Sanwo-Olu gave the trajectory which brought about this revelation as an increase in COVID cases within a one-week frame in July, 2021. He said, “from the beginning of July, we started to experience a steep increase in the number of daily confirmed cases, with the test positivity rate going from 1.1% at the end of June 2021 to its current rate of 6.6% as at 8th of July 2021. Within the last two weeks, the occupancy rate at our two isolation centres increased from an average of one percent to six percent”. This five percent increase has raised the government’s concern and the need for awareness has become important.

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On Friday July 9, 2021, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said it has detected a confirmed case with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2. This would be two days before the disclosure by the Lagos state governor. According to the NCDC, the variant has been detected in over 90 countries and its spread to more countries is envisaged as inevitable.

The NCDC had issued a statement which said the variant was detected in a traveler who made a trip into Nigeria. Following the routine travel tests required of all international travellers and the genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja, the case was established. The World Health Organisation has identified the deadly Delta variant as a variant which should give concern to the world population as it has a high level of transmissibility.

In a statement addressing Lagosians, the governor pointed out that “regrettably, in spite of the hard work and dedicated efforts towards sustaining the return to normalcy, over the last three months, we are now finding ourselves at what appears to be the start of a potential 3rd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Lagos State.” He further gave the statistics of fatal cases since the outbreak in 2020, stating that “Over the course of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, about 4,382 patients have been admitted into our various COVID-19 care centres in Lagos: with 357 registered fatalities. In all, we have tested 563,679 samples in Lagos State since the pandemic started.”

An epidemiology update given by the state governor reveals a record of 60,202 total confirmed cases as at July 7, 2021, with 55,135 in-community recovery cases and 770 actively managed in-community cases. He explained that the state-wide vaccination campaign has been a major tool for controlling and combating the deadly virus. Adding that those who have gone on to take the jabs have shown demonstrable resistance to the corona virus effect, he urged every Lagos resident to pursue the course of staying alive and healthy by getting the vaccination. 

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With the proliferation of non-accredited screening and treatment centres, the governor advised that care be taken to ensure that covid 19 medical help is sought for at accredited treatment centers and that treatment facility directors refer confirmed cases to the appropriate centers.

Although, the government is fast running out of vaccines, the population of Lagos residents who have taken the two prescribed doses stands at a discouraging 1percent, this has created room for the looming third wave to manifest. Efforts are being made to increase access to vaccines and increase the herd immunity target of 60 percent in the least and bring down the number of COVID 19 related death cases, which reduction is government’s priority. Governor Sanwo-Olu mentioned that, “We are confident that we will be getting a second batch of vaccines very soon, to kick-start the second phase of vaccinations.”

As the Sallah celebrations reaches full bloom, safety protocols for Lagos in-bound travelers and sanctions for defaulters have been put in place to checkmate passengers from red-listed countries (India, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey), especially. Recall that there have been cases where passengers absconded after providing false or misleading data. The governor revealed that “between May 8, 2021, and July 7, 2021, a total of 50,322 passengers of interest arrived in Lagos via the Murtala Mohammed Airport. Of the 50,322 passengers, 18 per cent could not be reached by EKOTELEMED because of the provision of either wrong numbers or wrong Nigerian contact details to be reached on.” The records show that there is a possibility for the absconded passengers to transmit the pandemic, in cases where they are positive.

To put this in check, the LASG has given a detail of the sanctions which defaulters will inexcusably face, “going forward, passengers that do not provide the right details, including a phone number that cannot be reached for monitoring and an address for isolation, will face serious sanctions including fines and imprisonment according to our Lagos State Coronavirus Law of 2021.” For Foreigners, defaulters will be made to face revocation of their Permanent Residency and deportation and for Nigerians; defaulters will face prosecution to the full extent of the Lagos State COVID-19 Law.

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Attention is also drawn to religious gatherings that may strengthen the spread of the pandemic. The upcoming Sallah festivities will encourage muslims to celebrate together and communal relations is near inevitable. To this, the governor urges faithfuls not be carried away with the seeming normalcy which the state exhumes. He said, “The festivities will no doubt bring people together in large numbers and create conditions that can sadly cause the spread of the Coronavirus. We must not allow this to happen”. Church bodies are not left out as they have been advised to reduce the number of attendance per congregation in an enclosed place by 50 percent and ensure that all protective protocols are carried out to prevent the further spread in this imminent third wave.

Governor Sanwo-Olu has called on all Lagos residents, organisations and individuals alike, to take responsibility for their safety as the fight is to keep safe and not to rely solely on government for protective traditions to be practiced. He enthused that “the enemy is formidable – and opportunistic. It will only go as far as we allow it. Having triumphed over the first and second waves of the pandemic, we must now find within ourselves new reserves of energy to quell this emerging third wave before it snowballs out of control.”

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