The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has issued a public health advisory concerning the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the country and globally.
The director-general, NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, issued the guidelines in an interview with Science Nigeria today (July 8, 2022) in Abuja.
Recall that just when many Nigerians thought they had seen the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, recent reports indicate a spike in cases of the virus in the country. Reports in the media raise concerns about the effect that infections in the country have risen by 67 per cent in the last two weeks.
Available data from the NCDC website disclosed that there was a 390.4 per cent increase in testing, which has led to an increase in the report of positive cases.
“In weeks 23 and 24, the number of samples tested increased to 75,277 from 15,347 reported in weeks 21 and 22. These were reported in the 36 states and FCT.
“In weeks 23 and 24, the number of confirmed cases in absolute numbers increased to 445 from 267 in weeks 21 and 22(May 23 to June 5).
“In weeks 23 and 24, discharged cases increased to 185 from 47 in weeks 21 and 22.”
According to public health experts, the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country are alarming and the upward trend needs to be stopped. It is instructive to note that in April, the presidential steering committee (PSC) removed all COVID-19 restrictions in the country.
The PSC removed the limit on attendance for social gatherings and the curfew on midnight movements it announced two years previously to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Adetifa said that the guidelines were based on the prevailing risk from the virus and the need for religious organisations, community leaders, and Nigerians, in general, to take necessary precautions ahead of the upcoming Eid-el-Kabir celebrations.
He said according to the latest situation report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of weekly COVID-19 cases has increased globally for the third consecutive week. Similarly, our national surveillance system has detected a gradual increase in the daily COVID-19 cases recorded in the country.
The NCDC boss said that although confirmed cases increased from 267 to 445 between weeks 21 to 24, hospitalisation and fatalities have remained low suggesting these were mostly mild to moderate cases of the country were in the lag phase before it see the accompanying increase in severe disease and hospitalisation.
“Since Nigeria’s first case was detected on 27th February 2020, we have had 256,695 confirmed cases with 3,144 deaths across 36 states and the FCT.
“Genomic surveillance confirms Omicron and its various offspring (sub lineages) remain the dominant circulating variant of concern associated with the spread of the disease in the country.
“The recent increase in cases may be in part or whole due to increased testing over the last few weeks, increased circulation of Omicron sub-lineages (BA.4 and BA.5 as seen elsewhere), and an increase in seasonal illness with cold and cough symptoms as well as poor adherence to preventive measures such as the use of masks,” he explained.
He said that over the last two years, the country, just like the rest of the world has battled a pandemic that led to the hospitalisation and deaths of thousands and beyond health, also disrupted livelihoods and economies.
“The national multisectoral response is coordinated by PSC-COVID-19 with the NCDC leading the public health response. In April 2022, due to the declining number of COVID-19 cases, the availability of vaccines, and the increasing number of people vaccinated in the country and globally, there was a further easing of the COVID-19 restrictions and protocols.
“Despite easing restrictions, the NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health through the National Multisectoral COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (COVID-19 EOC) has been working closely with states and other partners to monitor the epidemiology of the virus and sustain response activities in the country,” he said.
He said that the national EOC maintains active surveillance in conjunction with State Epidemiologists, supports states to ensure that access to testing is provided for prompt management of confirmed cases, and coordinates genomic surveillance to detect emerging variants.
“Our focus is to ensure response continuity for COVID-19 and improve our health system while giving needed attention to other priorities within our mandate including the ongoing monkeypox response.
“In addition to the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria and globally, the upcoming Eid-El-Kabir celebrations against a backdrop of suboptimal COVID-19 vaccination uptake and increasing COVID-19 case numbers calls for increased individual and collective responsibility.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 is more likely to spread in mass gatherings and when people do not adhere to preventive measures such as physical distancing, mask use, and hand hygiene,” he said.
Adetifa urged Nigerians to celebrate, to prevent the onset of a full-fledged fifth COVID-19 wave by remaining mindful of the high risk of spread of COVID-19 and acting in tandem by adhering to recommended public health safety measures.
“How you can protect yourself and those around you: Visit the nearest government health facility to get vaccinated if you have not been previously vaccinated. If you received your first two vaccine doses up to six months ago, please go and get your booster dose.
“Maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from others, even if they do not appear to be sick. Avoid crowding (indoors and outdoors) and close contact. Wear a properly fitted face mask when in crowded open and closed places, especially in poorly ventilated settings.
“Wash hands frequently with soap under running water or clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based sanitiser. Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
“Dispose of used tissues immediately and clean hands regularly. If you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, self-isolate until you recover,” he added.