Amid consistent reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the country in the last two weeks, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, warns it is too early to say Nigeria was at the end of the pandemic.
The Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said it was too early for Nigerians to interpret the decline as flattening the curve and a decline in new cases does not translate to being at the end of the pandemic.
“We had a decline in the number of samples collected across states between the 31st of July and 2nd of August. This may be associated with the public holidays which led to a reduction in activities across the country”, Ihekweazu said.
The Federal Government had declared July 30 and 31 as public holidays in celebration of Eid-el-Kabir. Nigeria witnessed all time high COVID-19 daily infection rates of 664 until July 31 when the cases dropped to 481 cases as against over half a million consistent daily cases recorded all through the month.
But on August 1, the country recorded a drop in cases with 386 infections as the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja led with 130 cases while Lagos, the epicenter of the pandemic, recorded all time low cases of 65.
On August 2, the drop continued with 304 cases and Lagos recorded 81.
The country recorded the lowest number on August 3 with 288 cases. Although on August 5, there was a rise in cases with 457, it was still below the over half a million daily infection rates.
On August 6, the country recorded 354 while Lagos recorded 76, but on Friday, August 7, Nigeria recorded 443 fresh cases with Plateau leading with 103 cases and Lagos 70.
“It is still too early to interpret a decline in new cases as flattening the curve. We are learning from countries in Europe and other parts of the world that a decline in new cases does not translate to being at the end of the pandemic”, the NCDC boss said.
“In most of these countries, they are experiencing an increase in cases again. We are proud of the leadership of the Lagos State government in responding to this outbreak, but will not relent in our response activities. Although Lagos State is the epicentre of the outbreak in Nigeria, various states are at different phases of the outbreak. In some states, we are recording an increase in cases.
“We are only as strong as our weakest link and will continue to maintain momentum in the response, despite the decline in the number of new cases in Lagos”.
Continuing, the NCDC DG further noted that coronavirus has affected people’s lives and the economies of countries, adding that the country now knows that the pandemic was a ‘marathon and not a sprint’.
According to him, Nigeria must devise strategies that first ensure that people are safe and that life continues.
“This does not mean the pandemic has ended or that the virus is no longer with us. It means we all have to take responsibility by adhering to public health and safety measures, as we resume business, school, religious activities etc”, Ihekweazu stated.
“Importantly, people who are at high risk must know that they have to take extra precautions.
“Those above 60 years or with underlying illness should be completely discouraged from travelling or attending gatherings.
“In the absence of a vaccine, the only way we can limit our risk is by taking precaution- wear a mask when in public, wash your hands frequently with soap and running water, and maintain 2 metres from the next person.”
He argued that the fact that businesses and other activities can resume in phases does not mean that people are safe from COVID-19.
“In the absence of a vaccine, the only way we can limit our risk is by taking precaution- wear a mask when in public, wash your hands frequently with soap and running water, and maintain 2 metres from the next person”.
This is why NCDC has published guidelines for businesses and religious centres.
“We also worked with the Federal Ministry of Education to publish guidelines for school activities. All these are available on www.covid19.ncdc.gov.ng. It is our responsibility as members of society to adhere to these guidelines and stay safe. “
He further disclosed that the NCDC was working with all states and laboratories to ensure that the country does not lose the gains that have been made in the last one month.
“We have scaled up our laboratory capacity to 60 testing laboratories to enable us to understand the true burden of COVID-19 in Nigeria. We are now focusing on ensuring that these laboratories operate at full capacity and importantly, that we support states without COVID-19 testing laboratories to activate this within the next one month”.