Medical experts have warned that Nigeria risks a further surge in COVID-19 cases following complete disregard for safety protocols at crowded fun spots, including beaches, during the New Year celebrations.
Renowned virologists have lashed out at state and federal governments for not enforcing safety rules and bringing violators to book.
The experts said this as the Federal Government said it distributed 400,000 COVID-19 test kits in the last one week as the rate of recovery from the virus dropped by 73.2 per cent.
On Sunday, beaches in Lagos including the ones at Oniru, Eleko and Elegushi were crowded with fun seekers not adhering to safety rules.
In addition, contrary to the directive by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, which restricts gatherings at religious centres to 50 per cent, crossover services at most worship centres were full to capacity.
In Lagos, government officials were not around to enforce safety rules at crowded fun spots and worship centres despite the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
On Monday, a professor of Medical virology at the University of Maiduguri, Professor Marycelin Baba; a former Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians, Professor Tanimola Akande and an associate Professor of virology at the Osun State University, Dr. Waheed Sule warned Nigerians that uncontrolled gatherings at fun spots, beaches and non-adherence to public health measures would lead to a surge in cases and fuel community transmission.
The experts also predicted that more individuals would be infected with the Omicron variant due to the high transmissibility of the variant.
Speaking in an interview with a source, Professor Baba stated that the omicron variant had the ability to spread faster than other variants.
She said, “One thing about the omicron is its ability to spread faster. This can only mean that more people will come down with the virus after the testing season. The sad thing is that most of them will not know this because they will refuse to get tested.
“The same set of Nigerians who refuse to follow public health protocols are the same Nigerians who will also refuse to get vaccinated.
“Nigerians need to see the need to adhere to these rules, from now, we will likely witness a huge surge in cases and most of those cases would be traced to the festive seasons especially when people start to travel back to their respective bases.
The former chairman, Association of Public health Physicians of Nigeria, Akande in a separate interview with The PUNCH agreed with Professor Baba.
He said, “It does have an implication. We know that Omicron spreads faster than the other variants. The whole world has been wary of the holiday period because of a lot of travel and fun. The number of people that will come down with omicron will be so many.
“The best thing is to adhere to instructions. We should have been used to these instructions. Government needs to test people more because if they test people more, people who are infected will know but because we are not testing enough, people feel they do not have it hence they go around infecting others. That is the challenge.”
Also, an associate professor of virology, Osun State University, Dr Sule Waheed, said, “Disregarding the protocols has implications. The government can do little to stop people from gathering. It is very difficult for the government to enforce the protocols because Nigerians will never listen.
“We have been hearing news of enforcement but I am yet to see a case of enforcement or arrest. People should understand that if they can not adhere to the measures then they should stay at home.”
On his part, a medical virologist at the Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Dr Kolawole Oladipo, said the neglect of COVID-19 protocols by Nigerians would lead to more surge.
Oladipo, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday said it was unfortunate that many Nigerians had neglected the non-pharmaceutical preventive measures.
“Honestly, we should expect more surge any moment from now, Nigerians are not taking COVID-19 seriously anymore. They have neglected all forms of non-pharmaceutical preventive measures. This is not too good for our health system.
“Although, I expected the securities agencies to enforce the law on the general populace as it was directed by the President last year. There is a need for a scapegoat for individuals, establishments, and organisations. There is also a need to set up a taskforce for this enforcement,” he said.
Also, the Chairman of the Ondo State Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19, Professor Adesegun Fatusi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the disobedience to COVID-19 protocols would worsen the spread of the virus.
He said, “This pattern of behaviour is a danger to us all as it further increases the potential for community spread. This pattern may also contribute to the emergence of new strains. It is unfortunate that a lot of Nigerians have chosen this careless way of behaviour. This can further worsen the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and its burden.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has said that the country has begun to witness a drop in recovery rate of the coronavirus disease.
The centre also said it distributed 400,000 testing kits across the federation in the last one week as part of its review of the ongoing national COVID-19 testing strategy.
This was disclosed in the weekly epidemiological report published by the NCDC and obtained by one of our correspondents in Abuja.
According to the data, while the number of confirmed cases had continued to increase on a weekly basis, there was a drop in the number of recoveries as the NCDC indicated that, ‘’In Week 51, the number of discharged cases decreased to 1,013 from 3,791 in week 50, There were 37 deaths reported in the last one week. Analysis of the recovery figure had signified a 73.2 percent decrease in recovery rate.
As regards the positivity rate of travellers, the NCDC noted that there had been a significant increase in the number of positive travelers. It said, ‘’In Week 51, the number of in-bound international travelers tested was 9,398 of which 668 (7.1%) were positive compared to 522 (6.3%) (out of 8,306 tested) in week 50.
“In Week 51, the number of out-bound international travelers tested was 10,233 of which 1,864 (18.2%) were positive compared to 1,464 (17.4%) (out of 8,421 tested) in week 50. Total of which amounted to 2,532 passengers in one week compared to the previous week when 1,986 passengers tested positive.
As regards its COVID-19 response, the NCDC said, “Ongoing review and update of the National COVID-19 testing strategy, Ongoing distribution of 400,000 RDT Kits to the 36 States for increased testing, Donated 1250 and 1000 RDT Kits to the National Assembly clinic and National Primary Health Care Development Agency respectively.
“Ongoing distribution of RDT kits to Lagos State Biobank Laboratory, Central Public Health Laboratory, Yaba and Centre for Disease Control, Distributed Laboratory consumables, PPE, and IPC commodities to all 36 states ministries of health and tertiary health care facilities including the FCT in the month of December”.