Davidson Iriekpen, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
There may be no respite in sight for Nigerians as far as Coronavirus is concerned if we take what the authorities are saying.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha has warned that the country might start to count bodies in their hundreds in the next three weeks following the spread of coronavirus in the country.
This is just as NCDC announced it had recorded 661 new cases, raising tally to 19,808, discharges 6,718, deaths 506. As usual, Lagos recorded the highest number of 230, followed by Rivers-127, Delta-83, FCT-60, Oyo-51, Edo-31, Bayelsa-27, Kaduna-25, Plateau-13, Ondo-6, Nasarawa-3, Ekiti-2, Kano-2, Borno-1.
Mustapha, who argued that the reason the numbers have continued to climb up lately was because the country has increased its testing capacity, however, noted that Nigeria was yet to even enter into the second wave of the pandemic, which according to him might be inevitable.
The SGF, who is disturbed about the attitudes of some Nigerians to the virus despite its rate of spread, noted that by the time the death tolls start coming in, the nation might enter into a serious panic mode, because the casualties would reflect the figures and the testing rate.
“The figures you see now are a reflection of the testing capacity of the country. We have ramped up testing. From just about two centres, we now have over 30 and so, the results are the figures you see now, the outcome of which will be an increase in the number of casualties in the next three weeks, when they’ll start manifesting.
There’ll be pandemonium and we might get into a panic mode. Sadly, we are still in the first wave and the figures will not abate, because the attitudes of a majority of the people do not suggest that we want the figures to abate,” Mustapha explained, urging Nigerians to support the government in the fight against Covid-19 by adhering to the safety protocols.
Wike Announces Lockdown of Bonny, Onne over Spread of Pandemic
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has announced an immediate and total lockdown of Bonny Local Government Area and Onne Community in Eleme Local Government Area of the state, effective today, to check the increasing spread of the coronavirus in the oil-rich State.
Following the spread in Bonny and Onne, the River State governor warned and alerted residents to brace up for a likely total lockdown if the spread of the pandemic in the state did not subside.
Lately, Rivers State has continued to witness a spike in the number of Covid-19 infections despite the stringent measure initially put in place by the state government to check the spread of the pandemic.
Similarly, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has dismissed as untrue, claims by the Cross River State government that it planned to transport positive COVID-19 samples from other states into Cross River.
Governor Wike, in a statewide broadcast, yesterday, announced the lockdown of the two oil and gas-rich areas, saying all residents of Bonny Local Government and Onne community, except those on essential services and duly exempted must stay at home.
His words: “Pursuant to the fundamental objective of stopping the spread of coronavirus, we have reviewed the situation in Bonny Island and Onne Communities and come to the conclusion that a total lockdown is necessary at this time to shut down the continuing spread of the virus in these communities.
“By this measure, all shops, offices and business places must remain closed. All gatherings, including religious, burial and wedding activities are prohibited. All entry and exit into the two communities, except those on essential services and duly permitted, are also banned.
“Security agencies have been directed to enforce the lockdown by arresting and prosecuting anyone, who dares to disobey these directives,” he said.
Wike noted that with a total of 866 positive cases out of 2572 tested samples the state was gradually becoming the next epicenter of the virus in the South-south region of the country.
He said within this period, the state also recorded 30 deaths, including prominent persons while 356 persons recovered and were discharged from Treatment Centres.
According to the Governor, the state on Sunday alone recorded 127 new cases, leaving the Isolation and Treatment Centres overwhelmed.
As the number of new cases and deaths continue to increase, the Governor said there was no more denying that coronavirus was both dangerous and deadly.
“We cannot also deny that the transmission of the virus in our state is currently on a steep upward trend. This being so, we must all brace up to the reality of having new infections and a couple of deaths in the coming weeks and months.
“When we recognised that effective early response was key to preventing the virus from progressing deep, we introduced drastic measures to protect our citizens.
“Unfortunately, some people deliberately twisted our intentions, maligned our timely measures and exploited the attendant temporary hardship on our people to further their selfish political drives.
“Today, I am sure with the daily worrisome number of new infections and the fear of possible calamitous community transmission, everyone is now seeing the needless politicisation of the fight against coronavirus.”
Wike assured that his government would continue to collaborate with well-meaning partners to stop the continuing spread of coronavirus.
He therefore reiterated that residents of the State must be prepared for a statewide lockdown if the numbers continue on the upward swing.
The NCDC, while addressing the allegation against it by the Cross River State government, stated in a statement on Saturday that the comment was a misinterpretation of the Federal Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 testing strategy and efforts to protect the health of Nigerians from the disease.
It stated: “We would like to state unequivocally, that there is no plan to transport positive samples from one state to the other. One of our responsibilities at NCDC is to scale-up the capacity for COVID-19 diagnosis in Nigeria as we respond to this pandemic. Our ability to promptly detect cases and halt the spread of the virus in our communities is largely dependent on our ability to scale-up access to testing for Nigerians.
“Given our mandate to protect the health of all Nigerians, we are obliged to state the facts. The NCDC is leading the expansion of testing capacity for COVID-19 in Nigeria. As part of the national strategy to scale up testing published in March 2020, we are leveraging GeneXpert equipment currently used for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. The use of GeneXpert will significantly scale-up testing for COVID-19 and improve turn-around time for results in the country.”
It noted that Nigeria was one of the many countries around the world using the GeneXpert system to scale up testing capacity, adding that the expansion process was in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), and supported by partners at US- CDC, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) and others.
According to NCDC, there were 400 sites in Nigeria with GeneXpert equipment for the diagnosis of tuberculosis.
“However, we have prioritised the roll-out of GeneXpert in states, where there is a high level of community transmission and states with limited or no laboratory capacity for the diagnosis of COVID-19 at the moment.
“These are Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Benue, and the FCT. Already, we have worked with NTBLCP and our partners to activated two GeneXpert laboratories in Kaduna and Nasarawa States.
“Eventually, we plan to roll out the GeneXpert testing sites for COVID-19 in every state in Nigeria,” it added.