The Federal Government has advised Nigerians to take the ongoing battle with coronavirus in India as a strong warning to do away with complacency and overconfidence and to be prepared for a possible resurgence of the virus in the country,
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, gave the advice on Monday in Abuja during the maiden national briefing of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19
“Although the number of cases is still low compared to other parts of the world, we are careful not at all to declare success, because experience in other countries warn us of the unpredictable pattern of COVID-19 resurgence,” he added.
According to him, study of developments in places like Turkey, India, Thailand and Brazil, with severe disease and high fatality ratios, helped government to recalibrate its response.
“The cases in India and Turkey are of particular concern to us due to the demographic similarities with Nigeria and the fact that they are currently experiencing serious third waves.
“Over 2,800 Indians died yesterday alone, more than they suffered on any day in the first and second waves, and more than the total Nigeria has ever lost on record.
“While we send our condolence to the Government and good people of India, we must take the plight as a strong warning to do away with our complacency and overconfidence and brace ourselves for a 3rd COVID-19 wave.
“To be forewarned is to be forearmed,” the minister said.
Ehanire lamented the high level of not only vaccine hesitancy, but insufficient compliance to public health advisories, including social distancing and wearing of face masks by the populace.
“As we too approach certain festivals in our country, whether religious, social or traditional, we must recall lessons to be learned from countries who have gone through the experience.
“Vaccination has indeed started in Nigeria, but we must continue with all non-pharmaceutical measures and ensure that at least 70 per cent of citizens are fully vaccinated,” he said.
On the availability of vaccines, the health minister said that government was still expecting additional Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines even as Nigeria intends to also get the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines.
But he said Nigeria will not accept COVID-19 vaccines from private and unverified sources, in spite of the scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
.“Due to warnings by international police organisations on the high rate of fake COVID-19 vaccines said to be in circulation, and reports of risks of adverse events reported after vaccination, Nigeria will not accept vaccines from private and unverified sources.
“However, NAFDAC is pursuing initiatives to test and authorise more vaccines for use in Nigeria,” Ehanire said.
The minister also said that as at Sunday, April 25, 2021, there were 35 cases of COVID-19 and one fatality in Nigeria.
This brings the total till date to 164,719 confirmed cases from 1,912,628 tests so far conducted with 2,062 fatalities.
“So far, 154,926 patients have been discharged. Case fatality ratio of 1.25 per cent remains below global average.
He said that a single shot of the J&J vaccine had been re-certified as fit for use by U.S. regulatory organs.
“The Covax facility is to provide vaccines for at least 20 per cent of our population, while the African Union (AU) vaccine purchase pooling facility AVATT, backed by Afrexim Bank, are our designated sources of vaccine acquisition.
“In addition to scaling up vaccination, we scaled up surveillance at our points of entry to reduce the risk of importation of coronavirus variants said to be more contagious and virulent.
“These variants are suspected to be behind the surging COVID-19 cases in Asia and the Americas.
“In this connection, citizens are strongly advised to defer all non-vital travel to known high burden countries until their epidemiological situations improve.”
He added that government was also considering other measures and testing strategies tailored to mitigate risks of importation of virulent strains.
According to Ehanire, more COVID-19 positive persons present voluntarily for treatment now, of which is a good sign because it allows for easier medical intervention.
“In the past two weeks, only one patient in our isolation centres had need for oxygen treatment.
“This development has reduced pressure on oxygen need, making it more available for other conditions such as pneumonia and asthma among others,” he said.
The health minister also disclosed that plans by the Federal Government to build new oxygen plants in all states of the federation were on track, as well as plans by Global Fund to repair or update existing faulty oxygen plants.