Feature

COVID-19 resurgence worries experts

•Nigeria should heighten preventive measures at entry points, says Prof. Tomori
•Resurgence means vaccination not effective –Prof. Ezeibe
•Nigerians should get vaccinated –Dr. Olugbogi

The dreaded COVID-19 pandemic appears to have resurfaced in China. This news, as should be expected, has thrown the global community into another frenzy, reports Isioma Madike

The dreaded COVID-19 pandemic has resurfaced in China. This news, as should be expected, has thrown the global community into a frenzy. The latest outbreak, which was discovered towards the end of last year, according to reports, has been generating reactions from countries around the world with some already putting precautionary measures in place to prevent the spread of the disease. Among such proactive measures already in place in some countries is a mandate for all travellers from China to show a negative COVID-19 test result before entry to their countries.

Even with the best efforts of the global community, however, the deadly coronavirus pandemic is still on the loose. Many governments around the world are resisting it though as they are also battling to restore their economies to pre-pandemic levels.

In Nigeria, a break has given way to spike in new infections, and the NCDC has sounded the alert, saying that citizens should brace up and act responsibly, as danger looms. NCDC figures are currently showing infections rising while the rate of vaccination has not been quite encouraging in the recent past. Globally, as of January 17, there have been 662,735,182 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,706,305 deaths, reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Despite that, a total of 13,107,022,929 vaccine doses are said to have been administered also as of January 6. In that regard, many believe that it will be suicidal for government to continue to underrate the danger inherent in throwing open its airports to passengers from the affected countries without having in place preventive measures.

Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian professor of virology, educational administrator, and former vice chancellor of Redeemer’s University, told our reporter that the best the government can do at the moment is to heighten the preventive activities at the points of entry. He also said that non-pharmaceutical interventions for the highly vulnerable, the elderly and those with underlying comorbidities must not be jettisoned while the government should also work to improve vaccination with boosters and increase laboratory testing and sequencing.

He said: “To be honest, I have answered these questions on TV, and media houses, and now it sounds like a broken record. I am really tired. My answers are that we heighten our preventive activities at the points of entry. “Negative test before boarding flights to Nigeria, RDT tests on arrival, positives to isolation, negatives for monitoring, non-pharmaceutical interventions for the highly vulnerable, the elderly and those with underlying comorbidities …masks in public for them.

Then get vaccinated with boosters, improve and increase lab testing and sequencing.” Also, former president of Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), Prof. Olufemi Babalola, believes that the ‘new wave’ of COVID is being fueled largely by the resurgence of the disease in China, even as he said that the Nigerian government should continue to encourage citizens to get vaccinations and boosters. “It will be recalled that the approach of the Chinese government was ‘total lockdown’.

However it proved too much for the Chinese and they rebelled against the government, forcing them to suddenly remove all restrictions. Now Chinese can travel all over the world and spread a new variant. “What other countries have done is to ensure that Chinese visitors are only allowed into the country with a negative COVID certificate. A test is also done upon arrival. “In addition, Nigerian citizens should be encouraged to get vaccinations and boosters. Common sense precautions should also be taken to avoid overcrowding, keeping windows open for through and through ventilation, and yes, facemasks on mass transits or close up encounters with ‘strangers’,” he said.

A clinician of high repute and current Director-General/CEO of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Professor Babatunde Lawal Salako, said that the government and NCDC are aware of COVID-19 global dynamics and are currently following the development. “It appears as if many people now have immunity either through natural infections or by vaccination so the infection has become almost like a common cold now. However, we need to pay particular attention to the new emerging variants in case there is anyone of interest so that it can be nipped in the bud.

“We must generally watch out for severe disease and people need to continue to ensure cleanliness and proper respiratory hygiene. We must also continue to conduct tests in suspected cases and vaccination is still the way to go in spite of all the misinformation,” he said. However, Maduike Ezeibe, a professor of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia, Abia State, has also said that for the virus to still be ravaging the world means that vaccination could not control it.

“I have always said that the pandemic cannot be controlled by vaccination while WHO has repeatedly said that people should be vaccinated to prevent death or hospitalisation. It is true that the disease would be milder in those who are properly vaccinated but that is creating a bigger problem. Vaccination is meant to prevent diseases, not to make them milder.

“Once the infection succeeds to establish in vaccinated people, the virus mutates so that the vaccine can no longer protect against the new variant. “Period of protection by COVID-19 vaccines (only 3 months) is too short. So, it requires revaccinating every individual every two months which is not practicable. “I have always advised that we develop medicines that can achieve quick cure so that every infected person is quickly treated and discharged. Medicinal Synthetic Aluminum Magnesium Silicate (MSAMS) which we invented cures COVID-19 within hours.

“There is a lecture I recorded on You-Tube. Somebody called me from India and advised me to record it so that everybody can understand what I am saying. I did, but so far my country has not taken it up. “Nigeria needs to promote inventions for us to grow but what is happening currently is an attempt to frustrate inventors.

I submitted my MSAMS to NIMR for trial on HIV/AIDS but till date they have not announced the results. “They even wrote an American journal that they were ‘working on Medicinal Synthetic Aluminum Magnesium Silicate for management of HIV/AIDS but Ezeibe is not part of the research’. MSAMS is a patent granted to me by the Nigerian government in 2012.

“Also, a team of researchers which included Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, then of NCDC, Aliyu (former DG, NACA), and Salako of NIMR announced that they had developed a drug that could cure COVID-19, which they wanted VP Osinbajo to unveil. What has become of that medicine? “Failure of vaccination to control the pandemic is an opportunity for Nigeria to shine. We should tell WHO that our MSAMS can cure COVID-19 and other diseases caused by pathogens that are electrically charged (viruses and abnormal cells).

“Whether it is the MSAMS invented by Prof. Ezeibe of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike or the one invented by the others, Nigeria first. When WHO calls for proof of the claim, I am ready. That will solve both the health problem of our country and our economic problem,” he said. Another Public Health Physician, Epidemiologist, Risk Communicator, and Social Mobiliser, Dr. Japhet Olugbogi, has reaffirmed that cases of COVID-19 have been increasing again in the US, China, UK and some other countries.

Olugbogi pointed out that he has always said during interviews that any infectious diseases outbreak has not ended until the last case has been eradicated in the last country. For the Chairman, Committee on Infectious Diseases for the Nigerian Medical Association Lagos Branch, Nigerians should not err on the side of caution, but be made to emphasize wearing nose masks in a terrain they are not familiar with or washing of hands or using hand sanitizer when people have made a lot of contact with surfaces that they are not quite sure of. These to him are veritable means to transmissions among human beings.

He said: “What I’m trying to say is that until the last case of COVID-19 has gone, the infectious disease has not ended effectively. This is because the world is a global village and human beings will travel around; people host parties, events and if there is an infectious disease outbreak in one country, if care is not taken it can spread to another part of the world in hours through traveling. “People thinking that COVID-19 has gone are erring but it is better to err on the side of caution. You may think that the government is not doing enough but the government has put out enough notices, advisory, measures.

“The government being the mother of the citizens, we will always encourage the government to do better, do more, to provide more amenities and all that but then again it is a no brainer that Nigerians like to trivialise issues a lot. “COVID-19 cases rising again are still a problem in other parts of the world and it means that it is still a problem in this part of the world too. Despite the fact that six million people all over the world died of COVID-19, I can assure you that some Nigerians still believe that it is a ruse and that it is not real. “A few Nigerians are still skeptical despite the awareness creation, jingles and information out there about the virus.

“The onus lies on us to believe and take caution. Those are protective measures that we roll out and it is applicable to all of us. We should still wear our facemasks, especially the elderly and those who have chronic diseases that are mortal. “They should wear their facemasks, take preventive measures, wash their hands, practice cough etiquette, avoid large gatherings and carry hand sanitisers when they are out there and their nose masks should be worn.

“I was at an event recently and I saw young people wearing nose masks. These preventive measures have not expired yet. “I always like to emphasise that even if we are not trying to prevent COVID-19, wearing nose masks in a terrain that you are not familiar with or washing your hand or using hand sanitiser when you have made a lot of contact with surfaces that you are not quite sure of, are veritable means to prevent disease outbreak and transmissions among human beings.” He added: “The chief among them is the vaccination. You will agree with me that the COVID vaccination is still around but a lot of people are skeptical, they are apathetic to the fact that they should be vaccinated against COVID-19. “I have taken three doses of the vaccine and I can tell you categorically that the number of cases of COVID-19 started declining when we started vaccinating more people.

Those who are yet to be vaccinated should go get vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine is safe and is free; it is everywhere now in Nigeria. “In Lagos for example, you can get the vaccine in almost all the primary healthcare centres and the general hospitals. Don’t forget that the government started COVID-19 vaccination in only the primary healthcare centres in LGAs and then spread them. “And then they started community outreaches as well, they started mass vaccination sites, they started going into the community; mobile sites. Government is doing and has done a lot.

I think the citizens also should do their part to ensure they are protected against COVID-19. “As skeptical as a lot of people are, vaccines are still safe in protecting people against serious cases of COVID-19. The four vaccines are available now in Nigeria.

They are safe and their benefits totally outweigh the risks of taking those vaccines. The best thing that the citizens can do is to get vaccinated. “Thank God studies have shown that the vaccines are safe in pregnant women, women who are lactating. Everyone should go get the vaccine. If we get the vaccine we stand a high chance of protecting ourselves and our elderly ones or those with cancers. “We also stand a high chance of preventing the mutation of the virus and from bringing out another mutagen that is very bad. We should go ahead and get vaccinated and those who have one chronic disease or the other like cancer, diabetes, cardiac failure or diseases should endeavour to wear nose masks when they go out.

“They should endeavour to wash their hands. In Nigeria we are a very physical set of people, we make a lot of physical contacts. Due to that, it is easy for us to spread infectious diseases among ourselves so we should take caution. “I would like to urge the Federal Government and the State governments to keep on passing the instructions out on COVID-19, keep creating awareness against it and still supporting vaccination.

“They should continue surveillance as well; it is when we try to pick up new cases, we have to test people, know those who have COVID-19 and know those who we need to isolate or give serious care at the tertiary level so that the infection will not become a very serious or mortal disease in them.” Before now, a statement attributed to the Coordinator of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr. Mukhtar Muhammad that the Federal Government was not considering imposing mandatory COVID testing or restrictions on travellers from China until there is the need for it, had provoked stern reactions in medical circles.

Many in the healthcare arena had pointed out that the fact that the committee admitted that the country was at the risk of a fresh surge of the virus should have been enough warning for it to urgently tighten up safety measures across all airports and other outlets where foreigners can access the country. To them, the seeming silence of the committee and the government towards the fresh outbreak is an invitation to an avoidable calamity that may rear its head once again even as other countries have started taking precautionary measures. Meanwhile, Dr. Oladoyin Odubanjo, a public health physician, and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Science, has said he wouldn’t think there is any catastrophe looming, though admitting that Nigeria can introduce testing among other things for travellers from other countries, particularly from China.

“We must ask why China has the current resurgence of COVID-19. Is it because of its zero-COVID policy, which ensured that there’s insufficient immunity among China’s populace, especially with no transparent data about COVID from China or about its vaccine and its efficacy? “In the light of unavailable trustworthy information, Nigeria can introduce testing for travelers from China.

However, Nigeria, like many other countries, probably has sufficient immunity among her populace (as the disease is probably now endemic here) to avoid disaster. “Notwithstanding, general precautions (hand washing, sufficient spacing and aeration in enclosed environments, and using masks) should be taken by individuals, especially those who may be particularly vulnerable,” Odubanjo said.

 

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