Sunday Magazine

COVID-19: ‘Why we mustn’t backslide on critical health goals’

The possibility of a second wave of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), which has affected over 64000 people in Nigeria is causing anxiety among residents who fear that another lockdown is imminent. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

•Abide by the COVID-19 protocols to avoid second wave of pandemic –NMA

•‘We must prepare for the next pandemic now’

 

With some European countries experiencing resurgence in COVID-19 cases after successfully slowing down the outbreak early in the year, and declaring more cases than they were doing during the first wave of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against backsliding on the world critical health goals.

 

Thus, there is an apprehension in Nigeria over what may be viewed as the second wave of COVID-19 in the country, which may plunge Nigeria into another lockdown if the widespread rising in the new cases of COVID-19 pandemic is not extenuated.

 

Countries like England, Portugal, France and Hungary among others are in a second lockdown as the new wave of infections sweeps through, shattering efforts and responses to keep the contagion at bay.

 

Cases in the U.S. are also smashing new records with over 10 million infections thus far, a fifth of the over 50 million total global tally but many Nigerians see the rising cases in Nigeria as government perpetuating fraud and not willing to risk hunger anymore.

 

Two weeks ago, the country recorded 937 new cases, a two per cent increase from the previous week’s record of 923 cases, which was a 32 per cent increase from the preceding week.

 

The country recorded its highest daily figure of confirmed infections in three months with the 300 reported cases on Sunday November 1, raising the total tally to over 64, 000 but a vast number of the population said the touted rising cases in Nigeria is a fraud.

 

“The government officials are targeting another set of palliative after the masses have rightfully collected what belongs to them during the EndSARS protest. We want to restock their warehouses again,” said Banwo Juliet.

 

According to the WHO’s report as at November, 11, 2020, there are 51 251 715 confirmed cases across the world, 1 270 930 confirmed deaths while there are 220 countries, areas or territories with cases.

 

The world health body tasked the humankind not to jettison the critical health protocols and goals that saw to the reduction on the incidence of Coronavirus cases across the world.

 

WHO said: “We must not backslide on our critical health goals. The COVID-19 pandemic is a sobering reminder that health is the foundation of social, economic and political stability.

 

“It reminds us why WHO’s ‘Triple Billion’ targets are so important, and why countries must pursue them with even more determination, collaboration and innovation.

 

 

With science, technology and solidarity, we will defeat COVID-19. “Since May, member States have adopted a number of decisions – the Immunisation Agenda 2030, the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030, as well as initiatives to tackle cervical cancer, tuberculosis, eye care, food safety, intellectual property and influenza preparedness.”

 

By the way, the Triple Billion targets, Sunday Telegraph learnt, are an ambitious initiative to improve the health of billions of people by 2023; they are the foundation of WHO’s Thirteenth General Programme of Work (GPW 13) acting as both a measurement and a policy strategy. “They are an integral part of the GPW 13’s Results Framework, a new tool designed to measure and improve WHO’s impact on health at the country level.

 

Measurement of these targets is closely aligned with those of the Sustainable Development Goals, to reduce country burden in data collection and streamline efforts to accelerate progress towards achieving key targets,” WHO said. It continued: “We must prepare for the next pandemic now.

 

We have seen this past year that countries with robust health emergency preparedness infrastructure have been able to act quickly to contain and control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

 

“The World Health Assembly (WHA) will consider a draft resolution that strengthens Member States’ preparedness for health emergencies, such as COVID- 19, through more robust compliance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

 

“This resolution calls on the global health community to ensure that all countries are better equipped to detect and respond to cases of COVID-19 and other dangerous infectious diseases.”

 

But for millions of Nigerians, the country has moved past the worst of the coronavirus and that is if the virus is real and potent in the country in the first place, some may argue.

 

More so, regular hand wash which has been a novel preventive method hither-to adhered to, by many, is no longer fashionable, and wearing of facemasks is almost forgotten, while mass gatherings are no longer a problem, including mass protests.

 

According to Philip Akpe, Coronavirus is no longer as effective as it was in Nigeria during the lockdown era and so, he doesn’t observe all the necessary safety protocols. He said: “I actually believe that coronavirus is no longer existing in Nigeria, though it is spreading in other countries.

 

The recent rise in infections and all the noise about a second wave is just a political strategy to plunder the national treasury.” A teacher, Mr. Lekan Adebowale said: “The Federal Government has all but abandoned the states and the NCDC to do as they please, while shifting its focus to the airports. No test, no case and reduced testing leads to reduced figures.”

 

Also, Henry Ewononu, a public health expert said lowering our guard may have adverse implications on not just the coronavirus pandemic but also the spread of other communicable diseases. “The only hope now is the vaccine. It’s also advisable to ask immune-compromised individuals and those with underlying medical conditions, Sickle cell anemia patients to go for the respiratory disease vaccinations,” he said.

 

“Why will I wear a mask when there is no coronavirus in Nigeria? Abeg coronavirus is not in Nigeria. Let us stop deceiving ourselves; we know the truth,” Benjamin Etiosa said. Furthermore, the survey conducted by NOIPolls Limited, a country-specific polling service showed that poor knowledge and perception of the virus is capable of sabotaging gains made in keeping the contagion at bay.

 

However, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has also called on Nigerians to abide by the COVID-19 protocols, to avoid the second wave of the pandemic in Nigeria. The Chairman, Kwara State chapter of the Association, Prof. Baba Issa, made the call while on the sidelines of the 2020 Physician’s Week, held recently in Ilorin.

 

He observed that the second wave of the pandemic could happen anywhere, as witnessed in some parts of the world, saying, “People should abide by the COVID- 19 protocols, including using face masks, hand sanitisers and practising social distancing.

 

“The curve is flattening in Nigeria, but all must ensure we keep to the guidelines, to prevent the second wave of the pandemic. “All schools across the country should follow strict protocols and guidelines, to stop the disease from affecting the children.

 

Children must be provided with face masks and shields, as well as hand sanitisers.” In the same manner, the West Africa Health Organisation has warned Member States of the ECOWAS Community to brace up and prepare for the possibility of a second wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

WAHO gave the warning in Guinea Bissau at the ongoing delocalised meeting of Parliament, with the theme: ‘Agricultural Production and Food Security in the ECOWAS Region under COVID-19 Pandemic’.

 

According to a statement made available by Parliament, the Delocalised Meeting was organised by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Industry and Private Sector, Health, Energy, Mines and Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment.

 

 

The Director-General of WAHO, Prof. Stanley Okolo while pointing out that the region already had a total of 195,000 confirmed cases, cautioned that community leaders and citizens must remain vigilant. He said that although things appear to be stabilising, it was no time for ECOWAS to relax, stressing that a second wave may only be delaying.

 

He said that the region should also be more concerned as it lacked the vaccines and the capacity to contain a second wave of the virus. He said: “We appear to be stabilising but let me put a note of caution, as Europe is having a second phase, it may be that we are going to have a second phase.

 

“So, we should remain vigilant in West Africa. We do not know whether we will have a second wave in Africa but the possibility remains, we do not have vaccines at the moment and even when the vaccines come, we are anxious and concerned about how much we will get in Africa.

 

“We do not have the capacity for producing vaccines, we do not have enough money to get enough vaccines to cover our population, and we are down the queue in terms of the vaccines that are being produced in the developed world.”

 

 

 

He, therefore, charged the region’s leaders to emphasise on the use of masks, observe social distances, wash hands and imbibe personal hygiene, which he said will prevent people from having COVID-19. He also noted that the sub-region had recorded 195,073 confirmed cases, adding that about 2,801 citizens of West Africa have died from COVID-19.

 

He continued: “We do have at the moment just under 9,000 active cases across our region and what you can see is that this has been ranked in the order of the countries that have had the highest number of cases. “Globally we have had over 51, 456,000 and Africa has had about 3.6 per cent of the global incidences,” saying that the frequency of death across Africa is about 2.4 per cent, and in ECOWAS, about 1.5 per cent, which means that about two in 100 people will die from this disease.

 

The WAHO DG commended all ECOWAS Member States for their laudable efforts at controlling the virus, adding that they have had the political level commitment. In the same vein, the Parliament’s Speaker, Sidie Tunis, assured he will rally members of parliament to ensure that they prevail on governments of their member states to ensure measures were in place to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

“The legislature is working very hard to ensure that all the decisions taken in the ECOWAS especially on agriculture and food security are implemented in the national assemblies of member states,” he said. In his response, the NCDC director, Mr. Ihekweazu, said: “In the survey we carried out, most people believe that although COVID-19 poses a significant national challenge, their perception of their own risk of catching it is much lower.

 

“We must remain cognisant of the fact that we are dealing with a pandemic caused by a new virus. We still do not have all the answers we need including information on long-term effects of the disease. “We appeal to Nigerians to adhere to all public health and safety measures. COVID- 19 is real.

 

The statistics we receive daily on the number of deaths are people with families, friends and loved ones,” he said.

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