COVID-19: The Alert This Time

COVID-19: The Alert This Time

In yet a fresh alert, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has said its COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre, EOC, is monitoring COVID-19 trends in countries with a “high volume of traffic to and from Nigeria”.

The NCDC noted in a statement recently that the countries which include China, the United States of America, USA, the United Kingdom, UK, South Africa and India, are currently battling with the rise in Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant and its lineages, dominating recorded infections worldwide. It added that its EOC is also monitoring the resurgence of COVID-19 in China following the relaxation of the country’s zero-COVID policy, and the increased COVID-19 cases, admissions, and deaths in the UK and the USA over the past weeks driven by the usual winter exacerbations of respiratory illnesses.

The disease control centre also raised concern that the new Omicron sub-lineages XBB.1.5 in the UK and the US, and BF.7 in China “may spread faster than older Omicron sub-lineages (e.g., XBB or BQ) and that they are responsible in part for the current increases in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths”. While the NCDC confirmed that the sublineages that are partly responsible for the current increase in COVID-19 cases in otherwise free countries have not yet been detected in Nigeria. It noted that “the B.5.2.1 has been seen since July 2022 and the others are most likely here already”.

Further, the centre asserted that “the BF.7 and XBB have also been circulating in South Africa since October 2022 but without any accompanying increase in cases, severe illness, or deaths”. NCDC also noted that since the detection of the Omicron variant in December 2021, its sub-lineage (BQ.1/BQ.1.1) has been dominant in Nigeria, but “none of these dominant sub-lineages in Nigeria that are also circulating elsewhere has been associated with any increases in case numbers, admissions, or deaths locally”.

As of January 5, data from NCDC shows that a total of 266,450 infections and 3,155 deaths have been recorded across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, while 661,019,881 infections and 6,692,005 deaths have been confirmed globally according to WHO.

We are concerned that there has been nonchalance of many Nigerians to vaccination despite NCDC’s position that the most important action for Nigerians is to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It has continued to maintain that: “The vaccine is the most important intervention for preventing severe disease, hospitalisation, and death”.

There is indeed the warning that regardless of COVID-19 variants in different parts of the world, severe disease, admissions and deaths disproportionately affect the unvaccinated and those with established risk factors, like older people, people with co-morbidities and the immunocompromised.

While the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions may have been eased, it is advised that people at high risk should continue to adhere to the recommended non-pharmaceutical intervention, NPIs, such as the use of face masks, good hand and respiratory hygiene and avoidance of crowded spaces.

It is however cheery news that the Omicron sub-lineages that were associated with increases in cases, admissions and deaths elsewhere did not cause the same in Nigeria because the population is significantly protected from a combination of natural immunity and vaccination with vaccines with a high impact on hospitalisation, and deaths. Panic is not the issue for now because as a nation and indeed continent-wide, these pandemics have not been able to intimidate us contrary to expectations.

We must be careful in sending false alarms. The authorities should be modest in churning out information on the recent upsurge in other parts of the world so as not to create unnecessary panic as in the past`.

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