Fear, panic in Akwa Ibom as FG declares state as COVID-19 Delta Variant hotspot
There is palpable fear of another lockdown as the Federal Government recently confirmed 32 cases of Delta Variant of COVID-19, bringing the country officially into the third wave of the pandemic.
This was made known by the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chike Ihekweazu during the national briefing of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday.
He said 80 percent of the tests conducted in Akwa Ibom State have been confirmed to be Delta variant of the deadly virus.
He said, “As of this morning (Monday), 32 confirmed cases of the Delta variant are in Nigeria from five states, Abuja, Oyo, Cross River, Lagos and Akwa Ibom. Some of these have been returning travelers, some of the local transmissions.
“Now the biggest batch of sequencing that we got this morning was out of Akwa Ibom. So out of 23 cases there, 19 were the Delta variant. And that is why I said 80 percent of the cases in Akwa Ibom today, are from sequencing turned out to be Delta.
“Sequencing is a very complex activity. So that is the most likely cause of the increased transmission we’re seeing suddenly, out of Akwa Ibom. Akwa Ibom was not one of the hotspots in the first and second waves. Remember, we had FCT, Kaduna, Lagos. So this is really a new state, so a lot of attention. So most likely, somehow someone returned to Akwa Ibom with a delta strain, started transmission activities.
“And given the increased transmissibility of this variant, we’re now seeing quite a number of cases happening. So we’re intensifying action in Akwa Ibom to contain it,” Ihekweazu said.
He said in Lagos, there have not been sequenced as many cases, as the government would like to.
He said, “We have three facilities in the public sector in Nigeria with sequencing capacity, and NIMA, NCDC, and the Africa Centre for Excellence in Genomics in Ede. In addition, they are few private sector players that now have that capacity. The 54 gene, the private sector laboratory in Lagos.
“So we are working with Lagos to identify the most appropriate facility for them to sequence those samples. And I am sure that the next few days, we will really scale the sequencing coming throughout the playoffs so that we fully understand what is happening in Lagos. Right now, over 50 percent of all the positive cases, in Nigeria, are still reported out of Lagos state, at some point, it was even as high as 70percent. So understanding what is happening in Lagos is critical to understanding what is happening in the country.”
Speaking on the validity of the third wave, he said, “There is no scientific definition of when the third wave starts or stops. So but we are seeing an increasing cases. And if you look at the epidemic of you see clearly an increase in cases in the last few weeks.
“But remember, Nigeria is a big country, right? That we are having third wave nationally, you need to look at the data at a slightly more differentiated level. Many of the cases are being reported out of Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Rivers. And many states, especially right now, in northern Nigeria, I am really not seeing a lot of cases. So, it is still a very different picture across the different states in Nigeria and that is why we want to continue to do our surveillance and advise our colleagues on how to respond.
FG may introduce stringent measures
In his remarks, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of PSC on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said the government will not hesitate to introduce stringent measures to protect citizens, even as he stressed that how long mask-wearing will continue is in the hands of Nigerians.
He said, “Nothing is off the table. Let me say very categorically, nothing is off the table when it comes to protecting the lives of the people of this country. We will not hesitate in taking measures that will be considered quite stringent.
“All the countries of the world are applying different measures, countries that were adjudged to have successfully dealt with COVID-19 suddenly realised that they had to impose certain measures to ensure that they continue to balance lives and livelihood. Nothing is off the table. We will continue to study the situation.
“We have always been guided by science and facts and the experiences of other jurisdictions before we take informed decisions, we will continue to do that. Because it is very, very important the COVID-19 virus is novel, we will continue to understand the way it operates.
“The mutation and all manners of things, everybody is on a learning curve. Nobody has the full story. And until we get to the such a situation where we are comfortable about the variant in the country, is not only the Delta variant that is country, there are other variant, Dr. Chikwe didn’t address that but probably at an appropriate moment we will talk about it,” Mustapha said.