Rising COVID-19 cases: NESG, LCCI fear fresh lockdown, FG plans tough actions against third wave
Some stakeholders in the economic sector on Monday strongly advised Nigerians to adhere strictly to COVID-19 safety protocols to reduce the rising coronavirus cases in the country.
The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expressed fear that another lockdown would negatively affect the economy.
The groups said this as the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 on Monday said it would take tough actions to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
The committee also disclosed that the country had entered the third wave of COVID-19.
Recall that in 2020, Nigeria imposed lockdown twice to stem the rising cases of the virus. The lockdown was, however, lifted when the infection went down towards the end of the year.
But the country has witnessed a rapid increase in cases since the beginning of last month.
We reported that no fewer than 1,276 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in Nigeria between May 27 and June 27.
But between June 27 and July 27; 4,261 cases were recorded, representing an increase of 2,985 (233.93%) over 1,276 cases recorded between May 27 and June 27.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NESG, Laoye Jaiyeola, said the country could not afford another lockdown.
According to him, Nigerians need to understand that they are on their own because COVID-19 vaccines are scarce.
He stated, “The country cannot afford another lockdown. It will shrink government revenues, affect the private sector and the common citizen. The Delta variant is dangerous and has led to so many deaths. We need to be serious with wearing masks and complying with social distancing guidelines.
“The government needs to be proactive with setting up our manufacturing capacity for the vaccines. We should be able to pull resources together to produce our own and distribute them effectively.”
On her part, the LCCI Director General, Dr Chinyere Almona, said any lockdown would inhibit the growth projections for the country.
She stated, “With the level of worsening insecurity, scarce foreign exchange, and falling foreign direct investment inflows, a third wave of COVID-19 pandemic that may lead to any form of lockdown will be inhibitive to the growth projections for Nigeria.
“With the 0.51 per cent growth recorded in the first quarter, we need to achieve a real GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate of at least three per cent for the remaining part of 2021 to achieve the latest projected growth rate of 2.5 per cent year-on-year by the International Monetary Fund. Recall that the Nigerian economy exited recession in the fourth quarter of 2020 with a modest 0.11 per cent growth, followed by a marginal increase in growth rate to 0.51 per cent in the first quarter of 2021. Any further disruptions to the production output in our economy may result in dismal growth rates in the third and fourth quarters of 2021.”
She also noted that the vaccination rate was still low in the country and that vaccination programme was currently suspended due to the non-availability of vaccines.
The director general stated, “Nigeria cannot afford a third wave COVID-19 lockdown in 2021. The government’s plan to reduce poverty means that we need growth that supports job creation and fiscal policies to drive more revenue generation. A lockdown will simply disrupt these plans.”
Almona advised government to encourage local production of basic needs of Nigerians to reduce dependence on imported goods.
The ACCI advised all tiers of government to avoid another lockdown of the economy. The ACCI stated that instead of locking down the country’s economy, the government should enforce all safety protocols against the spread of the deadly virus.
“We call on government at all levels to enforce existing safety protocols to avoid the possibility of a lockdown that destroyed many businesses in the past,” the ACCI President, Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, told one of our correspondents in Abuja.
He added, “Enforcement should henceforth be a matter of priority as Nigeria cannot afford another lockdown. The vaccination campaign should also be intensified just as there should be no slowing down on the awareness campaign.”
Abubakar said, “We are making this appeal because the growing wave of infection and fatality is a source of concern. We need to act urgently as our economy is fragile such that mass infection can complicate the slow process of economic growth.
“If we act urgently to stem the tide of infection, Nigeria will escape the possibility of lockdown which is now the trend in many parts of the world.”
Nigeria takes delivery of four million Moderna vaccine doses from US
The groups gave the warning as the Federal Government took delivery of the four million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States on Monday.
The vaccine doses, were received on behalf of Nigeria at the Abuja airport by UNICEF officials.
Speaking while inspecting the vaccine doses at the National Strategic Cold Store, Abuja, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said effective cold chain management of any COVID-19 vaccine was key to ensuring the success of the national vaccination programme.
Faisal said, “Nigeria can store COVID-19 vaccines including the Moderna vaccine. Nigerian government had earlier acquired an additional 60 ultra-cold freezers that would accommodate both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”
“The store has a combined capacity of 2100 litres and operates at a temperature of -85°C.
“The Moderna vaccine is expected to remain stable at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2° to 8°C (36° to 46°F) for 30 days.
“Shipping and long-term storage conditions are at standard freezer temperatures of -20°C (-4°F) for six months while mRNA-1273 to be distributed using widely available vaccine delivery and storage infrastructure.”
He added that the vaccine awaited efficacy test evaluation by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, noting that it would take 48-hours for the evaluation results to be out before inoculation.
The US government’s representative, Dr Melissa Freeman, said the donation was meant to boost Nigeria’s vaccination rollout campaign.
PSC to name 500 violators of travel protocols
Later on Monday, the PSC on COVID-19 said it would publish the names of over 500 travellers who violated the travel protocols put in place by the committee and as well evaded quarantine.
The committee stated that the passports of travellers who did not go for their Day-7 test would be barred for six months, adding that a one-year restriction would be placed on the passports of those who evaded quarantine.
The chairman of the committee, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this at the national briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja.
He said, “The PSC is ready to publish over 500 travellers who violated the travel protocols and those who evaded quarantine this week.
“Similarly, those who had their passports barred for 6 months will be lifted in the coming days. “
He added that the committee was concerned about the situation in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Rivers, Ekiti and Kwara states, noting that the Delta variant was responsible for the rising cases in these states and across the nation. He said Lagos alone accounted for over 50 per cent of the number of cases.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said current data indicated that the country was experiencing the third wave of the virus.
He said, “Like many parts of Africa, Nigeria has begun to record a sharp increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the month of July as global anxiety over the Delta variant spreads.
“All data indicate that we are now no doubt in the third wave of resurgence of the SARS-COV-2 infection which we saw coming long ago.”
The minister also revealed that only 17 states made data or sample submissions in the last cycle, where Lagos and Akwa Ibom states were the epicentres.
The minister also said all treatment centres had been put on the alert to receive cases in the face of the third wave.
32 Delta variant now in Nigeria, says NCDC
The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chike Ihekweazu, at the briefing disclosed that Akwa Ibom State accounted for 80 per cent of the 32 new Delta variant recorded in the country.
He said, “As of this morning, 32 confirmed cases of the Delta variant were in Nigeria from five states: Abuja, Oyo, Cross River, Lagos and Akwa Ibom.
“Some of these have been returning travellers, 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’s why I said 80 per cent of the cases in Akwa Ibom today, are from sequencing turned out to be Delta.”
Mustapha, while responding to a question said the government might introduce strict measures to contain the spread of the new variant.
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. And like I said, nothing is off the table. We’ll continue to study the situation.”
Also, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said diplomats that travelled through or visited Brazil, India, Turkey or South Africa within 14 days and had not taken a valid PCR test would be quarantined in government facilities.
The minister added that only ambassadors and deputy ambassadors and their spouses would be allowed to quarantine in their official residences.
He said, “We had some issues with diplomats at ports of entry, and it was really important, the Presidential Steering Committee decided that we had to come up with something that was clear that everybody, all the diplomats would understand and not have the difficult situation that we were having.
“So basically, there are two categories of countries, as you know, they’re four countries that are under a restricted protocol and non-restricted countries.
“Now regarding diplomats coming from the restricted countries, or that have visited or passed through those restricted countries, in the last 14 days, there’s a special protocol that we have in place now. So of course, everybody has to do a PCR test, you know, 72 hours before travelling.
“But for non-restricted countries, the diplomats coming from those countries just have to have that 72 hours, prior PCR tests, and then within seven days, do a test in any accredited private laboratory.”