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Nigeria makes strides in Covid-19 battle

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The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) since its breakout in December 2019 in Wuhan China, has spread across the world and caused massive havoc both to human lives as well as different sectors of the world’s economy.

Recalled that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020, and on March 11, 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, while urging countries to take urgent and concerted action to tackle the scorge.

Subsequently, on February 27, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed the first COVID-19 case in Ogun State, Nigeria, making the country the third country in Africa to recognise an imported COVID-19 case after Egypt and Algeria. The index case occurred in an Italian citizen who flew from Milan, Italy to Lagos.

As part of response to tackle the pandemic headlong, the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari constituted the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 was established by the President of Nigeria on March 9, 2020, with the mandate to coordinate and oversee the country’s multi-sectoral and inter-governmental efforts both to contain the outbreak and to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

The PTF led by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the federation swung into action and provided Daily media briefings were held to enlighten Nigerians on evolving evidence, address trending issues and provide update on the government’s response.

Also it provided Technical evidence-based recommendations from the PTF informed the President of Nigeria’s policy decisions for the various phases of the outbreak.

Overall, Nigeria’s response strategies were aimed at suppressing the transmission of COVID-19 by testing all suspect cases, isolating all confirmed cases, and tracing all contacts of confirmed cases, with the implementation of country-wide or regional non-pharmaceutical interventions as appropriate programme for health care workers.

Steps taken to curb covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria

The first major step taken by the government to curtail the spread of the covid-19 pandemic was to impose a national lockdown and inter-state travel restriction.

The aviation ministry also announced ban of international flight to and fro the country through the aviation minister, Hadi Sirika.

As it were, the initial 30 confirmed cases COVID-19 in Nigeria were travellers from abroad or their immediate contacts.

This informed the initial international travel ban for passengers coming from countries with ongoing high transmission (initially China, Italy and Germany; subsequently extended to eight high-burden countries) to minimize rising imported cases.

Consequently, land borders were closed, all international flights were banned, and mandatory institutional quarantine and testing for international returnees to Nigeria was instituted on March 23, 2020 to reduce further importation of the disease from high-risk countries.

The second step was to step up health preparedness and boost treatment capacity. During the lockdown period, the NCDC worked with all states to enhance contact tracing activities and increase capacity for case detection and treatment.

Treatment centres were expanded from an initial single centre in Lagos with 35 beds, as of February 29, 2020, to 38 centres with 1055 beds by April 14; by May 30, 2020 Nigeria had 121 treatment centres with 6550 beds.

In the four-week period, the number of laboratories able to carry out COVID-19 testing increased from the initial three to 13 laboratories in 10 states as of April 15, to 28 in 18 states by the end of May.

More than 13 000 health care workers were trained on IPC as well as on COVID-19 case management and personal protective equipment (PPE) and response commodities were deployed across the country to reinforce and better prepare the multi-sectoral response.

Despite bans on interstate travel, the virus had already spread geographically. Ten states reported their first COVID-19 cases during the first 14-day phase of the Federal lockdown, while an additional 13 states reported index cases in the second phase of the lockdown. Index cases in several states were traced to domestically exported cases from Lagos State and FCT.

Nearly three-quarters (74%, n = 7532) of current cases have no known epidemiological link, suggesting substantial community transmission. Cumulatively, as of May 31, 2020, 337 of Nigeria’s 774 LGA have reported a confirmed case.

Nigeria mounted a swift and aggressive response to COVID-19, leveraging on its existing epidemic preparedness and learning from other parts of the globe where transmission began earlier.

The country’s initial response included early activation of the national EOC at the NCDC, establishment of the multi-sectoral COVID-19 PTF, and decisive actions to stop international travel and impose a time-limited lockdown in highly affected areas.

By rapidly implementing this set of interventions, Nigeria likely slowed down the rate of virus transmission and bought extra time to implement a robust case detection, testing, and treatment centre capacity.

However, these efforts, especially testing, needs more private sector involvement to significantly ramp up COVID-19 diagnostic centres across the country. Sensitising and mobilising citizens to take responsibility by strict implementation of preventive non-pharmaceutical measures is key to flattening the curve.

A rapid, holistic, cohesive, whole-of-government approach that encompasses civil society and local-communities in the response will be absolutely critical to combating the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria and rebuilding stronger health systems towards adjusting to a “new normal”.

Subsequently, as the country began to ease lockdown, international flights resumed on August 29, 2020 the first time in five months.

Nigeria’s minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the resumption of international flights was justified after no in-flight infections occurred during the restart of domestic flights on July 8.

Sirika also warned that any travelers who manage to skip the tests will be put on a travel watch list.

He stated that the federal government also intends to impose a $3,500 fine on airlines that allow coronavirus patients to board planes.

The decision was highly commended by Industry players in the aviation sector who believe that the ban was in order.

Also, as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government through the Presidential task force imposed new lockdown restrictions in December 2020.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, stated that that the directives were advisories issued to state authorities for implementation .

The new restrictions include civil servants from Grade Level 12 and below to stay at home for the next five weeks; the closure of all bars, nightclubs, pubs and event centres, as well as recreational venues in all states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

All restaurants were also directed to close, except those providing services to hotel residents, takeaways, home deliveries, and drive-ins.

Similarly, all informal and formal festivity events, including weddings, conferences, congresses, office parties, concerts, seminars, sporting activities, end of year events, have were restricted to not more than 50 people.

These steps had gone a log way in further putting the country at risk of another second wave of the pandemic, considering what countries like the United Kingdom and India are currently facing.

Vaccination efforts

In the first week of March this year’s the federal government received 3.94 million doses of the Astra zaneca vaccine in a bid to begin mass vaccination and protect Nigerians against the deadly Covid-19 virus.

While taking delivery of the vaccine, Boss Mustapha said the arrival of the Astra-Zeneca vaccines marks a significant milestone in the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

The SGF observed that COVID-19 had claimed over 2.5 million lives worldwide but the development of vaccines and accelerated process for emergency authorisation had brought hope to humanity all over the world.

“I therefore urge all Nigerians to continue to comply with the non-pharmaceutical measures, even as we roll out the vaccines administration plan, which is expected to reach 70 per cent of our population between 2021 and 2022. Under the circumstances, it must continue to be NPIs + Vaccines.”

Currently statistics from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency says that over 1 million Nigerians have been vaccinated against the Covid 19 virus.

In the same vein, The federal government reinterated it’s committment in Procuring additional 29 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed said the prhe AVAT initiative, that is coordinated by AfreximBank

Speaking recently at a ‘Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) General Assembly webinar, she said: “Therefore, the supplementary budget for COVID-19 vaccines will cover the cost of additional vaccines over and above those provided by COVAX, as well as the full cost of operations and logistics for delivering the vaccines around the country.

“Already, the sum of N29.1bn has been released from the Routine Immunization budgetary provision (Service Wide Vote) to the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) as an advance for the operational cost of deployment of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The N29.1bn represents about 52 percent of the amount required over 2021-22”, she said.

Mrs. Ahmed stated at the 18th General Assembly of CABRI that the World Bank has indicated willingness to provide needed facilities in support of our COVID-19 vaccination plan.

She added that “The Federal Ministry of Health plans to vaccinate 70 percent of eligible (18 years and above) Nigerians over the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.”

She noted that the nation has received commitments from COVAX for COVID-19 vaccines that could cover 43.1 million of the eligible population, as donations from some development partners.

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