The Nigerian government has officially confirmed that the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic is already in the country.

Both the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and the health minister, Osagie Ehanire, made the disclosure at different events on Monday evening.

Mr Sanwo-Olu also announced that since last week, an average of six deaths have been recorded daily from the disease in the country’s commercial city and coronavirus epicentre.

In his address at the national briefing by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Mr Ehanire confirmed that like in many other 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.”

He said; “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.”

Corroborating the minister, Mr Sanwo-Olu in a statement personally signed by him, a copy of which PREMIUM TIMES obtained, noted that despite efforts to prevent the third wave from hitting Nigeria, the third wave has already arrived.

“The third wave is already here with us, as much as we would have wished for a more positive outcome. We do not have a choice than to tackle it. We are no longer inexperienced, as a people, in dealing with the Coronavirus. Eighteen months into the pandemic, we have learnt a lot, we have seen progress and setbacks, we have been able to finetune our strategies and response, and we are now in a good place to ensure that this third wave is the final one. I believe that we can close this pandemic chapter very soon. But we must put in the work, the compliance, the regard for rules and restrictions,” the governor wrote.

Giving the statistics, Mr Sanwo-Olu said since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, Lagos has recorded a total of 64,032 infections with 56,336 recovering in-community.

He, however, noted that currently, a total of 2,755 cases are being managed actively in-community while 5,029 cases have been admitted into the state’s coronavirus care centres.

On the fatality recorded, he said; “We have, sadly, recorded 390 fatalities in Lagos State, 30 of which have taken place in this current 3rd wave of the pandemic. Essentially, we have recorded on average 6 deaths per day since last week.”

Third wave versus doctors’ strike

The confirmation of the third wave comes on the same day doctors who are members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) commenced a nationwide industrial action.

The strike, which according to the doctors became inevitable over unpaid salaries and poor welfare, among other demands, has paralysed activities in many tertiary hospitals across the country, especially in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos State.

Thus, with the confirmation of the third wave, the strike will further compound the woes bedevilling the nation’s already overwhelmed healthcare sector.

But the health minister said talks are currently ongoing between the government and the striking doctors, saying the government was optimistic of an amicable resolution soon.

“The Federal Ministry of Health is engaging resident doctors who have embarked on industrial action with a view to quickly resolving the issues. While this is ongoing, medical directors at federal and state hospitals are directed to ensure that service delivery is not disrupted in their centres,” Mr Ehanire said.

Increased Delta variant cases

At the briefing, the chairman of the PSC, Boss Mustapha, said all countries in the West African region are beginning to see the 3rd Wave and that Nigeria already recorded about 500 cases daily in the last seven days.

Mr Mustapha, who doubles as the secretary to the government of the federation, explained that six states are experiencing a surge in the highly transmissible Delta variant, which he noted accounts for the rising cases in the country.

He added that Lagos State accounts for over 50 per cent of the cases.

“The PSC is concerned about the situation in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Rivers, FCT and Plateau States as the delta variant has made its way into these states and accounts for the rising cases in these states and across the nation,” he said.

While Mr Mustapha noted that the country’s test positivity ratio has increased to about 6 per cent, Mr Sanwo-Olu noted that it is 8.9 per cent in Lagos as of August 2, 2021.

Some of the above listed states were earlier placed on red alert by the Nigerian government.

Lagos, the epicentre

In his statement, Mr Sanwo-Olu reeled out the strategies to combat the virus, insisting that the war against the pandemic is a familiar one and that the people should not panic.

He said; “We have done it before and we can do it again. We dealt with the first and second waves and did our best to prevent a third wave.

“Now that it is fully upon us, we must dig deep into what we have learnt from the previous waves, as well as summon the will to do everything necessary to bring down the numbers, on the way to eventually defeating the virus once and for all.”

Speaking on vaccination, the governor lamented that only 1 per cent of the state’s residents have received two doses of vaccines.

He said his administration is working hard towards ensuring that at least 60 per cent of the residents are duly vaccinated, noting that “experience from other regions of the world shows that majority of the confirmed cases that have resulted in death were in unvaccinated persons.”

“This is why we are seriously looking to scale up vaccination coverage for our people,” he said.

On protocol defaulters

While the federal government said it is prepared to publish the names of about 500 travellers who defaulted the COVID-19 protocols within the last few days, the Lagos governor said the punitive measures taken against defaulters have informed increased compliance to the mandatory isolation protocols.

Mr Mustapha, while speaking on the matter, said some of the defaulters who have had their passports seized would only have them released after six months while the non-Nigerians are currently facing more serious punishments.

Both the governor and the federal government officials, however, pleaded with Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike to always observe the protocols, noting that everyone should be responsible in their conducts.

“I would like to implore all primary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions to cooperate with the officials from the state ministries of health and education to ensure the safety of all the people in their care. There is currently an influx of school students who are on summer vacation into Nigeria. If not properly handled, this could be an amplifying factor for the third wave we are already experiencing in Nigeria,” Mr Sanwo-Olu advised.

On vaccination

The federal government explained that the newly donated four million doses of Moderna vaccines are currently being assessed by the National Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and would soon be distributed to states when approved for use.

On his part, the executive director and chief executive officer of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, had, ahead of the arrival of the vaccines, purchased 60 ultra-cold chain equipment and have since allocated one to each of the 36 states for safe storage of the vaccines.

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And speaking on whether those who took the first dose of the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccines could take from the Moderna types, Mr Shuaib said; “That is not the recommendation of the WHO and that is not what we are going to be doing in Nigeria. For those who have taken the first dose of Astrazeneca, we are expecting in a week or so additional consignment of Astrazeneca vaccines that we will give as second doses.”

On diplomatic issues

Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, acknowledged the recent issues with some diplomats arriving in the country and reeled out the conditions to be observed by diplomats from various countries.

He said those from the four restrictive countries of South Africa, Turkey, Brazil and India have specific conditions to meet while those from other countries are also expected to meet other conditions.

He, however, said some categories of diplomats from the two categorised countries are also entitled to waivers which he noted can only be granted by the PSC.

He emphasised the need for PSR test results and the need for mandatory seven-day isolation for those coming from other countries while those from the four restrictive countries or those who may have visited them 14 days prior to the visit to Nigeria should pass through stricter protocols.

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