Between April 12 and May 9, Nigeria recorded the lowest monthly infection and death tally in one year, a PREMIUM TIMES review of official data shows.

Only five deaths were recorded in the last four weeks reviewed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on its weekly data update on COVID-19 while a total of 1, 626 infections were recorded during the same period.

The latest monthly review was lower than that of April 2020, when there were 1,793 cases and 56 deaths in total.

The last time Nigeria recorded such a low figure was in the first month of the pandemic between February 27, 2020 and March 31 of the same year.

The country’s index case was recorded in an Italian traveler on February 27 and one month after, specifically on March 31, 2020 the total number of infections in the country stood at 139 and three deaths.

Victory?

The NCDC data from recent weeks suggest that Nigeria may be nearing victory over the pandemic.

From an average of 4,000 cases per week during the peak of the second wave between December 2020 and early January, the weekly figure has been stuck below 500 in the past five weeks with 69 new cases recorded Monday.

In fact, the highest in the past five weeks was 486, which was recorded between April 19 and April 21.

Likewise, only six deaths have been recorded in the past 42 days from an average of 70 fatalities per week in January.

Nigeria recorded one new death on Monday, five days since it reported the last fatality from the virus.

Health experts believe this is an indication that the worse days of the pandemic are over. They, however, cautioned against letting the guard down on safety.

Nigeria has so far recorded 165,778 infections in total leading to 2,067 deaths.

Weekly breakdown: More discharges, hospitalisation decline

PREMIUM TIMES analysis further showed that hospitalisations have declined as more people are being discharged after treatment.

The latest NCDC weekly report published on May 9 showed that in week 18- May 3 to May 9, the number of discharged cases increased to 936 from 435 in week 17.

The figure is also higher than that of week 16 and 15 which are 594 and 225 respectively.

More than two-thirds of the over 165,000 people infected by COVID-19 in Nigeria have recovered after treatment with a total of 156,415 discharged patients.

Testing

Testing declined; there was improvement in treatment and prevention. Nigeria tested 23,257 people in the past week, lower than 42,159; 32,956 and 34,281 in previous subsequent weeks respectively.

Since the pandemic broke out in February last year, the country has carried out tests of more than 2 million out of roughly 200 million population.

Health experts fear that poor testing could be undermining the true impact of the outbreak in the country.

Restrictions

But while figures are depleting, the Nigerian government still insists on enforcing several COVID-19 restrictions and safety protocols.

Last Monday, the Nigerian government announced the continuation of several restrictive measures retained in the third phase of the gradual easing of COVID-19 lockdowns in September 2020.

The restrictions included the work-at-home policy for staff below the level of grade level 12 in the public sector and curfew from midnight. to 4a.m.

A few days before the restrictions were re-imposed, a temporary ban was placed on non-Nigerian passengers from Brazil, India and Turkey following the recent surge in the spread of new variants of the disease in the three countries.

The NCDC said the reinforcement of the restrictions became even more necessary because of the delays in vaccine supply.

The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 said; “While the country’s vaccine roll-out has begun, there is a shortage in global supplies affected by the current situation in India.

“This translates to a delay in vaccinating a large proportion of the population, and therefore a risk of a large outbreak especially in the context of poor adherence to the recommended public health and social measures.”

COVAX arrangement

India’s decision to stop exporting vaccines from its Serum Institute factory that is producing the bulk of the AstraZeneca vaccines for the COVAX facility is causing delays in the vaccine rollout in countries such as Nigeria which are hugely dependent on the arrangement.

The AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India is important especially to the COVAX arrangement, the UN-backed effort that promises access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population.

The COVAX initiative is designed to provide vaccines to Nigeria and other developing countries who are not yet ready to independently join the global negotiations for vaccines that are in scarce supply.

UNICEF, a UN agency responsible for distributing vaccines through the COVAX program, confirmed to Reuters last week that it expects deliveries of the vaccines to be delayed this month and next as India withhold supplies to focus on the fast spreading variant currently ravaging the country.

India is the worst hit with the recent global surge in infections attributed to mass gatherings and the fast spreading new variants of the virus.

India has one of the world’s largest inoculation drive but with a population of over 1.3billon, the world’s second largest country, the Asian nation is a far cry away from reaching herd immunity.

News that India will delay deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines to the global program means that Nigeria’s target of inoculating at least 80 million of its citizens by the end of the year will further be derailed.

It was through its subscription to the arrangement that Nigeria received 3.94 million doses of AstraZeneca out of the overall expected 16 million.

Meanwhile, Nigeria received supplies of an additional 400,000 doses from MTN and the Indian government and is expecting more from various other initiatives, the COVAX arrangement has been its main supplier.

Due to limited doses of vaccine, the federal government directed all states to pause the vaccine rollout once half of the about 4.4million doses in stock are exhausted to forestall stock out when those already vaccinated start coming back for their second doses.

Nigeria has so far vaccinated 1, 842, 437 citizens with the Oxford vaccines.

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