*Calls for Strict Adherence to Public Health and Social Measures
*Worst is Yet to Come for Africa-WHO
By Ernest Omoarelojie
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, revealed on Thursday it has confirmed at least one of the Lineage B.1.617.2, better known SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant in the country.
The Delta variant is recognized by the World Health Organization, WHO, as one of concern given that it is more deadly and easily trasmissible. Thus far, it has been detected in over 90 countries with expectations that it will spread quickly to more countries.
In a statement made available to the media, NCDC head of Communications, Dr Yahya Disu, noted that the variant is also linked to a surge in cases in certain countries where it appears to be the dominant strain in circulation. According to him,
“There are ongoing studies to understand the impact of the variant on existing vaccines and therapeutics. As part of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, NCDC has been working with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, and other laboratories within the national network, to carry out genomic sequencing.
This is to enable the detection of variants of concern, and initiate response activities. All data on variants from Nigeria have been published on GISAID, a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data. Given the global risk of spread of the Delta variant, positive samples from international travellers to Nigeria are sequenced regularly,” the statement read in part.
Dr. Disu’s statement also indicated that the federal government, via the Presidential Steering, Committee, has put in place several proactive measures designed to reduce the risk and spread of the virus. Among others, the measures include the introduction of travel restrictions from countries where there is a surge in cases associated with widespread prevalence of variants of concern.
“The national travel protocol which includes compulsory seven-day self-isolation and repeat test on the seventh day after arrival, are in place to reduce the risk of spread of the virus.
It is very important that this is strictly adhered to, to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases in Nigeria. Given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and following its detection in Nigeria, NCDC urges all Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to public health and social measures in place,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization, WHO, has warned that Africa is yet to escape the worst of the virus as its transmission rate is on the rise for 7 back to back weeks beginning with the 3rd wave which teed off on May 3,2021.
This was made known by WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, via a virtual press conference on Thursday,
According to Moeti, Africa faced its worst of the pandemic period ever during the week which ended on July 4 during which it recorded more than 251,000 new virus infections. The figure is a 20 per cent increase over the previous week, 12 percent jump from the January peak.
WHO added that 16 countries in the continent are already contending with a resurgence with as many as 10 of the 16 countries known to harbour the deadly Delta variant and in the face of the fact that only 16 million of the continent’s population, less than two per cent of its 1.3 billion population are fully vaccinated.
WHO also disclosed that 19 countries in the continent have used more than 80 per cent of their COVAX-supplied doses, while 31 countries have used more than 50 per cent.
Dr Moeti, disclosed further that the reason for concern is that the current upsurge is coming at a point vaccination rates remain low in the continent. She added that even though momentum was gathering to deliver more vaccine doses through the COVAX facility, it is obvious the worst was yet to come for the continent unless something urgent is done.
“Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever. But the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground.
The end to this precipitous rise is still weeks away. Cases are doubling now every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago. We can still break the chain of transmission by testing, isolating contacts and cases, and following key public health measures,” said Moeti.
Moeti explained that more than 1.6 million doses of vaccines were delivered to Africa through COVAX just as more than 20 million Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to arrive from the US through COVAX, in coordination with the African Union.
“COVAX partners are working around the clock to clinch dose-sharing pledges and procurement deals with manufacturers to ensure that the most vulnerable Africans get a COVID-19 vaccination quickly.
These efforts are paying off. Our appeals for ‘we first and not me first’ are finally turning talk into action. But the deliveries can’t come soon enough because the third wave looms large across the continent,” Moeti said.
Moeti noted that so far, 66 million doses have been delivered to Africa including 40 million doses secured through bilateral deals, 25 million COVAX-supplied doses and 800, 000 doses supplied by the African Union African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. The 50 million doses administered to date account for just 1.6 percent of doses administered globally. However, she warned that the continent must expand its vaccination programme, improve its cold chains capacities and among others, boost vaccine confidence to be able to take full advantage of the global assistance.
“With much larger COVID-19 vaccine deliveries expected to arrive in July and August, African countries must use this time to prepare to rapidly expand the roll-out. Governments and partners can do this by planning to expand vaccination sites, improving cold chain capacities beyond capital cities, sensitising communities to boost vaccine confidence and demand, and ensuring that operational funding is ready to go when it is needed,” she said.