COVID-19 In Nigeria; One Year On

By Mukhtar Ajelogbon

It was like every other health emergency declaration when the World Health Organisation on the 30th of January, 2020 declared COVID-19 to be a public health emergency of international concern. The pandemic which broke out earlier in December 2019 in Wuhan China had spread across the world.

In Nigeria, the first index case was confirmed in Lagos on the 28th of February 2020 through an Italian man who returned from Milan, Italy on the 25th of February 2020, was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, and was successfully managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital, IDH, in Yaba, Lagos.

The Federal Government of Nigeria declared a massive contact tracing to identify all the contacts of the index case. From that single case in Lagos state, the country has recorded over One-hundred-and-fifty-eight-thousand, four-hundred cases and almost one-thousand-nine-hundred deaths in the thirty-six states and the Federal Capital Territory, recorded one year after.

However, the good news is that almost one-hundred-and-thirty-two-thousand of those sickened by the virus have recovered and been discharged from hospital as Nigeria is currently planning to roll out its own COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Nevertheless, life has not been the same for millions of Nigerians. Lagos state has remained the epicentre and from the first case recorded a year ago, Lagos currently has almost fifty-five-thousand-five-hundred confirmed cases and over four-hundred deaths.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing in Nigeria as President MUHAMMADU BUHARI imposed a lockdown in Lagos, the FCT, and Ogun states on the 1st of April, 2020. The lockdown, which was the first of its kind, was later extended. There were also curfews nationwide. 

Initially, there was dire shortage in adequate capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to a public health emergency of the magnitude of COVID-19, both in prevention and response. At the onset of the pandemic, diagnosing  the viral disease was the biggest challenge that Nigeria faced. The pandemic exposed a critical weakness in the diagnostic capacity of the country, judging from the relatively low testing rates for COVID-19 in the country.

There were acute shortages of just about  everything, from human resources to testing kits, laboratories, intensive care units, face masks, hand sanitisers, etc. As at then, there were only three molecular laboratories in the country with the capacity to test samples and diagnose COVID-19 located in Lagos, at the LUTH and IDH, and the third in Ede, Osun state. Today, however, there are well over one-hundred accredited public and private laboratories and the country has tested about one-point-four-nine million samples so far.

After the government set up a multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group that transformed into the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, that included the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, N-C-D-C, and other agencies, Nigerians quickly learned to recognise the common symptoms of the disease as everyone is now used to adhering to social distancing, avoiding crowds, maintaining at least two metres apart, maintenance of respiratory hygiene through wearing of face masks, as well as hand hygiene through regular and thorough washing of hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

After the lockdown was extended, there was palpable hunger in many regions of the country. The distribution system of the palliative was seriously marred by sharp practices. Even the so-called palliatives or food assistance programme of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development for vulnerable households in the locked down states, failed catastrophically. 

Response implementation at the federal and state levels remain largely based on weak health systems, sluggish emergency response, weak accountability systems, and fragmented data and information monitoring systems. The weaknesses have led to implementation gaps, but Nigerians are coping as government is struggling to meet up.
In conclusion, Nigeria has within one year recorded one-hundred-and-fifty-five-thousand, four-hundred-and-seventen cases, while one-hundred-and-thirty-three-thousand, two-hundred-and-fifty-six were discharged, and one-thousand-and-ninety-five death from the deadly virus. Nigerians are expected to be vaccinated starting from this week as about four-million vaccin (about two percent of the country’s total population) will arrive Nigeria today.

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