The upsurge in Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths since the beginning of the year shows that 266 persons died from virus within 25 days, between January 4 and 24.
This figure of 266 deaths is out of a total of 1,577 deaths recorded throughout the nation since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Data obtained from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also shows that 30 deaths were recorded in Nigeria on Friday, the second highest single day toll since 17 June 2020, when 31 deaths were recorded.
On Friday, Nigeria recorded 1,114 new cases, bringing total confirmed cases to 128, 674.
Out of this figure, 102,780 cases have been treated and discharged in 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
While the country began to witness a second wave since November last year, the significant increase in cases and deaths in the last three weeks has raised concerns.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Wednesday signed the COVID-19 Health Protections Regulations 2021 to ensure compliance to COVID-19 safety protocols.
The guidelines stated among others that those who contravened the provisions risk a fine or a term of six months imprisonment.
“An offence under these Regulations is punishable, under Section 5 of the Quarantine Act,” it said.
The federal government had also on Monday confirmed that the United Kingdom B117 strain of COVID-19 was in Nigeria.
Speaking during the joint national briefing of the taskforce, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said that the country’s scientists have been sequencing the variants of the virus.
He expressed concern over the increasing number of cases in the last few weeks, saying the PTF has closely followed the rising number of infections reported daily.
The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said it was not surprising to discover the new strain of COVID-19 in the country given the frequency of travel between the UK and Nigeria.
He said that four Nigerians have tested positive for the highly contagious COVID-19 strain. “When they were tested, this strain was found in them within a week of returning from Nigeria. This was reported to us through the international health regulations and it is most likely this strain was acquired in Nigeria.
“With our partners, the African Centre for Excellence in Genomics in Ede, we sent 50 samples to them and one of those samples had the UK variant linked to increased transmission,” he said.
Between Thursday January 21 and Wednesday January 27, the country recorded a total of 11, 469 new infections and 59 deaths, Daily Trust Saturday analysis show.
Osun State for instance recorded five deaths from COVID-19 related complications between Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Friday, January 22 alone, the country recorded 2, 314 new cases with 831 cases from Lagos State.
Data obtained from the NCDC also showed that in the epidemiological week one, which ran from January 4 to 10, the number of new confirmed cases increased to 9,940 from 5,733 in week 53, the last week of December.
Forty-seven deaths from COVID-19 were also reported in the week in 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In the second week, January 11 to 17, the number of new confirmed cases increased to 10,300 from 9,940 in week one. Seventy-seven deaths were also reported during the week in 15 states and FCT.
And then in week three, January 18 – 24, 2021, the number of new confirmed cases increased to 11,179 from 10,300 in week two. Sixty-nine deaths were reported in the week from the FCT and 16 states.
The Osun State Commissioner for Health, Dr Rafiu Isamotu, said report of increased fatalities was a warning sign to citizens not to treat COVID-19 with kid gloves.
“The sting of the infection can be avoided if we all take personal responsibilities.
“The government has shown responsibility by increasing testing capacity across the state and intensifying sensitization,” he said.
In Nasarawa State, Governor Abdullahi Sule said three local government areas of Lafia, Keffi and Karu still retain the highest number of positive cases, put at 80 percent.
He called on the people of the state to continue to maintain the COVID-19 protocols, adding that the rise in the number of confirmed cases in the state, is attributable to the increase in the number of tests being conducted across the state on a daily basis.
There are speculations that the deaths could be due to the new COVID-19 variant that was reported recently, however, experts disagree.
An epidemiologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Bayo Onajole, said “The new variant might be correlated with the case severity we are seeing in COVID-19 that is ongoing during this second wave. But, there is no study so far to show that there is a relationship between the death and the new variant.”
A reliable source at the Lagos Ministry of health said there are many unreported deaths in the community, adding that the increase in the number of deaths is apparent.
“By the time we are seeing this number of deaths in the health facilities, obviously there are more unreported deaths in the community.”
He said there is no justification between the new variant and the death. He insisted there is a need to provide evidence, sequence the death before concluding it was due to the variant.
“Whoever said the new variant and the deaths are inter-twined is merely assuming,” the top official said.
Asked if the UK and South African strains are responsible for surge in cases, National Incident Manager (NIM) of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, said this is still under consideration.
He said, “We put it as a strain of interest because of some characteristics we noted with that mutation. It was not a mutation that has been seen before.
“Currently, scientists are thinking that these current mutants may actually be resistant to the anti-bodies or resistant to our vital cells that fight infections or may even be resistance to the vaccines that were already developed.”
However, he added that the country does not even need a new strain of the virus for cases to increase going by the attitude of Nigerians to safety measures.
According to him, when one goes out in the streets even in Abuja, one can see people going around and conducting their businesses without facemasks.
He said, “I just came out of a market now in Abuja, out of 10 people, you hardly find one person wearing a facemask. So, why wont the virus propagate. People mingle anyhow, you have large gatherings, see our buses packed and carrying people with no facemasks, why wont the infection go round? We don’t have to have a new strain for the rising cases.”
Experts had earlier attributed the second wave in the country to the continued violation of protective measures against the disease by the public.
Original report from Daily Trust