Experts say urgent action needed
By Sola Ogundipe
Just as the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria topped 20,000, the focus has shifted to the rising number of deaths.
Specifically in Lagos, there has been a heavy toll of the Coronavirus infection.
According to the situation update of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, for the 21st of June 2020, Lagos State recorded 8,576 confirmed cases which were about 42.36 percent of the overall positive cases nationwide.
Of the total 518 fatalities nationwide, 126 (24.32 per cent) occurred in Lagos.
With the number of deaths now in the hundreds, health watchers fear that the situation may escalate if no urgent action is taken to stem the tide.
The experts argue that the country and Lagos, in particular, may be gradually experiencing a silent rage of COVID-19-related fatalities.
Already, the rate of deaths of young and old persons from what is commonly referred to as “unknown causes” is worrisome.
While only a few of such deaths have been linked to coronavirus infection, unconfirmed reports show that many Lagosians with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, or those confirmed to be positive, are treating themselves at home. Some others have reportedly fled from home to avoid being taken to the isolation centres.
It was gathered that death recorded under such circumstances is not officially captured as COVID-19 fatalities.
More findings by Good Health Weekly reveal that almost every other day over the past two weeks, at least one COVID-19 death was recorded in the State.
According to the NCDC situation report, in the week of 8th -14th June 2020, the State recorded 15 deaths which were approximately 24 percent of the 63 deaths recorded nationwide during the period
Also in the week of 15th – 21st June 2020, a total of 28 deaths were recorded in Lagos. This was 32 percent of the overall 87 deaths recorded nationwide during the period.
Compared to the previous week, the percentage of deaths in Lagos grew by 8 percent (13 deaths).
However, critical stakeholders are worried that the death rate is gradually building up, and although it is currently under 1,000, they argue that even a single life lost to the pandemic matters.
In the views of the President, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah, although, fatality is increasing even though it is under 3 percent nationwide, but anyone’s life lost matters.
He said: “It is better to be alive than dying or be infected. I think we should be cautious. If the coast is not clear because we don’t even know the directions that we are going, the Coronavirus cases are increasing. We may not have to rush. Nobody has the answer when it is rising or the trend.
In a chat with the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, he said currently, the cases in Lagos State account for about 40 percent of all cases in Nigeria.
“Therefore, one of our biggest priorities is to reduce and halt transmission in the State. As this is a new virus, we must depend on both Government and individuals to take responsibility.
“The Lagos State Government has shown strong leadership in responding to COVID-19 since Nigeria’s index case was reported. The State has adopted the test-trace-treat strategy which is guiding our national response.
“There are four laboratories in Lagos testing for COVID-19. The State has also increased the number of samples tested by introducing community testing in priority LGAs. In addition, Lagos State has increased its capacity to treat the growing number of cases. These efforts are supported by other policy measures such as school closures, restriction in gatherings, etc.”
Further, the NCDC boss said: “For us to decrease the number of new cases, the Government’s efforts must be met by individual responsibility. We urge Lagos residents to adhere to preventive measures such as avoiding gatherings, maintaining the physical distance of two metres, wearing a face mask when outdoors or in public settings. Business owners, transport providers, religious and traditional leaders, as well as individuals, must support adherence to the measures introduced by the Government and public health authorities,” he noted.
While the NCDC has deployed human resources and provided strong support to Lagos State. We will continue to support the Lagos State Government’s efforts to identify and manage severe cases, prevent further transmission of the virus as well as inform the public.
“However, we must all see this as a joint responsibility for Government, associations, communities, and individuals.”
According to the Minister of Helth, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, most COVID-19 fatalities recorded could have been saved if they were brought into treatment centres on time.
Also, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force, Dr. Sani Aliyu, remarked that Nigerians have shown a lack of adherence to the COVID-19 protocols, a situation he described as quite worrying.
“The public is letting down its guard,” he stated.