The year of the virus is gradually winding down but the stubborn and deadly coronavirus is inflicting more pains around the world with increasing cases of infections, hospitalisations and deaths. With less than two weeks before we embrace another brand new year, the second wave of the disease is spreading like bushfire in the harmattan. But you know what, take heed and do not worry; coronavirus is just doing “shakara” – it will go away and dissolve like early morning dew under the blazing heat of the African sun.
In an earlier article, I wrote that the days of coronavirus are numbered – they are still numbered because nothing lasts forever.
With the authorisation of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use globally, coronavirus has no hiding place. We need our lives back as we cannot afford another round of compulsory lockdown. However, the biggest concern right now is that it appears the second wave unbundled a new contagious strain of coronavirus with a higher rate of transmission. Even with the recent spike in cases, our testing capacity is still a huge challenge.
During this season of goodwill, it is feared that families exchanging visits will spread the virus simply because wearing face masks is not popular and social distancing is also largely ignored – the problem has always been that of compliance but there’s need to exercise caution. The key is to minimise social contacts as much as possible to contain the spread of COVID-19 and be safe.
Before you board any flight out of the country, there are requirements relating to COVID-19 tests for safe passage into other countries. In fact, such results should be valid for not more than 72 hours before you travel. You may also be quarantined when you arrive at your destination; the rules vary from country to country depending on the level of restrictions imposed.
Although inbound travellers are required to provide evidence of test results of COVID-19 upon arrival, a fraudulent and dubious syndicate has emerged and what they do is to blackmail and extort money from unsuspecting passengers at the airport. No test results are required for local flights and if for any reason you are asked to pay for your sample to be taken to the lab for a COVID-19 test before boarding a local flight, please do not pay a dime because the request is illegal – it is a scam.
We have officially entered the second wave of COVID-19 in Nigeria, according to the Presidential Task Force on the disease. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation who represented the Chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha, who is on self-isolation due to the ravaging virus, disclosed this recently in Abuja during the regular PTF briefing. Sirika hinted that we may have coronavirus vaccine in the country before the end of Q1 next year.
According to the latest data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria recorded 77,013 new infections of coronavirus as at last Friday night. Twenty five states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recorded new cases on Friday. Lagos State recorded the highest number of 287 new cases, while FCT followed with 255 cases. These numbers simply show a consistent pattern between Lagos and Abuja, which can be explained by the inbound traffic from the international airports and local travels. So far, 67,467 patients have been discharged while 1,212 deaths have been recorded.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State who tested positive to the virus recently, has made it clear that it is in everyone’s interest to take responsibility and act to save lives by observing the safety protocols. Sanwo-Olu, the Incident Commander, said in a statement that there is an unfortunate public perception that we have seen the end of COVID-19. “That is absolutely wrong and dangerous,” cautioned the governor. “The worst is not over.”
The statement also indicated that for every 100 tests, an average of 10 turn out to be positive – that is 10% compared to the previous 5% infection rate recorded in September. “This suggests the existence of active community transmission and it represents the very likely possibility of the emergence of a second wave in Lagos State,” Sanwo-Olu stated. He announced new restrictions for parties, street carnivals, nightclubs, gyms, event centres and places of worship. But it looked as if the management of Cubana, a nightclub, bar and lounge in GRA, Ikeja, decided to test the governor’s will. The club was shut down on Friday night after flouting instructions that all nightclubs are to remain closed until further notice.
In the UK, Prime Minster Boris Johnson, who initially approved a five-day window for the Brits to celebrate Christmas has cancelled the idea. Johnson announced ‘Tier 4’ level of restrictions – the equivalent of full lockdown – for parts of England including London, which will go into effect from this week. It will affect about 16 million people during the Christmas season and the aim is to avoid super-spreader events like the recent Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. At a press conference last Saturday, the prime minister announced 27,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 534 more people having died within 28 days of testing positive. UK health officials believe the new strain of coronavirus is deadlier and harder to detect.
In the United States, the story is not different. A recent key model predicted that there will be about 562,000 deaths by April 1, 2021, according to a CNN report. With over 315,000 deaths and 17.6 million cases as at last Saturday, the United States is struggling to contain the surging cases on a daily basis. Several travel advisories have been issued by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but it appears they are often disregarded. California, for example, cannot cope with rising cases as they have run out of ICU bed spaces. In one instance, over 3,300 deaths were recorded in a single day in the US!
The desperately needed coronavirus vaccine is in short supply. In addition to the Pfizer vaccine that is being distributed, it has been reported that about six million Moderna vaccine doses will be distributed to more than 3,000 locations in the United States this week. The Moderna rollout is four times larger than the Pfizer shipment last week and it has the advantage of being stored in a regular refrigerator, according to a CNN report. However, it is still important to wear masks and practice social distancing even after taking the vaccine; it is not a fool proof, according to health experts, as one may still carry the virus and be contagious to others.
All over the world, everyone is at risk – more and more people will be infected as no one has immunity to this novel coronavirus. The statistics are frightening globally with 76.4 million cases and about 1.7 million deaths. However, 43.1 million patients recovered. French President Emmanuel Macron who tested positive to the virus is in stable condition although the symptoms, according to Jean-Christophe Perrochon, the chief doctor of the presidency, are still present: fatigue, coughing and stiffness. Macron admitted that he took all the safety precautions but the stubborn virus found a way to pin him down. With over 60,000 deaths in France, Macron told the news media that there was need to be vigilant in order to contain the virus.
Coronavirus is real and deadly; Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna are the hot spots in Nigeria. Narrating her experience in a widely shared video, Dr Josephine Okechukwu, Director of Public Health at the Health and Human Services Secretariat of the FCT Administration, is a COVID-19 survivor. Dr Okechukwu contracted the virus on December 3 and she is lucky to be alive to tell her story. She was discharged after 15 days of treatment. According to her, the peak period in FCT during the first wave was last July with 1,940 cases but with the second wave, there is an overwhelming number of cases. By last month, the number of infections had shot up to 717 while as at December 18, the day she was discharged, the number of cases in FCT had peaked at 2,462.
When compared to July this year, FCT recorded a whopping 127% increase in coronavirus cases after six months based on information from Dr Okechukwu’s testimony. “We are in a crisis, so we must take precaution to cut down the transmission and spread of the disease,” she cautioned. It is evident we all have a duty to fight the ravaging virus by taking responsibility to be safe. Dr Okechukwu further revealed in her video that 73% of virus carriers are asymptomatic; she calls them super-spreaders because they are spreading the virus without knowing they are carriers – they do not display any known symptoms; it is the scary part of the transmission of the virus.
At this time of the year, a lot of travels are usually planned to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with our families. It is therefore very likely that the number of coronavirus infections will rise by January and February next year if we do not adhere strictly to safety guidelines. Do not travel if it is not important to do so, and do not welcome visitors for the time being. As we worry about our own safety, let us ensure the elderly and the vulnerable among us — especially those with underlying medical conditions — are not exposed to the virus.
Remember that prevention is better than cure – wearing face masks properly, washing our hands or using hand sanitisers as well as social distancing are still the best prevention measures. In addition, avoid large gatherings/overcrowded places and do not shake hands or hug anyone under any circumstance. Resist the temptation to organise parties at this time – only the living can attend social events. If you must travel, make adequate arrangement for safe transportation.
Death has become a cheap commodity arising from coronavirus infections. The second wave has claimed several lives including some high profile deaths. They include Major General Olubunmi Irefin, who was General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Port Harcourt; billionaire businessmen Harry Akande, Sam Nda-Isaiah, founder and chairman of Leadership Newspaper and Rotarian Olugbemiga Olowu, a Past District Governor (PDG) of Rotary International, District 9110.
My last encounter with PDG Olowu was on the weekend of Friday, October 30 when he checked into Adna Hotel in GRA, Ikeja, Lagos for two nights for a Rotary function the following day and I used the opportunity to give him an autographed copy of my book. Little did I now I will never see him again. Ten other Rotarians joined him the next day. He was at the Africa Zone 22 Rotary Institute, which held in Uganda from December 1 – 6. As a very passionate and devoted Rotarian, PDG Olowu travelled from Uganda to Egypt for another Rotary event, where he died in Cairo of complications arising from COVID-19. His death was shocking because there was no indication he was unwell – I understand he was in good health throughout his stay in Uganda.
PDG Olowu was our District Governor (District 9110) in 2013-2014, two years after I joined the Rotary Family as a member of the Rotary Club of Lagos. He was an active member of the Rotary Club of Lagos Central and West Africa Director/National Chair of the Rotary Action Group, Rotary Family Health and AIDS Prevention whose flagship programme is the Rotary Family Health Day. May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Adieu PDG Olugbemiga Olowu.
–Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)