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COVID-19 testing stops in 13 states, Delta variant hitting unvaccinated Nigerians

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  • Testing fell by 29 per cent in three months, FG cries out as dangerous strain spreads fast

  • Nigeria receives 3,924,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses next week, states list testing obstacles

  • Put Nigerians on red alert, Delta strain can spread in communities before detection – Tomori

There were indications on Thursday that at least 13 states had stopped testing for COVID-19 despite the impending third wave of the disease propelled by the highly infectious Delta strain.

Epidemiological data obtained from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control showed that since the first case of the Delta variant was reported on July 8, 2021, only about 23 states and the Federal Capital Territory had been sending reports to the NCDC.

These came to the fore on Thursday  as  data from the NCDC  showed that the COVID-19 tests  reduced  from  735,573 to 521,738 in three months amid warning by the Federal Government that Delta variant was spreading among unvaccinated Nigerians.

The NCDC, on its website revealed that 735,573 tests were conducted between January 10 and April 11.

But between April 11 and July 11, 521,738 were conducted representing a reduction of 213,835 (29.08 per cent).

As of January 10, 1,121,484 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in the country while 1,857,057 tests were conducted as of April 11.

While 1,857,057 were conducted as of April 11, the figure rose to 2,378,795 on July 11.

The states that have been sending updates include Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and the FCT.

The 13 states that have not sent any results to the NCDC in the last two weeks include Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara states.

The PUNCH also observed that among these 13 states, only Yobe has sent an update to the NCDC in the month of July. This implies that 12 states have not sent any COVID-19 status update in over three weeks.

It was learnt that no single COVID-19 infection had been reported in these 12 states in the month of July despite the rising number of cases in 23 states and the FCT. This may imply that the 169,884 cases recorded in Nigeria may be far from reality.

Why we have not been testing – Bauchi

Executive Chairman of the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Rilwan Mohammed, confirmed that the state had not been conducting tests.

In an interview with one of our correspondents, he said, “We have been testing but for the past two weeks, we’ve not tested because we have a lot of challenges on the issue of testing.

“Some of the challenges are that the reagents are not available. There is the problem of electricity and the diesel is not there (to power the generators), a lot of issues. These are mybe reasons why we are not testing in Bauchi,” he said.

Asked if finance was not a major challenge to them, he said, “When we have the money, we will buy the diesel.”

Mohammed who is the state Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Contacts and Surveillance of the State Task Force on COVID-19, also said, “We are not doing active case testing in communities across the local government areas as we were doing before. We are no longer doing community testing at all.

“We are also not doing travellers’ testing.  People are complaining and when they complain, we carry out the test for them. Unfortunately, we are not doing as much we were doing before  because we don’t have support.”

Asked when the state  would resume testing, he said, “Honestly, we don’t know. We don’t have support and that is the reason why we don’t go out for active case testing.

“The NCDC is not doing anything for us. Even at the initial stage, it was the Bauchi State Government that gave us the money to carry out the outreach services.”

We haven’t been conducting tests, people not turning up – Benue

Also, the Benue State Government admitted that it had not been conducting tests for the past two weeks, but stated that  it had stepped up awareness campaign.

Speaking separately to one of our correspondents on the phone, the state commissioners for Health and Human Resources and Information and Orientation, Dr Joseph Ngbea and Mrs Ngunan Addingi, admitted that the state had  not been conducting tests for the past two weeks.

The Commissioner for Health noted that his ministry had released monthly funds for testing but regretted that people were not coming out for testing.

Ngbea however explained that the state had already released N5m for the purchase of non -pharmaceutical items.

The health commissioner stated, “There was a stakeholders meeting where a surveillance team was set up.Meanwhile, the state government released N5m this week to procure thermometers, face masks, sanitizers and other items to be distributed.

“Actually, before the past two weeks, the state did not carry out any test but with the outcome of our meeting we  decided to step up awareness campaign that COVID 19 is still very much with us.

Also speaking, the state commissioner for information confirmed that the state did not conduct COVID 19 test for “the past two weeks.”

The Permanent Secretary in charge of Zamfara State’s Health Ministry, Dr Habib Yelwa, said that he was not aware of the  Epidemiological data.

He requested that he would like to see the data and when he was presented with it, he asked our reporter to give him time to react. Yelwa, however, declined to comment on the issue.

The Taraba State Commissioner for Health, Dr  Innocent Vakkai,  said the state had yet to detect any case of Delta variant of COVID-19.

Vakkai disclosed this in a telephone interview with one of  our correspondents on Thursday in Jalingo.

According to him, the state has been conducting massive test for the virus using the ultra-modern laboratory centre donated to the state by the North East-Development Commission, without any case of the virus in the last two weeks. The records are there in the public domain and it’s not something anyone can hide.”

Tomori faults NCDC, says agency not giving update

Speaking to The PUNCH, the Chairman of the  Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, said it would be quite difficult to assume that states were not undergoing tests seeing as the NCDC had failed in its responsibility to give updated data to Nigerians.

Tomori, however, stated that if indeed these states had  stopped testing, then there was a very big problem.

He said “We have engaged the NCDC on this subject matter, first off, we find out that the NCDC isn’t giving out enough information and then we know that a state like Kogi has not been testing, if you check through, you will realise the number of confirmed cases has been the same.

‘’Again, this goes way more than just saying these are the states that have sent their reports, let us say you tested 100,000 and 25,000 came back positive, we should be able to have access to these information, from there we can know if there is a problem or not but if it is true that these states are not conducting tests then there is a very big problem.”

Tomori, however, advised the Federal Government to put the whole country on red alert in order to avert a third wave.

He said “The entire country should be on red alert. Now that the Sallah holidays are over as well as activities that have violated all non-pharmaceutical interventions, those who may have asymptomatically harboured the virus before and after will travel and return to different destinations.

“I think the Federal Government got it wrong from the outset. Let’s look at those coming into Nigeria. The government was advised to test all passengers on arrival rather than wait for seven days before testing.

“The plan by the government to publish names of defaulters was doomed to fail, as it has, with all such ill- planned knee-jerk responses. It takes anything between four to six weeks after introduction of variants into Nigeria. This is dangerous, because the variant could have spread all over the country before we detect and then we start seeing community transmission.”

Delta variant tearing through   unvaccinated Nigerians, minister cries out

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday said that the deadly Delta variant was tearing through the unvaccinated populations in Nigeria.

Ehanire disclosed this during a virtual press briefing with the World Health Organisation.

He said “We have begun to see a pandemic of two tracks where the Delta variant is tearing through unvaccinated populations. The Delta variant was first detected two weeks ago, and we have begun to see an increase in the number of new cases.

“Nigeria has continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the last 17 months. This has received the highest priority from our government, with a Presidential Steering Committee leading the multi-sector response, while the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies such as the NCDC and the NPHCDA lead the health sector response and we will continue to give priority to this pandemic.”

Nigeria receives 3,924,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses next week

The minister added that Nigeria would receive her consignment of 3,924,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility before the  end of the month.

He said “Before the end of the month, we will receive 3,924,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca from the COVAX facility. We are also expecting 3,930,910 doses of Pfizer-bio N tech, Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in August that was donated by the United States. Also, 29,859,000 doses of the Johnson &Johnson vaccines will arrive by the end of September.”

In her remarks, the WHO Africa Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, stated that the Africa third wave was far from over.

Moeti stated, “Be under no illusions, Africa’s third wave is absolutely not over. This small step forward offers hope and inspiration but must not mask the big picture for Africa. Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa’s third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before. The Eid celebrations which we marked this week may also result in a rise in cases. We must all double down on prevention measures to build on these fragile gains.

“Twenty-one African countries have seen cases rise by over 20 per cent for at least two weeks running – which is an increase of three countries over the previous week – and the highly transmissible Delta variant has been found in 26 African countries.”

In a separate interview with The PUNCH, the Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Nigerians should understand the risk of variant mutations as the country prepared to avert a potential third wave.

Ihekweazu said this while reacting to reports that Nigerians had abandoned public health measures.

Three die in A’Ibom

But there was  panic in Akwa Ibom State as three persons  died of COVID-19.

The Secretary to State Government and  Chairman COVID-19 Committee,  Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, disclosed this while giving an update of the pandemic at a media briefing on Thursday.

He called on all residents to adhere strictly to all COVID  protocols,  adding, “Social distancing in tricycles and in Mini-buses and wearing of face masks are to be strictly complied with.

“Religious houses (churches and mosques) should run at half capacity and services should last not more than one hour.” ,,

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