COVID-19 staging a comeback, Nigeria’s health minister warns

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has warned that a second wave of COVID-19 outbreak is imminent in the country following the recent EndSARS protest, where many protesters threw caution to the wind and violated the COVID-19 protocols.

This is coming as some countries in Europe are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections and considering fresh lockdowns.

Ehanire’s warning came just as Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, threatened, yesterday, to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions in churches over alleged violation of COVID-19 protocols by worship centres

Apart from the COVID-19 breaches experienced during the EndSARS protest, the minister warned of outbreaks of the second wave of the virus in Europe and the Americas, also fuels the concern that Nigeria is not totally safe. He attributed his prediction to the high volume of human traffic between Nigeria and those countries, adding that the disruption in response caused by the #EndSARS protest, had become a source of worry to the government.

He further noted that reopening of schools would likely precipitate the second outbreak as had been experienced in parts of the world, warning that Nigeria had no reason for complacency, but every reason to wake up.

Addressing the 26th Scientific Conference and the Annual General Meeting of the Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), the minister observed that Lagos State suffered the double impact of being the most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and also the #EndSars protest, putting the resilience of the institutions and systems to the test.

He said, “Lagos is a major international travel entry point and an extensive, vibrant metropolis. The risks are corresponding. I, therefore, solicit your support now, with propagating known effective public non-pharmaceutical measures, increasing your index of suspicion and caution, and above all cooperating with public health officials to prepare for, and respond to all emerging health challenges.

The minister announced that a national post-COVID-19 sustainability plan had been developed to guide the nation’s return to normalcy and ensure that all sectors, especially the health sector, were better strengthened and urged medical directors to embrace the many opportunities arising as a byproduct of COVID-19 and to join in the rebuilding and modernisation effort of the nation’s health system.

He stressed the need for them to explore financial facilities made available to the private health sector by the Central Bank, pointing out that the pharmaceutical industry had started off well in that regard.
EARLIER, President of the GMD, Prof. Femi Dokun-Babalola observed that the COVID-19 pandemic had been challenging for private medical practitioners, saying that it had estimated that about 2,500 health workers were infected with the disease out of a total of 60,000 infections nationwide.

“This is also likely to be a gross underestimate. Seroprevalence studies carried out in Minna by Majiya et al, a seroprevalence rate of 37.1% was recorded among healthcare workers. This suggests that more than one in three health-workers in Nigeria have been exposed to COVID-19. It underlines the need for continuous vigilance as we carry out our duties as healthcare workers in Nigeria. We have lost some of our members to the COVID-19 crises, including Prof. Lovett Lawson of Zankli Hospital, Abuja, and Dr. Bello Katagum of NIIMA Hospital, Bauchi. This list is not exhaustive. Several of our colleagues in the Nursing and paramedical professions have also paid the ultimate price,” he said.

Dokun-Babalola, who noted that the Guild had to grapple with the “#EndSars’ unrest in the country, appealed to the government to speedily address the yearnings and agitations of the protesters and desist from the use of excessive force in confronting them on the streets.

He promised that the Guild would remain steadfast in their commitment to curb COVID-19 in Nigeria, especially through improved health security as a backstop to the health system and support towards achieving health-related SDGs.

MEANWHILE, Wike said that if observed breaches of COVID-19 protocols in the state were not immediately corrected, the state government would review restrictions in worship places.

He gave the warning at the Saint Thomas Anglican Church in Mile 2, Diobu, Port Harcourt, during a special thanksgiving service, saying he observed during the service that more than 80 per cent of worshippers did not wear face masks.

He warned that if it continued, the government would be compelled to revisit its position on the number of worshippers allowed per session of such church services.

“85 per cent of those who are here are not wearing face masks. That is the problem we have. Nobody wants to obey simple instructions. The mere fact that we have agreed that we should worship does not mean we should disobey the protocol.

“My Lord Bishop, encourage our people to wear their face masks. It is very important. If this continues, then I will go back and review the restriction to say it cannot be more than a particular number,” he warned.

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