COVID-19: Akwa Ibom hotspot as Nigeria enters third wave with 32 confirmed Delta variant cases – PSC

The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC) said Nigeria is officially in the third wave of the pandemic with 32 confirmed cases of Delta Variant of the disease now in the country.

Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chike Ihekweazu, said this at a national media briefing by members of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19.

He said 80 percent of the test conducted in Akwa-Ibom state have been confirmed to be Delta variant of the deadly coronavirus.
He said Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Oyo, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Rivers and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are states of concern.
“As of this morning, 32 confirmed cases of the Delta variant are in Nigeria from five states. Abuja, Oyo, Cross River, Lagos and Akwa Ibom. Some of these have been returning travellers, some of the local transmissions.

“Now the biggest batch of sequencing that we got this morning was out of Akwa Ibom. So out of 23 cases there, 19 were the Delta variant. And that’s why I said 80 percent of the cases in Akwa Ibom today, are from sequencing turned out to be delta.
“Sequencing is a very complex activity. So that is the most likely cause of the increase transmission we’re seeing suddenly, out of Akwa Ibom. Akwa Ibom was not one of the hotspots in the first and second waves. Remember, we had FCT, Kaduna, Lagos.

“So, this is really a new state, so a lot of attention. Most likely, somehow someone returned to Akwa Ibom with a delta strain, started transmission activities. And given the increased transmissibility of this variant, we’re now seeing quite a number of cases happening. So we’re intensifying action in Akwa Ibom to contain it.
“Lagos, yes, we haven’t sequenced as many cases, as we would like to. We have three facilities in the public sector in Nigeria with sequencing capacity, and NIMA, NCDC, and the Africa Centre for Excellence in Genomics in Ede. In addition, they are few private sector players that now have that capacity.

“The 54 gene, the private sector laboratory in Legos. So we are working with Legos to identify the most appropriate facility for them to sequence that samples. And I’m sure that the next few days, we will really scaled the sequencing coming throughout the playoffs so that we fully understand what is happening in Lagos. Right now, over 50% of all the positive cases, in Nigeria, are still reported out of Lagos state, at some point, it was even as high as 70%. So understanding what is happening in Lagos is critical to understanding what is happening in the country,” he said.

He said there is no scientific definition of when the third wave starts or when it will stop.

“We are seeing increasing cases. And if you look at the epidemic, you see clearly an increase in cases in the last few weeks. But remember, Nigeria is a big country, right? That we’re having third wave nationally, you need to look at the data at a slightly more differentiated level.

“Many of the cases are being reported out of Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Rivers states. And many states, especially in northern Nigeria, I’m really not seeing a lot of cases. So it’s still a very different picture across the different states in Nigeria and that is why we want to continue to do our surveillance and advise our colleagues on how to respond,” he said.

Also speaking, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 Mr Boss Mustapha said government would not hesitate to introduce stringent measures to protect citizens.

Responding to a question on if the PSC is considering some measures to arrest the rising cases of delta variant in country, the SGF said:l “Nothing is off the table. Let me say very categorically, nothing is off the table when it comes to protecting the lives of the people of this country. We will not hesitate in taking measures that will be considered quite stringent.

“All the countries of the world are applying different measures, countries that were adjudged to have successfully dealt with COVID-19 suddenly realised that they had to impose certain measures to ensure that they continue to balance lives and livelihood. And like I said, nothing is off the table. We’ll continue to study the situation.
“We’ve always been guided by science and facts and the experiences of other jurisdictions before we take informed decisions, we will continue to do that. Because it is very, very important the COVID-19 virus is novel, we will continue to understand the way it operates.
“The mutation and all manners of things, everybody is on a learning curve. Nobody has the full story. And until we get to the such a situation where we are comfortable about the variant in country, is not only the Delta variant that is country, there are other variant, Dr Chikwe didn’t address that but probably at an appropriate moment we will talk about it,” he said.