COVID-19 cases, deaths may rise until August, experts warn

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• WHO announces 30% rise in Africa’s death cases
• ‘How to reduce rate of transmission’
• ‘Why more health workers are getting infected’

Medical experts have warned that Nigeria may continue to record more cases of coronavirus infection and deaths until August because the country is yet to reach the peak of the epidemic.

In the absence of an effective vaccine, the medical experts recommended strict enforcement of non-pharmaceutical interventions like use of facemasks, regular hand washing with soap, and keeping social distance to reduce the rate of transmission.

A consultant public health physician/epidemiologist and a member of Response Team, Prof. Akin Osibogun, in an interview with The Guardian yesterday, said: “The number of cases is on the increase because community transmission is progressing and we are yet to reach the peak of the epidemic. From projections and modelling, we may reach that peak by middle of July or early August.

“A full lockdown is not feasible for economic and security reasons as we have observed recently. In the absence of an effective vaccine, strict enforcement of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as use of face masks, regular hand washing, and respectful physical distancing will all combine to reduce the rate of transmission.”

Osibogun, who is the immediate past chief medical director (CMD) of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, said the increasing number of mortalities might be connected with the corresponding increase in number of cases. According to him, the mortality rate is still about two per cent; and, in absolute numbers, two per cent of 10,000 cases will naturally be higher than two per cent of 1,000 cases.

“Strict enforcement of the non-pharmaceutical interventions, in addition to case detection and management, is the only way to mitigate the outbreak,” Osibogun said.

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A virologist and chairman, Expert Committee on , Prof. Oyewale Tomori, said: “The situation is spiralling out of control.

We need more details on the deaths, the age of victims, state, co-morbidities, which hospital attended to them and so on to make an informed judgement.”

On what to do, Tomori, who, was the pioneer vice chancellor of Redeemer’s University and chairman, Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication, said more attention and needed support should be given to the medical teams, they should be supplied with personal protective equipment and better healthcare should be given to the cases.

“We need to tell our people to take seriously and protect themselves from infection. If there are no cases, there can be no deaths from the disease.

The Director General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Babatunde Salako, told The Guardian: “I believe the increase in number of deaths may have to do with people finding it difficult to access health care because most hospitals are asking for test results before attending to sick people, and by the time they receive care, the illness would have gone far.”

Salako urged the Federal Government to direct all government hospitals not to refuse people but rather treat them appropriately while waiting for results of test. He said emergency centres should be created for related illnesses in government hospitals to take care of mild cases who are at home but who may develop progression of their disease and condition.

President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), and former Director General of NIMR, Prof. Innocent Ujah, said: “In order to objectively make any comment on the rising deaths from COVID-19 in Nigeria, more information is needed from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (). All deaths must be appropriately characterized and disaggregated, including underlying clinical conditions of hypertension, diabetes, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) and heart diseases. It is only after the information is made available by that we can objectively make an informed statement on it.”

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Latest figures from the for June 17, 2020, showed 587 new confirmed cases and 14 deaths were recorded, while for June 16, 2020, 490 confirmed cases and 31 deaths were recorded. By June 16, the total number of deaths had risen to 455 from 424 in June15, 2020, and with the 14 new deaths on June 17, the total number of deaths is now 469.

Analyses of data from the showed that 31 deaths recorded on June 16 was the highest ever recorded in a day since the first case was reported in February.

The Guardian investigation revealed that despite the fact that Lagos is responsible for over 70 per cent of all cases and deaths, most of the residents are no longer wearing face masks even as most commercial vehicles commute more than the recommended number of passengers.

Also yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) alerted the world to 30 per cent rise in number of coronavirus disease cases and deaths in Africa within one week.

The WHO in its latest Situation Report on COVID-19 said: “Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Africa in mid-February, the pace of the outbreak has accelerated, taking 98 days to reach the first 100 000 cases and only 19 days to rise to 200 000 cases.

“As of 11 June, more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 5600 deaths had been reported from Africa –a nearly 30 per cent increase in cases as compared to the previous week.”

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The global health body noted that the rise in cases and deaths was despite the fact that many countries had put in place lockdowns and public health measures to promote physical distancing and good hand hygiene, while isolating cases and testing and tracing of contacts of people with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, pharmacists under the aegis of the Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria (AHAPN), have said that health workers in the country are getting infected every day with coronavirus because of lack of basic personal protective equipment (PPE) and non-payment of hazard allowance to them.

The National Chairman of AHAPN, Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Amibor, and National Secretary, Dr. Hafiz Ola Akande, told journalists yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari had in his maiden COVID-19 address in March 2020 promised, among other things, payment of hazard allowance, provision of PPE and special life cover for health workers that are on the frontlines of the containment efforts.

“But three months on, the Federal Government is yet to keep some of its promises to health workers.

We appreciate the government on the efforts being made to contain the pandemic in the country, however, we must state that pharmacists and other healthcare workers are getting infected every day because of lack of basic PPEs. We call on government to provide adequate PPEs for pharmacists and other healthcare workers who are at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic control efforts.

“We also remind government to honour her decision to pay enhanced hazard allowance to healthcare workers since March, 2020. This pronouncement has not translated into tangible result yet. For proper motivation of healthcare workers, the Federal Government and other states in the federation who have made similar promises, should pay healthcare professionals the enhanced allowance,” they said.

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