Nigeria’s rising COVID-19 positive cases are worrisome, Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire raised the alarm on Monday.
According to him, 10,300 confirmed cases were reported from 50,750 samples tested last week. This translates to 20 per cent positivity rate.
“It means one out of every five persons tested in the last one week turned out positive, compared with the previous week, which recorded a positivity rate of 14 per cent.
“Nigeria’s total number of confirmed cases is 110,387 out of a total of 1,172,234 samples tested, with a cumulative positivity rate of 9.4 per cent. 1,444 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, with sadly 77 deaths in the past week and total fatality of 1,435,” the minister said during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control in Abuja.
Ehanire added: “It is instructive of the second wave that cases recorded so far this January (barely halfway through the month) are more than 20 per cent of all confirmed cases in December.
“There is no doubting the fact that we are deeply into the second wave of the pandemic, which requires that PTF and Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) review our strategies to respond to the challenge.
“The Federal Ministry of Health has outlined three approaches to confront the pandemic. These are: infection mitigation, therapeutics and vaccines”.
Ehanire reiterated that reducing infection rate remained the easiest and cheapest objective of the government.
According to him, government’s main effort is to ensure social mobilisation for testing, strengthening surveillance activities for early detection, active contact tracing, isolation and treatment.
He added that implementation of critical non-pharmaceutical measures required the cooperation of the public.
“This includes much more adherence to wearing masks, social distancing, use of sanitiser, etc. than we are seeing today. Of special concern are the so-called “super spreader activities” that involve congregational settings, which must be reduced, restricted or prohibited in the interest of the common good.
“With regards to therapeutics, we must strive to reduce mortality from this disease by ensuring adequate stock of supplies and strengthening our case management capacity.
“The ministry of health is working to expand oxygen availability across the country to address shortages, which have been a challenge globally, and also to review the value of various pharmaceuticals and protocols proposed for COVID-19 treatment.
“Clinicians are also urged to work out guidelines for participating in clinical studies.”
N10b released for vaccine production
Ehanire also said: “The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.
“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production, in collaboration with recognised institutions. We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in the country.”
He urged Nigerians to ignore claims by some people that they had COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country.
“I advise all citizens to disregard these claims, as they are criminal. There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use, which include appropriate regulations and certification by National Agency for Food and Drug and Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no one approved for use in the country. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is the only authorised vaccine administrator in Nigeria,” he said.
“The N10 billion is meant to support vaccine production and not the research. It is possible that Nigeria will get a licence to produce a vaccine that is already there and approved internationally. That is already happening because even Pfizer produced in the United States has licensed a company in another country to produce it. And AstraZeneca has licensed a company in India to produce.
“So, we can get the possibility of licence production. So, that N10 billion is seed money we have earmarked for the production through the company that is able to actually support that initiative.”
He added: ‘It is true that there are indigenous attempts at making vaccines and we do have some areas where there is a successful candidate vaccine that have been made in this country. The PTF is looking at the possibility of developing this. But we must realise that to make a vaccine requires first of all a lot of technology and a lot of resources, and what you need to be able to do is to test the vaccine. So, making a vaccine is just the first part. But we need to do very intricate testing.”