•Oyo to enforce compulsory use of facemasks
•49 new cases recorded, total now 542, while 166 have been discharged
•Global death toll hits 160, 755; over 2.3 million people infected
Tobi Soniyi and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo
There is currently no evidence to support the belief that people who have recovered from coronavirus (COVID-19) are immune to the virus and may not catch it again, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The United Kingdom’s Daily Mirror quoted senior WHO epidemiologists as warning that despite the hopes governments across the world have piled on antibody tests, there is no proof those who have been infected cannot be infected again.
Nigeria recorded 49 new cases as at 10.40pm yesterday. The breakdown is as follows: Lagos 23, FCT 12, Kano 10, Ogun 2, Oyo and Ekiti 1 respectively; bringing the total of confirmed cases in Nigeria so far to 542, while 166 people have recovered from the disease and 19 succumb to the virus. As at yesterday, Nigeria has 357 active cases.
Meanwhile, Nigeria continued to record recoveries from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Saturday, with Lagos, Edo, and Osun states discharging patients.
In Oyo State, the governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, said the state government had resolved to produce one million facemasks for use in the state as a way of curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Makinde said the state had also decided to enforce the compulsory use of facemasks in public.
Johns Hopkins University stated at the weekend that COVID-19 had infected more than 2.25 million people worldwide and killed at least 158, 000.
Daily Mirror reported that the British government had bought 3.5 million serology test kits, which measure levels of antibodies in blood plasma, even though they were not definitive of growing levels of herd immunity.
“Many tests being developed are pin prick blood tests similar to widely used instant HIV tests and measure for raised levels of the antibodies the body uses to fight the virus,” the Mail reported.
But speaking at a press conference in Geneva, an American infectious disease epidemiologist, who works for WHO, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, said, “There are a lot of countries that are suggesting using rapid diagnostic serological tests to be able to capture what they think will be a measure of immunity.
“Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from reinfection.”
Kerkhove added, “These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of seroprevalence – that level of antibodies. But that does not mean that somebody with antibodies means that they are immune.”
She said it was “a good thing” that so many tests were being developed, but cautioned, “We need to ensure that they are validated so that we know what they say they attempt to measure they are actually measuring.”
Kerkhove’s colleague, Dr Michael Ryan, said the antibody tests also raised ethical questions.
“There are serious ethical issues around the use of such an approach and we need to address it very carefully, we also need to look at the length of protection that antibodies might give,” Ryan said.
“You might have someone who believes they are seropositive (have been infected) and protected in a situation where they may be exposed and, in fact, they are susceptible to the disease.”
Other experts agreed with them. Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology, University of Reading, Dr Simon Clarke, said, “I agree with Dr Maria van Kerkhove from the WHO. The overconfident assertion by some that having antibodies to the coronavirus causing COVID-19 gives immunity, has been made without any evidence and by some people who should know better. It is reasonable to assume that, as someone recovers from the infection, the immunity they generate will persist for some time, maybe weeks, months or years, but nobody actually knows. We simply don’t yet know what would make someone immune to COVID-19 or whether long-term immunity is even possible.”
Visiting Professor in Medical Virology, Imperial College London,
Professor Richard Tedder, said, “When someone has been infected with the COVID-19 virus, there is an immunological response to the virus, which includes the production of antibody. It is correct to say that we are not certain that the presence of this recovery antibody will necessarily protect the person against re-infection. There are a number of reasons for this uncertainty.
“Firstly, it has proved very difficult to produce an antibody test which is both sensitive enough to detect antibody in all recovered patients and of sufficient accuracy not to generate false-positive results. Globally there has been an immense amount of work in developing a range of antibody tests some of which are excellent and some of which are not. In addition, the level of the antibody in the recovered person varies quite widely with a number of studies showing that mild infections are associated with a lower antibody response in recovery.
“Secondly, there are reports of re-infection, but whether these instances are re-infections as such or the persistence of shedding of the virus at low level in the recovery period remains to be defined.”
American television outlet, CNN, also reported a similar finding. It said, “In South Korea, health officials are trying to solve a mystery: why 163 people who recovered from coronavirus have retested positive, according to the Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).”
According to CNN, the same has been recorded in China, where some coronavirus patients tested positive after seeming to recover, although there are no official figures. While experts are still studying the reason for this, a Chinese top respiratory expert, Zhong Nanshan, had during a press conference last week said a recovered person could test positive because fragments of the disease remained in their body.
The Mail also reported that UK government pounced on an early offer of potential tests kits produced in China with the New York Times reporting officials agreed to pay apparoximately $20 million to secure the home testing kits. The paper reported, “However, when the antibody tests were put through their paces they were found not to be sufficiently accurate and as a result could not be used. Officials are now scrambling to try to get the money back.
“Downing Street did not deny the claims but the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said he was not aware of the specific $20 million figure.
“The spokesman said: ‘Where tests are shown not to have any prospect of working, then we will seek to recover as much of the costs as we can.'”
More Recoveries in Lagos, Edo, Osun
Meanwhile, Osun State Government said on Saturday it had discharged one COVID-19 patient after two negative tests for the virus, in line with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocol. The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, disclosed this.
“This afternoon, another COVID-19 patient was released from our Isolation centre, having fully recovered and tested negative twice for the virus, in compliance with the NCDC protocol,” Isamotu said.
He appealed to citizens and residents of the state to continue to comply with measures put in place by the government to curb the spread of the virus.
“Let me on behalf of Mr. Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, appeal to our people to continue to comply with the sit-at-home order and observe basic personal hygiene habits. Collectively, we shall eradicate coronavirus in our dear state. Kudos to my colleagues in the health sector for their service to the state,” the commissioner said.
Lagos State Government also discharged four more COVID-19 patients, bringing to 94 the total number of successfully treated persons in the state. Announcing this Saturday, the Incident Commander on COVID-19 in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said three of those discharged were male while one was female.
Sanwo-Olu said, “The patients: two from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, and two others from Onikan Isolation Centre, have fully recovered and tested negative twice consecutively to COVID-19.”
Edo State Government on Saturday announced the discharge of the sixth coronavirus patient in the state, after the patient tested negative twice for the virus and was cleared for discharge at one of the state’s isolation centres.
In a statement, Governor Godwin Obaseki, said, “Good people of Edo State, I have good news again today. One more coronavirus patient has tested negative twice for the virus and cleared to return home.
“Please, stay safe and stay at home, as we intensify efforts to check the spread of COVID-19 in our dear state.”
The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, in a chat with journalists, urged residents with the symptoms of coronavirus to seize the opportunity of the on-going massive screening across the state to ascertain their status, stressing that prompt detection and treatment increases the chances of survival.
Okundia called on Edo sons and daughters to support the state government’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus by coming out for screening, testing and treatment, as well as complying with guidelines to contain the infectious disease. He explained that the state had recorded a total of 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with six fully recovered and discharged, and contact tracing on-going for about 330 persons who had different levels of contact with those who tested positive to the virus. He said the number of suspected cases had increased to 123.
Assuring that COVID-19 was not a death sentence, Okundia stated, “The government encourages everyone with symptoms of the disease to come out for screening, testing and treatment as prompt detection and treatment increases the chances of survival. COVID-19 is not a death sentence and not a lifelong disease. Once treated and discharged, you are free to live a normal life.
“All citizens of Edo State are hereby encouraged to abide strictly with government directives on social distancing, use of facemask in the public, regular hand washing with soap and running water or using alcohol-based sanitisers, cough etiquette and compliance with the stay-at-home order.”
He added, “COVID-19 is real with immense impact on the health and wellbeing on the general populace and we all have a collective responsibility to contribute our quota in ending this scourge.
“I want to use this medium to commend the health workers of Edo State and our partners for a job well done so far. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, please call these toll-free lines that have been activated by Edo State Government for assistance: 08001235111 and 08002200110.”
Oyo to Enforce Compulsory Use of Facemasks
Oyo State Government said it had decided to produce one million facemasks. Governor Seyi Makinde, who disclosed this to newsmen at Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, said some countries had found the use of masks helpful in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
A statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the governor as saying, “As I stated in an earlier interview, one of the measures we considered to prevent, contain and control the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo State is the compulsory use of facemasks in the public. We reached a decision to implement this measure. What we are saying is, if you must leave your house and come to any public place, you must wear facemask.
“We know that we are in a very tough economic environment right now. So, what Oyo State Government wants to do is to produce an initial one million facemasks to kick-start masks in public place policy in Oyo State.
“What we have also done is to link up with the artisans: 100 of the tailors will be commissioned by Monday, 20th of April, to make 10,000 facemasks each.
Makinde said the on-going massive “Drive-Through/Walk-Through Testing” at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, Ibadan, was already yielding results, with four new cases confirmed from the tests.
He announced a shift for the resumption of work at the State Secretariat from April 20 to April 27, citing expert evaluation of the virus situation.
The governor said to ensure food security post-COVID-19, the government had embarked on an enlightenment campaign for farmers. He said the state had also gone into partnership with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Institute of Agriculture Research and Training (IAR&T) to achieve a seamless planting season.
On the distribution of palliatives, Makinde said the state’s data for the exercise was ready, explaining that it has been able to identify the poorest of the poor, who will be the beneficiaries.