With sundry governance challenges, socio-economic and political distractions dominating the centre stage, the reality of a vicious second wave of COVID-19 pandemic deceptively seems a distant event, writes Louis Achi, who looks at the big picture
Today, there are now vaccines to prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases on the planet. Unfortunately, the coronavirus disease is not yet a human vaccine-preventable disease. But happily, work is going on at unprecedented speed to alter that status and make COVID-19 a vaccine-preventable malady.
According to the World health Organisation (WHO), there are more than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development, with a number of these in the human trial phase and several may report results later this year.
WHO is working in collaboration with scientists, business, and global health organisations to accelerate the pandemic response.
On Monday, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced that a vaccine candidate against COVID-19 achieved success in its first interim analysis from a Phase-3 Study.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” crooned Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen,” he said.
Significantly, the breakthrough proclaimed by Pfizer’s enthusiastic chairman has not yet received critical, scientific validation from WHO. While this may not diminish the essence of the touted breakthrough, the crucial green light by the world organisation is not there yet. The newness of the Coronavirus makes this affirmation from WHO imperative.
For Africa, Nigeria and the rest of the world, this fundamentally means that all the precautions, however boorish, must still be tightly maintained as tested first lines of preventive defence against the COVID-19 pandemic. But clearly, perceptions of the high danger the Coronavirus disease poses strongly appear to have waned.
Even before the approaching Christmas and New Year seasons, folks are beginning to feel it is safe to let down their guards. Several indicators confirm this worrying footing.
Wearing of facemasks have largely been thrown to the dogs, the hand-washing protocol has been abandoned, mass gatherings, weddings, parties, clubbing, and wait for it – protests are back plus enthusiastic mass lootings of palliative warehouses.
Health experts are shouting themselves hoarse in warnings that these trends portend danger but pretty few are listening. Now, across Europe and North America, the feared second wave of coronavirus is on.
But a quirky dimension to the global ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic may explain the laissez-faire attitude of many Nigerians.
At the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak, public health experts warned of the shattering effect it would have on Nigeria and the African continent. Significantly, that dour forecast has not occurred in sharp contrast with the devastation the viral malady has wreaked in the West. Not surprisingly, many scientists are still struggling to unravel the underlying factors.
But beyond the puzzling contrast, as the numbers gradually scale-up in Nigeria, legitimate fears are widespread that perhaps a more vicious and deadly second wave may soon hit landfall, catching Nigerians pants-down.
This is even more so with sundry governance challenges, socio-economic and political distractions taking centre stage, stoking the deceptive impression that a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic seems a distant call.
Even the central and state governments seem hardly to be bothered with close adherence and enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols. Most basic safety protocols are now ditched in the public space and even in government establishments.
The Ondo and Edo States where governorship elections were recently held with large active gatherings participating without the requisite social distancing and use of facemasks come to mind.
Some specific indicators point to the worrying fact that the danger of a second wave may be making the shore already. A fortnight ago, Nigeria recorded 937 new cases, a two per cent increase from the previous week’s record of 923 cases, which was a 32 per cent increase from the preceding week.
The nation recorded its highest daily figure of confirmed infections in three months with the 300 reported cases last Sunday, raising the total count to over 64, 000.
According to Mr. Ihekweazu, an NCDC Director, the health agency has also carried out its own survey.
“In the survey we carried out, most people believe that although COVID-19 poses a significant national challenge, their perception of their own risk of catching it is much lower.
“We must remain cognisant of the fact that we are dealing with a pandemic caused by a new virus. We still do not have all the answers we need including information on long-term effects of the disease.
“We appeal to Nigerians to adhere to all public health and safety measures. COVID-19 is real. The statistics we receive daily on the number of deaths are people with families, friends and loved ones,” he said.
Further, according NCDC, till date, over 64,000 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, 58,249 cases have been discharged and 1,141 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
With over 21,000 infections, Lagos remained the nation’s worst hit city, followed by the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, with more than 6,000 cases, and Plateau State, where more than 3,600 cases have been confirmed.
Amid fears of a second wave of the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari stressed the need to avoid a new spike in the country as its economy “is too fragile “to endure a new lockdown.
“Looking at the trends in the other countries, we must do all we can to avert a second wave of COVID-19 in Nigeria. We must make sure that our cases, which have gone down, do not rise again. Our economy is too fragile to bear another round of lockdown,” Buhari tweeted.
Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, is among the five hardest-hit countries in Africa, along with South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, and Ethiopia.
Ever since first reported in Wuhan City of China last December, COVID-19 has affected over 45 million people across the globe with over 1.18 million people dying from coronavirus infection. It also became a factor in deciding the outcome of the recent US presidential election.