• 774 fatalities recorded in three months
• Tomori, Ujah, Olulani dispute regression in death cases
The number of fatalities resulting from COVID-19 has dropped from 86 to 17 cases per week between February 20 and March 20, weekly tallies of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have revealed.
In aggregate, according to NCDC’s data analysed by THISDAY, no fewer than 774 fatalities were recorded between December 27 and March 20, accounting for about 38.13% of total death cases in the country.
These tallies are evident in NCDC’s weekly reports showing the reported laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, recoveries, deaths, samples tested and active cases state by state.
As shown in separate reports, there was about 50.87% progression between December 27 and February 13 with 499 death cases recorded during the second wave of the pandemic.
Before vaccination took off on March 6, according to NCDC’s tallies, marginal regression was reported across all the states of the federation.
On February 20, about 2.33% regression was reported; 20.93% on February 27; 27.9% on March 6, the very day President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo received the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination.
After the national rollout of the vaccines, NCDC’s tallies revealed a major drop in the cases of fatalities with 48.83% regression on March 13 and 80.23% on March 20.
However, according to medical experts, it is not clear whether the administration of COVID-19 vaccines is responsible for the regression in fatalities.
On the ground of uncertainty, the experts disputed the regression that death cases alone were not sufficient to determine whether there was a drop or not.
A Professor of Virology, Prof. Oyewale Tomori and the Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo, Prof. Innocent Ujah suggested the need to compare the number of tests conducted and positive cases to determine whether there was regression.
Of 43,016 tested cases between March 14 and 20, the tallies revealed that only 1,080 were confirmed; 80,014 tested between March 7 and 13 with 2122 confirmed cases; 40,634 tested between February 28 with 2,878 confirmed cases and March 6 and 57,902 tested between February 21 and 27 with 3,583 confirmed cases.
Also, 64,520 samples were tested between February 14 and 20 with 5,720 confirmed cases within the same period; 23,408 tested between February 7 and 13 with 6,606 confirmed cases; 24,556 tested between January 31 and February 6 with 9,940 confirmed cases; 24,667 tested between January 24 and 30 while 9,676 tested.
The NCDC put the number of tests conducted between January 17 and 23 at 22,834 while confirmed cases at 11,179 at the same timeframe; 19,635 tested between January 10 and 17 with 10,300 confirmed cases; 18,699 tested between January 3 and 9 with 9,940 confirmed and finally 13,792 tested between December 27 and January 2 with 5,733 confirmed cases
However, medical experts and social campaigners disputed reports that the country had been witnessing regressing in the cases of COVID-19 fatalities during the second wave of the pandemic.
Speaking on the regression of COVID-19 fatalities, Tomori noted that vaccination “has nothing to do with the drop. We started witnessing the drop before the vaccination.”
He, also, emphasised the need “to check the testing records within the timeframe. Are we testing as much as we tested in January or February? What number of tests are we conducting now?
“These are important to determine the decline in death cases. If we are testing 1,000 before and we are now testing 100, of course the number of positive cases will drop. The number of positive cases and fatalities always go together.”
More importantly, Tomori raised questions on what could be responsible for the upsurge in the number of fatalities recorded between December 27 and February 13.
He suggested that it could be that people “are reporting late to the hospitals. In most cases, people mistook COVID-19 for malaria. Before they get to the hospitals, they are very close to death because they are reporting late to the hospital.
“There is an assumption in Nigeria that there is no COVID-19. If some people share this perception and they are having malaria-like symptoms, they will die before they get to know it is COVID.
“Part of the upsurge could be due to late reporting to the hospital. If somebody dies in his house, the hospital will not know. There are other hospitals that are not involved in COVID-19 testing. If people who are infected die in such hospitals, the government will not know.
“In other countries, they actually test case samples from the dead to ascertain how many of them die of COVID-19. But then, we have to get good reports of deaths. But we do not have that in Nigeria. These are the factors that are involved.”
Ujah, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), warned that it might not be very simplistic “to say that the number is declining.”
He rhetorically asked: “What we need to do is to know the number of tests that are contested? From the tests, we know the number of cases that are positive. Then, we can get the percentage and look at the trend.
“Looking at the trend this way is simple and it appears that the cases of fatalities are declining. But how many tests are conducted per day to determine whether fatalities are declining? That is scientific. It is not about politics.
“It is not about perception, neither is it about impression. I do not agree that the cases are declining. We know the number of tests conducted and then get the percentage of positive cases,” Ujah argued.
Convener, Health and Wellness Forum, Pastor Ayodeji Olulani provided two radical explanations for the regression in the number of fatalities recorded between February 20 and March 20, though his explanations were not supported with incontrovertible evidence.
Olulani, first, pointed out that the decline might be as a result of immunity the people had developed against the virus in Nigeria and in other African states.
He, also, observed that since regression started before vaccination took off on March 6, it could be that people had found alternative methods to orthodox treatment.
Olulani, therefore, noted that the position of Health and Wellness Forum “has always been that we have inbuilt immunity against COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“So, it did not have as much effect on us as it did on Americans and Europeans. Since the vaccines do not prevent infection, most people lost confidence in it. Rather than relying on it, they look for alternative means to treat the virus or avoid being infected,” he said.