The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has confirmed that the deadly Indian variant of the COVID-19 pandemic is already in Nigeria advised Nigerians to protect themselves by wearing face masks and avoiding mass rallies.
Ihekweazu, who fielded questions during the Arise TV’s special report at the weekend, explained that the virus spread so fast in India because Indians let off their guard and started attending mass rallies like political party campaigns and religious events.
He also observed that Nigerians are already towing the footsteps of the Indians by not wearing their face masks in public places as if there is no pandemic, adding that there should be more restrictive measures to ensure that the Indian variant and other variants of the virus would not spread further in the country.
He said: “We have started behaving as if there is no pandemic. Religious rallies and political campaigns triggered the resurgence of the virus in India, which has the similar environment like ours. The number of the infected increased exponentially. We looked through that guidance and reissued them. It is the duty of the states to enforce the guidance and also the people too. We must make sure we protect ourselves. This will enable us to sustain the fragile gains we have made.”
Ihekweazu warned that Nigerians are becoming complacent following the reduction of reported number of cases of infected persons, which used to be as high as 30, 000 to 40, 000 cases per week.
He also stated that it has been proven that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is efficacious for all variants of the COVID-19 virus, adding that Nigeria is working very hard to have increased supply of the vaccine in spite of the global scarcity of OVID-19 vaccines to enable more citizens to be inoculated so that the country could achieve hard immunity.
He said that Nigeria brought in four million doses of the vaccine for two million people who would take two doses each and assured that anyone who had taken the first dose would have the opportunity to take the second dose.
“Right now, there is no evidence that COVID-19 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is less efficacious on the Indian strain of the virus. We are making efforts to bring more vaccines. We are making sure that we work with the global supply chain. There is supply deficit of the vaccine globally but our government is talking with friendly nations and there is big global effort for more equitable vaccine access. But in the short term there is short supply of the vaccine, but our government is making bilateral and multilateral efforts to get supply of the vaccine, but in the long term, we have to invest in research and development so that we won’t be in this kind of problem again,” he said.
Ihekweazu also said that the NCDC is working hard to increase the sequencing capacity and lauded the collaboration between the state governments and the agency.