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Has Nigeria started flattening the curve?


Consistently low infection cases in the last few weeks suggest that Nigeria may actually be freeing itself from the fierce grip of the highly contagious virus, though repeated warnings by experts in infectious diseases indicate that it is not yet uhuru, writes Associate Editor ADEKUNLE YUSUF.

For the second time in two weeks, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was seen as a bearer of glad tidings. Barely a week after announcing a phased reopening of schools in the state, he once again threw many Lagosians into celebration mood last Monday when he declared that Lagos has started flattening the COVID-19 curve .

Sanwo-Olu delivered the good news during the opening ceremony of the second session of the 34th Synod of the Dioceses of Lagos, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion at Our Saviour’s Church, Tafawa Balewa Square, Onikan, Lagos.

“It has been said that we will be picking dead bodies on the streets, but we thank God He kept all of us. We have less than two per cent fatality; when the statistics said that it will be 10 to 15 per cent. We had estimated that by August, the curve would have flattened out, meaning that the positivity rate would have flattened and we will begin to see a downward trend. I’m happy to inform the people of God that the curve is coming down, and we are beginning to see a low number in the positivity of the COVID-19 in the state.

“Though we are not out of the woods yet, we need to take precautions as we see the numbers coming down in Lagos. Lagos, the epicentre indeed has risen up to it and we are beginning to see the numbers coming down on a daily basis. We sympathise with the people that lost their loved ones, and we pray that God will spare our lives. As a government, we will continue our best to save lives,” he said.

Going by daily updates from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), new infections in the country have been consistently lower in the past few weeks than what obtained in the first four months of COVID-19. Last week (from Sunday, September 6 to Saturday September 12), Nigeria recorded 1,272 new Coronavirus cases and 24 deaths; but 1,166 people recovered from the illness. Till date (as at Saturday, September 12), 56,177 cases were confirmed, 44,088 cases discharged and 1,078 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

A breakdown of NCDC updates showed that on Saturday, September 12, 160 new confirmed cases and two deaths were recorded in Nigeria. There were also 90 recoveries – the lowest daily number of people who were discharged from isolation centres in the week. The 160 new cases were reported from 13 states: FCT (39), Plateau (39), Lagos (30), Kaduna (23), Katsina (7), Rivers (6), Oyo (6), Yobe (3), Benue (3), Bayelsa (1), Abia (1), Edo (1) and Ekiti (1). As for 90 recoveries, discharges happened in  seven states: Plateau (35), FCT (16), Oyo (11), Ogun (10), Rivers (9), Kaduna (6) and Osun (3); while the two deaths were reported in the FCT.

If new infections were far higher than recoveries on Saturday, September 12, it was the equivalent of a draw game on Friday, September 11 – 188 recoveries and 188 new cases. On September 11, NCDC announced 188 cases in 19 states: Lagos (47), Enugu (25), Plateau (21), FCT (14), Abia (11), Delta (10), Bauchi (8), Kaduna (8), Ondo (8), Ogun (6), Imo (5), Benue (4), Katsina (4), Taraba (4), Edo (3), Kwara (3), Oyo (3), Rivers (2) and Yobe (2). On the same day, 188 people were also discharged in 12 states: Abia (59), Plateau (45), Oyo (24), Kaduna (20), Rivers (15), Ebonyi (11), FCT (4), Lagos (4), Bayelsa (2), Ondo (2), Imo (1) and Osun (1). The only death of the day was reported in the FCT.

On Thursday, September 11, it was a better scenario as recoveries exceeded new infections in the country. One hundred and ninety-seven confirmed cases were reported in 13 states: Plateau (83), Lagos (48), Kaduna (17), FCT (16), Ogun (11), Katsina (7), Imo (4), Edo (3), Nasarawa (3), Rivers (2), Bayelsa (1), Osun (1) and Oyo (1); while two hundred (200) discharges were reported in 12 states. The 12 states are: Oyo (80), Kaduna (32), Plateau (27), Kano (22), Edo (16), Ogun (9), Lagos(4), FCT (3), Ondo (3), Rivers (2), Anambra (1) and Osun (1); while five deaths were reported in four states. They are FCT (2), Ondo (1), Oyo (1) and Plateau (1).

There were also far more recoveries than new infections on Wednesday, September 9. On that day, there were 176 new cases as against 276 recoveries. One hundred and seventy-six confirmed cases were reported in 17 states: FCT (40), Lagos (34), Plateau (26), Enugu (14), Delta (12), Ogun (12), Ondo (9), Oyo (8), Ekiti (6), Ebonyi (4), Adamawa (2), Kwara (2), Nasarawa (2), Rivers (2), Bauchi (1), Edo (1) and Osun (1); while two hundred and seventy-six (276) discharges took place in 11 states. The states are: Benue (110), Plateau (70), Ondo (42), Delta (13), FCT (13), Rivers (12), Ogun (9), Bauchi (2), Bayelsa (2), Osun (2) and Ekiti (1). Three deaths were reported in three states – FCT (1), Ogun (1) and Rivers (1).

However, it was a reverse scenario on Tuesday, September 8, as total number of new infections almost tripled the number of recoveries in the country. According to NCDC, 296 confirmed cases were reported in 15 states: Plateau (183), Lagos (33), FCT (25), Ogun (16), Oyo (7), Ekiti (6), Kwara (5), Ondo (5), Imo (3), Anambra (3), Nasarawa (3), Rivers (2), Gombe (2), Edo (2) and Akwa Ibom (1). On that day, one hundred and three (103) discharges were reported in seven states: Ondo (45), Plateau (24), Ogun (15), Rivers (8), Akwa Ibom (5), Lagos (4) and Kebbi (2). Sadly, six deaths were reported in five states: FCT (2), Ondo (1), Lagos (1), Imo (1) and Taraba (1).

On Monday, September 7, recoveries were higher than new cases. One hundred and fifty five new cases were confirmed in 16 states: Lagos (42), Plateau (25), Rivers (16), Ebonyi (10), FCT(9), Abia (9), Ogun (9), Osun (7), Katsina (6), Kaduna (6), Ekiti (4), Taraba (4), Edo (3), Anambra (2), Akwa Ibom (2), Kano (1). Two hundred and eighteen discharges took place in 13 states. The states: Plateau (95), Edo (38), Rivers (25), Ogun (15), FCT (12), Ebonyi (12), Ekiti (5), Kaduna (4), Akwa Ibom (4), Bayelsa (3), Oyo (2), Osun (2) and Imo (1). Four fatalities were reported in four states: Rivers (1), Ebonyi (1), Oyo (1) and Sokoto (1).

New infections were slightly higher on Sunday, September 6 than recoveries. The NCDC reported that 100 new cases were confirmed in 10 states. Sadly, three deaths were reported in FCT (2) and Ebonyi (1).

However, experts have consistently picked holes in the daily figures released by the NCDC. According to Prof. Oyewale Tomori, a renowned virologist and Chairman of the National Technical Committee on COVID-19, updates from NCDC may not be telling the whole truth about the state of the pandemic in the country. Speaking recently during the opening of the Annual General Meeting of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Tomori called for caution, stressing that NCDC figures do not reveal the complete truth about the infection.

“I get a bit worried about what happens with our result that comes on when NCDC brings out data on a daily basis without giving us the full details of what is happening. I have been at committee meetings in which the figures that NCDC puts out is faulted by the people who are directly involved. I remember the case of Sokoto, for example, when NCDC puts up 900 cases and the guy who is in charge of the laboratory for the state said the number they have is over 2000,” Tomori said.

Because the updates do not reveal the whole truth, the former Vice Chancellor of Redeemer’s University explained that the consistent drop in the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria may also not be genuine. Reason: NCDC only gives figures of cases and leaves out the details of what is happening. “They give you the number of cases, but they do not give the number that they have tested. Unless you have both figures, you don’t really know where your hotspots are,” he observed.

Another expert, who also raised doubts about the decline in new cases in Nigeria, is Prof. Kayode Osungbade, chairman of UCH response team on COVID-19. “The situation in Nigeria is similar to that in Oyo State. The drastic fall in the number of tests conducted, which dropped to almost 50 per cent in August, could be responsible for the drop in the number of positive cases. For me again, that is not a true decline,” Osungbade said.

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