Travel tests, self-isolation protocols will mitigate spread from other countries — NCDC
By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
TO mitigate a possible third wave of COVID-19 infections in Nigeria, amid the escalating cases and deaths in India and other countries, eminent experts in medicine and related field, have charged the Federal government to temporarily shut the nation’s international airports to flights from the high-burden countries.
The experts, who made the call in an urgent advisory under the aegis of the Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, cautioned that transmission of the virus is still active in the country although at a low level.
In the advisory, the President of the Academy, Prof Oladapo Ashiru remarked: “In view of the current trends regarding the third wave, the Academy of Medicine Specialties and our Rapid-Response initiative group of the Academy of Medicine Specialties feel that we should close our international airports to all flights for at least two weeks.
“The ongoing transmission in the country is caused largely by inbound passengers from India and those countries with surges in the cases reported daily. Many of them travel into Nigeria on indirect flights. Nigeria cannot afford to have a third wave,” he stated.
Ashiru, who affirmed that this third wave is affecting not only India but France, Germany, Italy, etc., etc., admonished the federal government to be proactive.
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Noting that only a small percentage of the population has been vaccinated, he stated that all the theories speculated for immunity such as heat, sun, and other endemic immunities also apply to India.
“Our testing strategy should still be PCR based, but look for some other gene aside from the S gene. There is an urgent need to enforce the use of PTF regulations of social distancing, hand sanitisers/washing, and wearing of face mask.
“Prof Christian Happi a Fellow of the Academy also reports that We have found 5 sequences of the India B.1.617 in the country, specifically in Edo and Osun states.
“A new B.1. 1.318 variant that emerged in Nigeria with major characteristics of other VOCs is spread out of the country in January this year and is creating havoc in Mauritius Island.
“The B.1.525 that we discovered in Nigeria late last year is now the dominant variant in Nigeria (spreading faster than the UK B.1.1.7). This lineage is also spreading at a super-fast speed in the UK and other European countries.
“The B.1.525 is now also the second most popular variant in Africa after the B.1.351Y V2 from South Africa. These are our most recent findings at African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, ACEGID, based at Redeemer’s University, Ede,” he noted.
It will be terrible if we allow the importation of new variants into Nigeria — Prof Damen
In his reaction, the National President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, Prof James Damen, said: “The Nigeria government must be proactive to protect its citizens from new variants of SARS-COV-2 (coronavirus) from other countries by putting restrictions of travels to countries recording increasing cases.
“We must ban flights coming into our country from such countries. We need to also improve testing and surveillance and ensure compliance with safety measures.
“It will be terrible if we allowed the importation of the new variants of Covid into our country. We have suffered a lot from the effects of COVID-19 in this country,” he asserted
Travel tests, self-isolation protocols will mitigate the spread — DG NCDC
But in a response to the calls for shutting down international airports, the Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, acknowledged that Nigeria remains at risk of a large outbreak but stated that the travel tests and self-isolation protocols would mitigate the risk of spread of the virus and its variants from other countries.
Ihekweazu regretted that the COVID-19 situation in India was a sobering and devastating reminder of the impact of the virus, adding that, many other countries were also recording a surge in cases which reminds the world that the pandemic was not over.
“There is no doubt that Nigeria remains at risk of a large outbreak. We must do all we can, as government and citizens, to prevent this occurrence. We urge all Nigerians to see our COVID-19 response as a joint responsibility.
“The travel tests and self-isolation protocols are in place to mitigate the risk of spread of the virus and its variants from other countries. Please adhere to this as a small price to pay to protect our country.
“We also appeal to institutions to continue enforcing adherence to public health and social measures – proper use of face masks, regular handwashing, and physical distancing remains important to prevent further spread of the virus.”
He urged eligible Nigerians to get vaccinated, noting that the more people are vaccinated, the less likely the country would have a large outbreak.
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