COVID-19 deaths jump by 21% in one week, WHO laments

• Spike in Lagos as Nigeria records 404 new cases, highest in four months
• PSN laments unacceptable vaccination gaps, warns of ‘deadly’ Delta variant
• FG: Nigeria facing multiple concurrent disease outbreaks

The World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, raised the alarm that the global number of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths during the previous week climbed by 21 per cent despite a rollout of the vaccination programme.x

Out of the 69,000 new deaths, many were reported in the Americas and Southeast Asia, according to the dataset spanning July 19 to July 25. So far, more than four million people worldwide were confirmed to have died after being infected, the Geneva-based agency said.

The number of infections reported last week was 3.8 million, up to eight per cent from the previous week. Nearly 194 million infections have been reported since the pandemic began in early 2020.

As of July 28, confirmed cases of COVID-19 from 55 African countries reached 6,540,892 while over 41,376,862 vaccinations have been administered across the continent. Reported deaths in Africa have reached 166,260 and 5,743,757 people have recovered.

South Africa has the most reported cases 2,391,223 and 70,388 deaths. Other most affected countries are Morocco (588,448), Tunisia (575,002), Egypt (284,090), Ethiopia (278,920), Libya (243,470) and Kenya (199,941).

Nigeria, on Tuesday, recorded its highest daily COVID-19 infection figure in more than four months. The country recorded almost 100 per cent increase in infections. On Monday, the nation had 213 cases but moved to 404 fresh cases the day after, smashing the previous high figure of 317, which was reported on July 24 as the highest daily record in four months. This is according to an update posted on Wednesday morning on the official Facebook page of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The new figure, which is now the biggest daily increase in the country since March 4 when 708 cases were recorded, raised the total infections in the country to 171,728.

After months of low numbers, Nigeria’s Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in the past two weeks shortly after the discovery of the much-dreaded Delta variant of the disease, which is said to be highly transmissible. Infection rates have largely concentrated in Lagos, Nigeria’s hardest-hit city by the pandemic. The commercial city reported 356 out of the 404 daily total. It was followed by Rivers State with 18 new cases and the FCT with seven.

Health experts fear the rising numbers could put the nation on the precipice of what could be another stretch of spread in infections amid indications that the third wave is beginning. However, no death was recorded from the disease on Tuesday, keeping the death toll at 2,134 in total.

With the recent increase in daily cases, active cases have risen to 4,747. The Federal Government said it has tested over 2.4 million samples in a country of more than 200 million people.

MEANWHILE, the Federal Government has lamented that Nigeria, despite responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, is faced with increasing cases of multiple concurrent disease outbreaks. The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this in his opening address at the Nigerian Conference of Applied and Field Epidemiology (NiCAFE) in Abuja, yesterday.

He said in the last month, the country has been responding to an outbreak of cholera across states, an increasing number of Lassa fever cases, monkeypox cases, as well as weekly reports of yellow fever and measles cases.

Ehanire, who blamed the outbreak of diseases on the tropical climate in the country, population density, a high number of international travels, and local movements among others added that all these factors put Nigeria at risk of infectious disease outbreaks.x

The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, expressed sadness that there is a possibility the country is yet to see the worst of the pandemic.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and Convener, the New Nigeria Group (NNG), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, yesterday, at a press conference to address pressing health issues and health of the nation, alerted Nigerians of the possible danger posed by the Delta variant of COVID-19, which he said is real and the strain spread rapidly and almost becoming the dominant strain of the virus.

Ohuabunwa warned that Nigeria could succumb to the threat posed by the Delta variant of COVID-19, because WHO has called this version of the virus “the fastest and fittest” while the United States Centers for Disease Control labeled the strain as “a variant of concern.” This, he said, is because Delta is spreading two times faster than most common strains especially in the unvaccinated.

Ohuabunwa decried a situation where only about 1,404,740 (0.7 per cent) of Nigerians have been fully vaccinated, 1,129,465 (0.56 per cent) have received the first dose and about 198,465,795 (98.74 per cent) are unvaccinated. He said this unacceptable gap in vaccination is too bad when the Delta variant is ravaging and Nigeria needs to do more to enable it to acquire the capacity for making vaccines.

“Inequality and nationalism of vaccines have put our country behind our projections and schedules,” Ohuabunwa said.

The PSN President said Nigeria is far from its target of vaccinating 40 per cent of the population by the end of 2021 and another 30 per cent by end of 2022 to achieve 70 per cent required for herd immunity, mostly because the country does not control the vaccine availability.

MEANWHILE, the economic impact of the pandemic has worsened the plight of families living in poverty in Lagos State, and left many people struggling to afford food and meet other basic needs, Human Rights Watch and Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) said in a report released yesterday. The number of Nigerians experiencing hunger doubled during the pandemic.

The 87-page report, titled ‘Between Hunger and the Virus, the economic impact of COVID-19, documents how a five-week lockdown, rising food prices, and a prolonged economic downturn have had a devastating impact on informal workers, slum dwellers, and other urban poor families in Lagos. The absence of a functioning social security system meant that government assistance, including cash transfers and food handouts, reached only a fraction of the people.

“The troubling reality of the COVID-19 crisis for many families in Lagos has been hunger and deprivation,” said Anietie Ewing, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“With people still battling every day for survival, the pandemic has highlighted the critical need for a functioning social security system that will allow all Nigerians to achieve an adequate standard of living.”

The World Bank forecasted in January 2021 that the COVID-19 crisis will result in an additional 10.9 million Nigerians entering poverty by 2022, defined as people living below the national poverty line of around $1 a day.

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