Delta variant: Community transmission worsens, 10 states record over 100% rise in COVID-19 cases

More than 10 states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory have seen over 100 per cent increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases in a four-week period, an analysis by Sunday PUNCH has shown.

This, experts said, signified a rapid community transmission as the Delta variant of the coronavirus ravages over 90 countries of the world, including Nigeria.

The analysis showed some states such as Akwa Ibom, Plateau and recording over 1,000 per cent increase in new cases within the period under consideration.

Sunday PUNCH based its analysis on the number of new cases recorded by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in its COVID-19 Epidemiological Reports for the first week of July (5-11) and the last week of the same month.

The analysis only considered the number of new cases recorded from July 26-29.

Based on the study of new cases in the first and last weeks of the month, states that saw over 100 per cent increase in the number of new cases include Kaduna, Plateau, Oyo, Ogun, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Jigawa, and the FCT. Others include Edo, Ondo, Osun and Delta states.

In the FCT, the number of new cases in the first week of July was nine while the number was 34 in the fourth week, signifying a 278 per cent increase.

Kaduna State had four new cases in week one and 14 in week four, implying a 250 per cent increase.

Plateau State recorded one new case in week one and 20 in week four, which translates to a 1,900 per cent increase.

Oyo State recorded 10 new cases in week one and 80 in week four, translating to a 700 per cent increase.

Also, Ogun State, which had nine new cases in week one had 20 in the fourth week, signifying a 122 per cent increase.

In Kano State, which recorded one new case in the first week, recorded 20 in the fourth week, translating to a 1,900 per cent increase.

Akwa Ibom State recorded just 10 new cases in week one but recorded 168 new cases in week four, resulting in a 1,580 per cent increase.

Ekiti State recorded four new cases in week one and 29 new cases in week four, translating to a 625 per cent increase.

Jigawa State saw two new cases in week one but 19 new cases in week four, meaning an 850 percentage increase was recorded.

Edo, Ondo, Osun and Delta had zero cases in the first week of July but recorded 17, 10, 9, and 9 new cases respectively in the fourth week of July, signifying a rapid increase in the number of new cases being seen in the states.

However, states like Lagos and Kwara also saw a huge percentage increase in the number of new cases recorded in the first and fourth weeks – at 69 and 67 per cent respectively.

Lagos, which saw 564 new cases in the first week of July, recorded 951 new cases between July 26 and 29.

On the other hand, Kwara, which recorded 12 new cases in week one, saw 20 new cases in the fourth week.

Following the confirmation of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation had recently placed six states and the FCT on red alert.

The six states are Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, and Plateau.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, however, warned other states of the federation to increase their level of preparedness and continue to enforce all protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

The SGF also said the government would sustain the current restrictive measures against travellers from countries including India, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa.

“Following the confirmation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 and the rising number of infections and hospitalisations in the country, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC) has put six states and the Federal Capital Territory on red alert as part of the preventive measures against a third wave of the pandemic. The states are Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and the FCT,” Mustapha said in a statement.

According to the NCDC, a confirmed case of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in Nigeria on July 8, 2021.

The Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2, was first detected in India and has now been confirmed in over 96 countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

The variant has been classified as a “variant of concern” due to its increased transmissibility.

As of Friday, the agency stated that the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country were 172,821 while the number of discharged cases were 164,940.

Active cases were 5,740 while the number of patients who had died of the coronavirus was 2,141.

Community transmission responsible for rise infection cases –Virologists

Virologists on Friday raised the alarm over the increase in the rate of community transmission of the COVID-19 disease.

In separate interviews with Sunday PUNCH, the experts warned that Nigeria would go into a full-blown third wave of the pandemic if adequate measures were not put in place.

Data analysed by Sunday PUNCH had revealed that COVID-19 infections had risen by over 100 per cent in four weeks with an increase in death toll.

The Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, had during the last virtual weekly press briefing on COVID-19, said Nigeria had experienced an average of 29 per cent increase in the number of new deaths, which was the highest in Africa over a period of four weeks, while also warning against the increase in the number of infections.

In an interview, the Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof Oyewale Tomori, blamed the spike in the number of cases on the government and the citizens.

Tomori explained that the citizens had abandoned public health measures while the government failed to ensure strict monitoring of inbound passengers into the country.

He said, “This was expected. I am glad you monitored the data and this is to prove what we have been saying that community transmission is on the rise. The people have abandoned public health measures; you go out there and see that people are not using their face masks; no social distancing.

“I think it is safe to say that the third wave is here. Remember that when the government placed six states on red alert, some of us faulted that decision because with what we saw, the whole country should be on red alert.

“This week, Akwa Ibom State that wasn’t placed on red alert accounted for the highest number of deaths and also one of the highest in terms of new cases.

“Similarly, I also read that the number of inbound passengers who tested positive had also increased. These are people who should not even test positive on arrival.

“I think the Federal Government got it wrong from the outset. The government was advised to test all passengers on arrival rather than wait for seven days before testing. The argument against that was that testing so soon within three days of a preliminary negative test done before arrival would likely result in another negative test. This is possible.

“However, a negative test on Monday can also be positive a day or two to three days after…so you can also catch the positive within two to three days of a negative test. The problem of returning for test seven days after arrival is cumbersome and fraught with unnecessary obstacles.

“If I live in Idanre, where there is no testing lab, do I stay in Lagos for seven days before going home so I can be tested in Lagos where there is a lab? Who monitors my self-isolation? If I show up seven days after arrival, I could have tested positive between day one and five after arrival and negative a week later.’’

Similarly, the Director, Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Prof Christian Hapi, said the country was experiencing a high rate of community transmission.

“I’m afraid to say this…but it is true…that we are experiencing a high risk of community transmission,” he said.

Hapi further stated, “People are not adhering to public health rules. The Delta variant is deadly and it is mutating. As I said, we have discovered different variants but we are still trying to see how deadly they are.

“At this point, even if you are vaccinated, you should still adhere to the rules, use of face masks, hand sanitisers and social distancing.”

Also, an associate professor of virology, Osun State University, Dr Waidi Sule, decried that people were no longer adhering to safety protocols, urging the Federal Government to enforce public health measures.

“At this point, I’ll encourage the Federal Government to enforce these public health measures. People do not care and it is worrisome at this point.

The total number of new COVID-19 cases reported in July so far is 5,354.

States reopen treatment centres as cases rise

Meanwhile, a number of states including Benue, Borno, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Ekiti, Ondo and Gombe have reopened their isolation centres to cater for patients as COVID-19 cases spike in the country.

Speaking to one of our correspondents, Benue State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs Ngunan Addingi, said the state opened its isolation centres in anticipation of COVID-19 patients.

The isolation centres are located at the Federal Medical Centre, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, and the Airforce Hospital, all in Makurdi, the state capital. There are also isolation centres at Gboko and Adikpo towns.

“We have been given instructions to open the isolation centres and before that was done, we sanitised the places. Right now, we have reopened the isolation centres in the state,” Addingi said.

She, however, said the state does not presently have patients in any of the isolation centres, stating that the State Action Committee on COVID-19 had already embarked on an enlightenment campaign on adherence to safety protocols.

The commissioner added that the telephone lines opened in all the local government areas of the state during the second wave of the disease were still open for people to report suspected cases.

Akwa Ibom State has also reopened about three isolation centres across the state where it is currently treating 23 patients, according to the state Commissioner for Health, Prof Augustine Umoh.

“We have 23 patients in all the isolation centres. The centres include the Infectious Disease Control Centre at Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, Ibom Specialty Hospital, and 300-bed Isolation Centre at Ntuk Mbang in the Uruan Local Government Area,” he said.

Ekiti State has also reopened its isolation centres, with the Commissioner for Health, Dr Oyebanji Filani, saying on Friday that some patients were currently receiving treatment at the isolation centre in Ado Ekiti.

“Our isolation centre is open and I am aware that we have some patients at the isolation centre at the moment,” he said.

Filani said there had been an increase in the number of new cases, adding that patients with moderate symptoms could be treated at home.

He also said there had been positive cases recorded among corps members serving in the state.

He said, “The figure increases on a daily basis. The National Youth Service Corps’ camp is open now. We are testing NYSC members and the isolation centre is admitting the positive cases from there. The figure keeps increasing. There are some positive cases from the NYSC camp.

“Patients who have a fever are being tested. Our testing figures have gone up, and once the testing figure goes up, there will be more positive cases. In the last four days, we tested close to 1,000 people per day.”

In Borno State, the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital on Friday inaugurated a 38-bed isolation centre.

The inauguration, which was done by the hospital’s chairman of the governing board, Hadi Gumel, is in anticipation of patients with severe COVID-19 cases amid the third wave of the pandemic.

“We have not admitted any COVID-19 patient in the past six months. We are inaugurating this isolation centre as a proactive measure,” Gumel said.

The hospital’s Chief Medical Director, Prof Ahmed Ahidjo, while addressing journalists disclosed that the isolation centre was furnished with modern equipment including a dialysis machine and ventilators.

“The facility was put in place by the Federal Government in preparation for any outbreak of the disease. We have had quite some cases in the state but they were not severe,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ondo State Government said it only had two patients currently admitted at the isolation centre at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo.

The state epidemiologist, Dr Stephen Fagbemi, said, “For now, we don’t have many cases in the state. The isolation centre in Akure has no patients. But two patients are currently admitted at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo.”

In Enugu State, only three isolation centres have been operational with six patients treated therein. The centres are the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, and Enugu State Diagnostic Centre.

A member of the State Action Committee on COVID-19, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the state was expecting a surge in the number of cases following the discovery of the delta variant.

“Once we have a surge in Lagos, we know that our people are definitely going to come back with it. Definitely, there must also be a surge in the South-East,” the official said.

Eight die as Lagos isolation centre admits over 200 COVID-19 patients

No fewer than eight persons have died from COVID-19-related complications at the Lagos State isolation centre in Maryland Hospital, Yaba, in the last one week, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

Findings also revealed that the I5 patients were admitted into the Intensive Care Unit of the facility in one night.

A source at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the patients, comprising males and females, were admitted into the same ward due to  shortage of bed space.

It was learnt that the treatment centre was running out of oxygen due to the rising cases of infection.

“The ward is full. Fifteen patients were admitted in one night. The CACOVID ward will require some repairs due to damages caused by the rains. Both male and female patients were admitted to one ward because there is no space to accommodate them in different wards.

“The wards previously used to treat TB patients – A Ward, B Ward – are full. They started using the B Ward last Saturday (July 24). The TB patients were discharged. The situation is bad.

“It (Delta variant) is serious and people are dying. The death rate is high. Eight patients died during one shift last week. It is serious; it’s an emergency. When the patients are brought in sick, their family members can be heard crying for help to save their loved ones, and that forces us to run helter-skelter.

“The patients are local (Nigerians) and many of them were referred from private hospitals. They may have been taken to a general hospital before they were referred to the isolation centre,” the source said.

Sunday PUNCH further gathered that the dearth of personal protective equipment at the centre was causing disquiet among health workers, many of whom had to double their face masks while attending to patients to reduce the risk of being infected by the virus.

“The situation is still the same thing. We go in with our uniforms. There is no N95 but we prefer to double our face masks before going in. The risk we take is many, but if we don’t take it who will? We are risking our lives. We have to stay away from our kids throughout the period.

“But when we risk our lives, our efforts are not appreciated. The food we get here (at IDH) is poor but we have to boost our immunity. On my own, I buy Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and calcium to treat patients. There is no PPE and N95. We are not coming (to treat patients) and we need more hands, and we cannot leave people dying,” one of the health workers said.

It was further gathered that while the Coalition Against COVID-19 ward was undergoing remedial work after the rains in July exposed leaky roofs, many of the workers discouraged by the state of the centre and the attitude of the state government towards their welfare chose to stay away, a development Sunday PUNCH learnt had further worsened the shortage of adequate manpower at the treatment centre.

Some of the frontline health workers were also said to have fled the country in search of better work conditions.

The source at the IDH said, “The Health Service Commission has not been on the ground. The workload is too much. We heard there was a meeting and they (authorities) said HSC workers were doing their normal job but they (workers) disagreed. So, they said an agreement would be signed, but I don’t know the content of the agreement. If the CACOVID ward is fixed, there may not be anyone to work there and we need more hands. Even without the CACOVID ward, we still need more hands. It contains more than 100 beds. So, if two nurses manage about 50 patients, it would not augur well.”

The Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, while reacting to the claims, said he would have to contact the Ministry of Health.

He, however, said the state government was working to prevent a third wave.

“I will have to find out from the health ministry and today is a Saturday. Those who can give us information may not be there now. But one advice I will give to you is that anytime they (health workers) tell you things, go there and see for yourself. Now, they are talking about isolation centres,” Omotosho added.

But when asked whether journalists were granted access to the treatment centres and payment vouchers for the frontline workers, the commissioner said, “It is not all about payment; that is what I am telling you. All of the time they say they have been asked to leave the isolation centre, they have not been paid for three months and all that, as if the money is part of their salary.

“As I speak with you today (Saturday), the isolation centre has about one-tenth (of its capacity) filled up. It is not as if people are so busy now as they were during the first and second waves. We are trying to do everything so we don’t have a full-blown third wave,” the commissioner said. ,, 

Additional reporting by John Charles, Patrick Odey, Abiodun Nejo, Dogara Bitrus and Peter Dada

PUNCH

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