By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Lagos State government is set to take steps to prevent another wave of Novel CoronaVirus disease (COVID-19), following the flattening of the second wave, the Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, has highlighted.
“We are seeing a significant dip in the number of positive cases and deaths – going by the low occupancy rate in our isolation centers, reduction in the demand for oxygen and the positivity rate that has decreased from around an all-time high 35% in December 2020 to 1.5% as at April 2021,” Abayomi said.
He stated that the trigger for a third wave in Lagos is likely to be the importation of new COVID strains from inbound travelers.
He reiterated that it is important to stress “at this point that passengers are still required to be in receipt of a negative COVID-19 PCR test at least 72hours before departure to and landing in Lagos State, book and pay for their day 7 test either through the National portal and/or the Lagos State portal.
“All passengers must have paid for their tests before arrival in Lagos State. Failure to do this will result in delays at the airport,” the Lagos health commissioner warned.
He pointed out that on the authority of the Lagos State governor who is the Incident Commander, immediate measures to fully enforce the protocol just announced by the Federal Government will be adopted for every inbound person which include banning entry to non-Nigerian passengers who have been in Brazil, India or Turkey in the last fortnight due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus in those three nations.
Nigerians and permanent residents of Nigeria who have been in those countries in the last 14 days will have to undergo mandatory quarantine for a week in a government-approved facility on arrival and all passengers arriving in Nigeria will now have to show a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel rather than the previous 96 hours period, Abayomi emphasized.
“I have hence instructed that all these protocols would be made more stringent to protect the residents of Lagos State from an impending third wave.
“As part of these protocols, passengers are to mandatorily isolate for the required seven days and will be strictly monitored through phone calls by our EKOTELEMED platform and physical visits to the passengers’ homes by our surveillance teams.
“Anyone found to have either broken this rule or supplied a fake phone number or address in a bid to escape the laid down protocols will be identified and made to mandatorily isolate at any of our government or Public Private Partnership isolation centers or identified hotels for 10 days at their cost, in addition to a stipulated fine.
“As per current Federal Government regulations, the passports of the indigenous passengers will also be forwarded to the authorities for deactivation and foreigners may be subject to deportation. Passengers that are anxious to come out of isolation before day 7 will be given options for earlier testing. Whilst in isolation, passengers will have access to our healthcare professionals and will also have our COVID CarePacks delivered, if required – at no additional cost,” the Professor of Health declared..
He recollected that on the 5th of September 2020, the Federal Government reopened Nigeria airspace borders for flights into and out of Nigeria, noting that the criteria for this were a mandatory COVID-19 PCR test done within 72 hours of boarding a plane to Nigeria and the registration and payment of another COVID-19 PCR test on the portal of the Federal Government to be done on day 7 after arrival in Nigeria.
“The passengers are also expected to isolate within the period of 7 days following which they can only be allowed to move freely on receipt of a negative COVID-19 PCR test. If the result is positive, passengers are requested to isolate for 14 days during which they are enrolled into our home based care strategy and have access to our healthcare professionals through our telemedicine platform, EKOTELEMED,” Abayomi said.
The health commissioner expressed concern that all the strides gained in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will be lost if the borders are not protected against the importation of new and mutant strains which may trigger the oncoming of a third wave.
According to him, currently countries like India, Brazil, Argentina, Iraq, Qatar, Peru and Uruguay are being ravaged by a vicious third or fourth wave following a less active and insignificant second or third wave.
The latest wave in India has been proven to be as a result of new mutant strains that have resulted in a dramatic increase in sickness and death for two weeks running, he narrated.
“Whilst we commiserate with countries like this, it is important that we protect our environment and residents against this virus, especially as we have only less than 1% of our population that have received their first dose of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine similar to India that have about 8%.
“Residents would also have access to our COVID CarePacks and if their conditions get worse, would be evacuated to one of our isolation centers for proper medical attention.
“Lagos residents should not assume the worst is over by going on without adhering to any precautionary measures. Residents are still advised to stick to the laid down protocols of always wearing facemasks in public gatherings, washing of hands and maintaining social distancing, even after receiving the vaccine.
“The commitment of the Incident Commander, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to ensuring herd immunity for residents through the vaccination is unshaken and, as a government, we are exploring strategies to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccines to achieve herd immunity for our population – in line with global trends.
“International experience is demonstrating that vaccination is one of the strongest tenets of mitigation against successive waves in other countries. This would be done in conjunction with the Federal Government and following all approvals and validation by NAFDAC and all other relevant bodies.
“We will improve our capacity to conduct additional analysis on all positive cases to assist us in determining the predominant strains in our environment. This, I am certain, will help us gather relevant analytic intelligence that is critical for planning and defining treatment protocols. We are also increasing our capacity to generate and manufacture oxygen.
“All facilities have been placed on high alert to pick up early trends that may suggest a 3rd wave while we continue to improve all our systems for any eventuality.
“The partnership between the Lagos State Government and the private sector in mitigating the second wave is well recognized and cannot be over emphasized. I, therefore, would like all stakeholders to embrace this partnership going forward because this is needed in the prevention of the third wave,” the commissioner for health related.