Nigerian Officials Warn of Rising Fifth Wave of COVID-19
Nigerian health officials are warning that a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections could be building in the country after a sharp increase in new cases in recent weeks.
According to the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Preventions, Nigeria reported 3,249 new cases as of August 10. That was 10 times the 325 new cases the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) recorded less than a month earlier in mid-July.
NCDC officials urged citizens to take precautions during large gatherings and protect themselves from potential infections.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 is more likely to spread in mass gatherings and when people do not adhere to preventive measures such as physical distancing, mask use, and hand hygiene, the NCDC said in a statement.
Nigeria’s experience mirrors the larger trend worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. At a recent briefing, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged people to continue to take the pandemic seriously.
“In the past six weeks, the global weekly number of reported cases has almost doubled,” Tedros said in a statement. “As the virus continues to circulate widely, new and dangerous variants are emerging.”
Of Africa’s five most populous countries, Nigeria was the only one to see an uptick in new COVID-19 cases during July, according to Africa CDC Acting Director Dr. Ahmed Ogwell. Nigeria’s caseload grew by 4% for the month while those in Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo fell or remained unchanged, Ogwell said during his weekly briefing on August 11.
The NCDC did not name the variant it believes is driving the new rise in infections, but it has confirmed that the omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5 are circulating in the country. Those strains have driven new waves in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. The Africa CDC has not yet announced a fifth wave for Nigeria.
Despite the rise in cases, Nigeria’s hospitalizations and deaths from infections remain low.
While testing across Nigeria has dropped 53% in recent weeks, the NCDC reported an increase in COVID-19 numbers among international travelers from 1.8% to 3% in the same period.
Studies have shown that omicron-related infections, while mild for those with immunity, can still be deadly for those who have not previously been exposed.
Dr. Akanni Abiola, medical director of the Olukayode Clinic, told Switch TV that pandemic fatigue has made people careless with masking, social distancing and other precautions.
“The rate of spread is becoming alarming,” Dr. Abiola said. “We need to be careful. We need to be aware that the COVID-19 virus is not 100% completely off from our environment.”
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