By Salim Yunusa
The Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Sunday, said that the state has started experiencing a potential third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with dire consequences.
Sanwo-Olu, who gave the alert while giving an update on the Coronavirus pandemic situation in the state and ongoing response as a government, added that the country stands the risks of losing both lives and livelihood on a devastating scale.
According to Sanwo-Olu, “Starting around the end of March 2021, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos began to wind down, and we began to enjoy some reprieve from the worst effects of the virus. This allowed us to further open up the economy to allow the start of the journey towards full normalcy in our lives and the pursuit of livelihoods, after what has been a very difficult year.
“Regrettably, in spite of the hard work and dedicated efforts towards sustaining the return to normalcy, over the last three months, we are now finding ourselves at what appears to be the start of a potential 3rd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Lagos State. From the beginning of July, we started to experience a steep increase in the number of daily confirmed cases, with the test positivity rate going from 1.1 per cent at the end of June 2021 to its current rate of 6.6 per cent as of July 8, 2021. The rapid increase within a week gives great cause for concern.
“Also, within the last two weeks, the occupancy rate at our isolation centres increased from an average of 1 per cent to 6 per cent. This is the new and disturbing reality that now confronts us. But we must not be demoralized by this. We must instead resolve that we will not leave any stone unturned in our bid to effectively mitigate the third wave of this pandemic in Lagos. As you all know, Lagos has been the epicentre of the pandemic since the start, and the way we manage it here has a significant impact and reverberating effect on the national outlook and outcomes.
“We will continue to test aggressively. We will also focus on sequencing the samples we are collecting to ensure we are detecting and keeping track of the different variants in circulation. It is only by testing and sequencing comprehensively that we can collect the data required for informed decision-making,” the governor said.
Giving the epidemiology update, Sanwo-Olu said “As at July 7, 2021, Lagos had recorded a total of 60,202 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of this number, 55,135 have recovered in-community and 770 are currently being managed actively in-community. Over the course of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, about 4,382 patients have been admitted into our various COVID-19 care centres in Lagos: with 357 registered fatalities. In all, we have tested 563,679 samples in Lagos State since the pandemic started.”
He urged residents to desist from patronizing non-accredited COVID-19 treatment centers, and proprietors should also ensure that all suspected and confirmed cases are referred appropriately, adding that, “One of the major tenets of our mitigation strategy against the third wave is our vaccination campaign, similar to other parts of the world. It has been observed by various credible studies that those that have received their vaccines have demonstrated significant resistance to the effects of the virus, with fewer associated complications and deaths.
“As of today, however, the percentage of residents of Lagos who have received two (2) doses of the vaccine stands at a mere 1 per cent. We recognise that this is not adequate, and given the imminent third wave, and our priority to reduce COVID-19 related deaths, we are exploring all avenues possible to ramp up access to vaccination so as to reach our herd immunity target of at least 60 per cent COVID-19 vaccination coverage of the population of Lagos. We are confident that we will be getting a second batch of vaccines very soon, to kick-start the second phase of vaccinations.”
On travel protocols for inbound passengers, the governor gave a record that, “Between May 8, 2021, and July 7, 2021, a total of 50,322 passengers of interest arrived in Lagos via the Murtala Mohammed Airport. Of the 50,322 passengers, 18 per cent could not be reached by EKOTELEMED because of the provision of either wrong numbers or wrong Nigerian contact details to be reached on.
“Going forward, passengers that do not provide the right details, including a phone number that can be reached for monitoring and an address for isolation, will face serious sanctions including fines and imprisonment according to our Lagos State Coronavirus Law of 2021.
“As dictated by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC), passengers from red-listed countries (India, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey) are required to observe mandatory isolation. So far, we have successfully isolated 2,386 passengers in Lagos State. Of this number, 15 per cent have absconded.
“The following sanctions are being recommended and have already been meted out to defaulters: For Foreigners: Revocation of their Permanent Residency, and deportation; and for Nigerians: Prosecution to the full extent of the Lagos State COVID-19 Law,” he said.
Ahead of the Sallah celebration, Sanwo-Olu, stated, “Greater vigilance is required at this time in our Churches and Mosques and other places of religious worship. We must not allow ourselves to be carried away by the illusion that all is now back to normal. This is especially critical, as Sallah approaches, in a little over a week from now.
“The festivities will no doubt bring people together in large numbers and create conditions that can sadly cause the spread of the Coronavirus. We must not allow this to happen. We are mandating full compliance with all protective protocols. Compulsory use of masks in all public places, Social distancing, Temperature checks, Provisions for hand-washing and sanitisers, and a maximum of 50 per cent occupancy in enclosed spaces.”
While both the Federal and State Governments have a huge role to play in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanwo-Olu stressed that the responsibility of managing the third wave ultimately rests on the citizens.
“Without the cooperation of the public at large, we stand the risks of losing both lives and livelihood, on a devastating scale. Therefore, I would like to once again reiterate that this is not the time to get tired or complacent. The enemy is formidable – and opportunistic. It will only go as far as we allow it. Having triumphed over the first and second waves of the pandemic, we must now find within ourselves new reserves of energy to quell this emerging third wave before it snowballs out of control,” he said.