THE number of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Nigeria has doubled between Monday, May 4, when the gradual ease of lockdown began in Lagos, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Saturday, May 16.
As it stands, the number of confirmed cases according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has increased from 2,802 on May 4 to 5,621 on May 16 representing about 101 percent increase in almost two weeks.
The number of deaths have also increased from 93 to 176; this is about 89 percent increase in the number of fatalities caused by COVID-19.
During the 35 days of full lockdown − March 30 and May 4, the number of confirmed cases rose from 131 to 2,802. In other words, an average 76 cases were reported on daily basis during that period, while an average of 235 cases per day has been reported within the 11-day period of the gradual ease of lockdown and more still to come.
While it is too early to link the ease of lockdown to the increasing number of cases, figures from the NCDC shows a daily progression in the number of cases both pre and post lockdown periods.
President Muhammadu Buhari explained while delivering his nationwide broadcast that the decision to ease the lockdown was premised on advice from the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
Buhari concedes the lockdown has hurt the country’s economy, especially in non-essential sectors that depend on daily income for survival. But the decision to relax the lockdown came as Nigeria’s number of coronavirus cases has been increasing.
While Lagos, Ogun, and the FCT were on lockdown, other state governments tolled the path of locking down their states. However, some of the governors have relaxed the lockdown order in their states, taking a cue from the federal government.
In fact, Borno, Ebonyi, Gombe, Adamawa, and Anambra states have all relaxed the order.
Edo state government has set up a committee to advise it on relaxing some of the lockdown measures currently in place.
Following the relaxation of the lockdown order in Ebonyi state, religious gathering of not more than 500 people will now be allowed in the state.
Interestingly, Kano state, the second most infected of the virus in the country relaxed the lockdown order imposed on it by President Buhari.
Before the gradual ease of lockdown, the PTF issued new guidelines, including an overnight curfew, the mandatory use of face masks in public places and strict social distancing restrictions. However, thousands have flooded marketplaces and banks, without complying to the physical distancing orders.
Arising from the continuous violation by people in public places, the PTF has considered reviewing the guideline in the light of continuous spread and rising cases of the virus in the country.
Many public health experts have criticised the decision to ease the lockdown terming it as ill-timed and premature.
There may be spike in COVID cases – NMA
Reacting to the gradual ease of lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Francis Faduyile, said the country would see a spike in positive cases of the coronavirus.
He said people have been trooping out en-mass and have not been complying with regulations in terms of social distancing as well as being guided in public places.
“This development is definitely working against all the regulations towards the containment of the disease and it shows that it is more likely we will have a spike in positive cases as the NMA envisaged.”
He, however, urged the Federal and State governments to enforce all the regulations put in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
He said: “Since the government has relaxed the lockdown, they should be able to find ways to ensure that there is compliance with guidelines they have put in place.”
President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana on April 19, announced the end of its three-week lockdown in two major cities (Accra and Kumasi).
This saw Ghana’s case rise days after the lift in lockdown and making it the country with the highest number of confirmed cases in West Africa.
Ghana’s strategy in preparation for easing the lockdown was to ramp-up testing. Ghana has an aggressive testing strategy and even employed drones in transporting samples to labs to reduce the time it takes to identify cases and respond to the threats. As of May 16, Ghana had tested about 171,642 persons.
In comparison, Nigeria has tested 32,942 people – 160 tests per one million.
With this, it means Nigeria ranks second to the last in terms of test per one million out of the top 10 countries with the highest number of confirmed cases in Africa.
Ghana has 5,539 tests per one million and ranks second in this category, coming after South Africa with 7,423 tests per one million.
Lesotho, the last African country to be affected by the virus reported its index after the relaxation of its four-week lockdown.
Nigeria, with 17.06 percent infection rate is the third most infected country of the COVID-19 out of the 10 countries with the highest number of confirmed cases in Africa.