Special Report: What A Year It’s Been As Nigeria Marks Covid-19 Anniversary

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From Segun Amure (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)

It has been a nightmarish year to forget for many Nigerians since the country joined the league of nations struck by the global contagion — Covid-19 pandemic on the 27 February, 2020 when Nigeria registered its index case of the infection.

Nigerians were gripped with fear and the thought of the unknown that was ahead of them as the virus which emanated from Chinese city, Wuhan had gone globetrotting before hitting Nigeria, spreading to the young and old like harmattan wildfire.

Also, the virus broke the class definition in the country as it failed to discriminate, penetrating the haves and the have-nots in equal proportion never seen before.

But many had argued that the economic hardship inflicted by the virus was likely to have killed more Nigerians than Covid-19 had killed as the pandemic further pushed many to the throes of abject poverty.

At the early stage of the outbreak in February-March, 2020, a preponderance of Nigerians played to the gallery on the potency of Covid-19. Many pooh-pooh the grim reaper.

Some submitted that Covid-19 only kills rich people. To some, it is a disease meant for the politicians while others argued that Africa as a continent cannot be affected because of its temperature and Africans’ adaptability to past outbreaks, explaining why many threw caution to the wind.

A year after Nigeria confirmed its index case, Nigerians across the 36 states and FCT have somewhat come to the knowledge of Covid-19 by adhering to government directives protocols on Covid-19, albeit amid hard nut challenges bordering on social lifestyle.

‘Overview of Nigeria’s Covid -19 journey in One Year’

Nigeria confirmed its index case of Covid -19 in Lagos State through an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and had returned from Milan, Italy on 25 February through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

He had fallen ill on 26th February in Ogun state where he works as a consultant with a cement factory and was transferred to Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos for isolation and testing. His test result returned positive for Covid-19 and boom Africa’s largest country joined the global grim statistics.

After confirming the index case of the virus, Nigerian government assured its citizens of her readiness to strengthen surveillance at five international airports which are: Enugu, Lagos , Rivers, Kano and the FCT in the country to prevent in-bound passengers from further importing the contagion to the country.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) quickly announced the same day that they had already set up a coronavirus emergency operation centre and was ready to activate its incident system to handle more cases that would soon emerge in Nigeria.

‘Covid-19 and Its Monthly Geometrical Rise’

On 9 March, 2020 Nigeria confirmed her second case of Covid-19 through a Nigerian citizen in Ewekoro, Ogun State who had contact with the Italian citizen who had travelled there.

On 17 March, Nigeria confirmed the third case in Lagos State, a 30-year-old female citizen who returned on 13 March from the United Kingdom.

On 18 March, there were five new cases of the virus: four of the new cases were discovered in Lagos State, while one was discovered in Ekiti State.

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In all, Nigeria recorded a total of 128 confirmed cases of Covid -19 in March, 2020.

  • April

Nigeria recorded 1728 cases in the month. A total of 1,600 new cases were added to March’s 128 cases.

  • May

8,215 cases were added. 6487 new cases were added to April’s 1728.

  • June

Nigeria’s Covid-19 tally jumped to 15,540 as the country added 7,325 new cases. This marked a sharp increase from 8,215 cases reported in May.

  • July

A total number of 17,316 cases were confirmed in the month. By then Covid-19 has began to run rampant nationwide despite months-long lockdown slammed on the country.

  • August

Confirmed cases recorded stood at 10,857.

  • September

4685 confirmed cases were recorded.

  • October

3852 confirmed cases were recorded in the country, bringing the total number of cases from the start of the outbreak to 62,853.

  • November

There were 4,704 new cases in November, bringing the total number of cases to 67,557. The death toll rose to 1,173. There were 3,102 active cases at the end of the month.

  • December

There were 19,019 new cases in December, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 86,576. The death toll rose to 1,278. The number of recovered patients increased to 73,322, leaving 11,976 active cases at the end of the month.

It would be recalled President Muhammadu Buhari had on December 22 extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 until the end of March 2021, as the West African country recorded surge in its caseload throughout December.

“Nigeria cannot afford to lose the gains of the last nine months. I have critically evaluated the situation and remain convinced that urgent measures have to be taken to halt the spread of the Coronavirus and the attendant fatalities,” said Buhari.

  • January, 2021

The milestone of 100,000 confirmed cases was reached on 10 January. Nigeria’s first case of the B.1.1.7 variant was also confirmed on 25 January.

There were 44,666 new cases in January, jerking the total number of confirmed cases to 131,242. The death toll rose to 1,586. The number of recovered patients increased to 104,989, leaving 26,667 active cases at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, as of Saturday, 27th February, exactly a year after Nigeria logged in its first case of the Covid-contagion, a total of 155,417 cases have been confirmed; 133,256 of those cases have discharged nationwide. However, Nigeria’s death toll has now hit 1,905, according to the NCDC.

‘Covid -19 Second Wave’

On Thursday, December 10, 2020, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha informed Nigerians that the second wave of the pandemic was upon the country, as a result of increase in the number of COVID-19 cases detected in the country, Nigeria.

Nigeria entered the second wave of the pandemic on Thursday, 17th December 2020 and recorded its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases with 1,145 new infections.

In January 2021, Nigeria saw an uptick which shattered the previous records in the number of confirmed, discharged and death cases of Covid-19 in the country.

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‘Covid -19 Deaths in Nigeria’

Nigeria confirmed her first death of Covid-19 through a 67-year-old Suleiman Achimugu, an engineer and former Managing Director of Pipelines and Products Marketing Company.

Achimugu was said to have returned from the United Kingdom with underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, Nigerians won’t forget in a hurry the souls of many politicians and top brass who died of Covid-19.

To start with, Nigeria lost its Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari on 17 April, 2020 aged 67.

Next to kyari was the former Governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi. Ajimobi died of Covid-19 on the 25 June, 2020

Ondo State Commissioner of Health, Wahab Adegbenro, died 2 July, 2020.

Also, a wide range of public officials have tested positive for the coronavirus, but have fortunately recovered. The list includes:

Governor of Abia State Okezie Ikpeazu

Governor of Bauchi State Bala Mohammed

Deputy Governor of Bauchi
State Baba Tela

Former Member of Benue State National Assembly, Rebecca Apedzan

Chief of Staff Benue State, Terwase Orbunde

Head of Service Benue State Veronica Onyeke

Secretary to the State Government Benue State Anthony Ijoho

Commissioner for Information Delta State, Charles Aniagwu

Secretary to the State Government Delta State, Chiedu Ebie

Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi

Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai

Immediate past Commissioner of Works and Infrastructural Development Kano State Muazu Magaji (sacked for celebrating the death of Abba Kyari)

Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu.

Secretary to the Osun State Government, Wole Oyebamiji.

Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde (as well as four other members of his cabinet)

Member of Yobe State House of Assembly, Lawan Nguru.

‘Covid-19 New Normal’

A year after Nigeria recorded her index case, it seems Nigerians have adapted to the new normal and lifestyle of social distancing despite an initial rebuff.

Nigerian government in its wisdom to curtail the spread of the virus had put certain measures in place which includes- compulsory use of face mask, social distancing, reduction in social gathering, constant hand washing, testing inbound and outbound air passengers, virtual meetings among others.

However, till date, a total number of 155,076 cases have been confirmed, 132, 544 cases have been discharged and 1902 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

‘Nigeria and Vaccine Expectations’

Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire had on Monday, 15 February said the country will receive 1.4 million doses of the approved Oxford- AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the 7 million doses donated to Africa by telecom giant, MTN.

Ehanire stated that an additional 42 million doses of the same vaccine will be delivered to the country through the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT)

“The Ministry of Health also engaged the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), who informed us of the free allocation of 1.4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, of which 500,000 doses are expected by the end of this month, courtesy of MTN donation of 7 million doses to Africa,” he said.

Ehanire while he visited Lagos State Teaching Hospital, on 20th February said: “We are told that by the end of this month, which is about 10 days from now, we shall get the vaccines.”

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He noted further that, “we (Nigeria) do not produce the vaccines. They are manufactured abroad in about four or five countries’’.

‘Vaccine Coordination’

Ehanire stated that a Vaccine Coordination Committee has been inaugurated to address diverse issues peculiar to COVID-19 vaccine acquisition by Nigeria.

“Their function is to advise on coordinating access to acquisition and distribution of vaccines when available, and on our immunization strategy,” he said.

Similarly, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) on Thursday, 25 February said the agency is set to train health workers who will be involved in the nationwide vaccination programme.

In a statement, Mohammad Ohitoto Head, Public Relations of the NPHCDA said: “over 13,000 health care workers have been trained at the national training of trainers in the first phase. This training involves participants from the national, state and local government levels. By March, 1 2021, the training will be cascaded to the ward and facility levels where over 100,000 health workers will be trained.”

Furthermore, “as part of preparations to ensure efficient and effective vaccination activities, a self e-registration link that will enable Nigerians to personally register themselves, obtain their pre-vaccination numbers and schedule their preferred date and time for vaccination has been created,” the statement read, adding that the e-registration link will be provided in the coming days.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha on Saturday said barring any last-minute change of plans, Nigeria will get its first tranche of vaccines on March 2.

Speaking on Channels TV programme monitored by The New Diplomat he said; “I can assure you that the vaccines are coming and get are coming very quickly barring any change in the delivery plan that has been released to us by UNICEF, wee believe that our vaccines should depart India on March 1 by 10:30pm and arrive Abuja, Nigeria at about 11:10am on March 2”.

‘Lagos Demands for Good Number of Vaccines’

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Friday, 26 February said the lawmakers from Lagos will push “very vigorously” to ensure a huge chunk of the COVID-19 vaccines arriving the country come to the state which is epicentre of the pandemic in the country.

Gbajabiamila said this at the 16th Executive/Legislative Parley, with the theme: ”A Consensus Agenda for Rebuilding Lagos”, organised by the Lagos State Office of Civic Engagement.

“We are all expectant of the COVID-19 vaccines and I believe every member from Lagos State in the National Assembly will make sure we pursue very vigorously and make sure that a good large number of those vaccines come to Lagos,”.

”This is not debatable, we are having yardsticks, Lagos is the most populated in terms of density and in terms of even the COVID-19 itself, being the epicentre when it broke. So, I believe we will push and push hard to make sure that the vaccine gets to every Lagosian.” Gbajabiamila said.

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