As of Friday, March 19, Nigeria has lost 2,027 people to the cold grip of the dreaded contagion, COVID-19. Many more have survived, but there are still many fighting for survival.
The country’s COVID-19 death toll may not be grabbing the headlines, it, however, offers a grim reminder of how quickly it could spin out of control if not properly managed.
After Nigeria recorded its index COVID-19 case in February 2020, the global pandemic appears to have taken a foothold on the country. The government was initially lax with enforcing flight restrictions, border closures, tests, and contact tracing.
From just a few so-called isolated infections, the country came to terms with the reality that it had begun to experience “community infections.”
Consequently, the number of COVID-19 deaths recorded by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) soared from 56 in April 2020 to 229 deaths in May of the same year. With many hospitals lacking sufficient protective gear to handle unsuspecting COVID-19 patients and a sluggish testing plan, the death ratio jumped to 303 in June.
Five months after a steady spike in the COVID-19 death toll, NCDC recorded a three-month decline, with the number of deaths going down from 303 in June to 289 in July and 134 in August. This coincided with a drop in deaths in Europe.
Data collection is poor in Nigeria, and the available statistics are often unreliable. For example, a survey carried out by the NCDC and the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) suggested that 23 per cent of the Lagos population had COVID-19 before the second wave began in December.
Nigeria currently has recorded 161,539 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday night. Lagos remains the epicentre. The state’s current population is at least 20 million.
With over 200 million people, the country began recording over a thousand cases daily, and that indicated that it was in the second wave of the pandemic.
The study conducted in four states, Lagos, Enugu, Gombe, and Nasarawa, suggested that the infection rate was higher than recorded between September and October last year.
According to the findings, the prevalence of antibodies was 23 per cent in Lagos and Enugu, 19 per cent in Nasarawa, and nine per cent in Gombe state.
“Blood samples were collected from over 10,000 individuals residing in a representative sample of households in the four states. The blood samples were then tested for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies applying locally validated laboratory tests. Individuals who provided blood samples also answered a brief questionnaire that enabled the study team to characterise factors related to positivity and identify which population groups were most affected,” NCDC and NIMR had said.
These infection rates, according to them, are higher than those reported through the national surveillance system “and reveal that the spread of infection in the states surveyed is wider than is obvious from surveillance activities.”
NCDC and NIMR added, “This is not surprising for COVID-19, given that a majority of those infected do not have any symptoms.”
The survey results showed higher infection rates among males than females (for example, 10 per cent vs seven per cent in Gombe and 21 per cent vs 17 per cent in Nasarawa). The survey team noted that the observations were in tandem with what had been reported by the NCDC based on the national surveillance system.
As 2020 drew to an end, deaths in Europe began to increase, and the talk of a second wave started to take form. Nigeria remained safe, however, with deaths related to COVID-19 continuing to drop with 99, 32, and 29 deaths recorded in September, October, and November.
The announcement of vaccine rollout towards the end of November heralded the beginning of the second wave in Nigeria. Since December, the country’s COVID-19 death toll has once again resumed its climb.
The country recorded over 100 deaths attributed to the pandemic for the third consecutive month since December 2020.
In February 2021, NCDC announced 321 deaths, the highest death toll recorded since its outbreak in the country.