A wave of fear has enveloped some residents of Lagos State over predictions that the COVID-19 cases might hit 120, 000 later in the year.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, on Friday said that coronavirus cases in the state might rise to between 90,000 and 120,000 by July or August.
Abayomi made the statement at a news conference in Alausa, Ikeja, while giving updates on the novel coronavirus pandemic in the state.
Lagos State, the epicentre of coronavirus in Nigeria, has recorded 1,845 cases out of the 4, 399 confirmed cases in the country as of Sunday, May 10.
Following the prediction, some residents have expressed anxiety over their safety in respect of the disease outbreak.
One resident, Joy Micah, said, “August? We obviously don’t have an exit plan.”
Samuel Owekoro added, “Work hard to eradicate this. Lagosians do not want to hear this. You would not get applause if the numbers increase.”
Onwubiko Uche, like many others, is afraid that the government might not be able to manage the virus if the numbers rise astronomically.
He said, “Will you be able to contain it if it indeed gets to that number. Let us do what is right and stay safe.”
Abayomi did not specify how the state government arrived at the prediction.
On February 27, Nigeria confirmed its first case in Lagos State through an Italian working in Nigeria who returned on February 25 from Milan, Italy, through Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
He fell ill on February 26 and was transferred to Lagos State biosecurity facilities for isolation and testing.
By the end of March, there were 81 COVID-19 cases in Lagos. The numbers grew by 91 per cent at the end of April, bringing Lagos total to 931.
As at May 10, the cases had grown by another 49.5 per cent to the current 1, 845.
More testing, more numbers?
Some residents have argued that it would be impossible to hit 120, 000 cases by July due to the slow pace of Nigeria’s testing for the virus.
Otite Favour asked, “Aren’t cases recorded after testing? So is it this less than 20, 000 tests that we would use to record over 120, 000 cases? Don’t we have to test more than this number first?
Social commentator, Daniel Emeka, doubts the prediction due to current testing figures.
He said, “It is almost impossible to attain 120, 000 positive tests by July. When you test an average of 6, 000 monthly with only 15 per cent testing positive, you will need to test more than 800, 000 people in the next two months to achieve that number.”
Meanwhile, Abayomi attributed the anticipated increase in cases to the expansion of sample collection to the 20 local governments.
He said the government’s response to the disease lessened the effect it could have had if it had not been proactive.
“Lagos would have recorded 6,000 cases rather than the 1,491 cases it has,” Abayomi said.
However, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has described the country’s low testing rate for COVID-19 as depressing.
In a statement entitled: “Preparing for the Worst-Case Scenario”, Francis Faduyile, NMA, President , called for improvement.
He said the association had carried out a review of the country’s response against the pandemic and developed a number of likely solutions.
As of May 9, 2020, Nigeria had tested 25,951 persons — a lower figure compared to Egypt’s 90,000, Ghana’s 155,201, and South Africa’s 324,079.
Faduyile said the country’s low testing rate was as a result of test kits shortages and difficulty in sample collection.
He said despite the announced increased capacity of 50,000 samples per day in 21 laboratories across the country, the challenges of poor coordination and planning had contributed largely to the problem.
He recommended the inclusion of approved private laboratories to boost the speed of sample collection and transport modalities.
“This depressing development saddens NMA because it will wipe away the efforts made so far by the government, PTF and Nigerians in the public reaction against COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read.
“The association places the responsibility on the PTF and NCDC to find the fastest workable solutions to fix this challenge, including incorporating the approved private sector laboratories that already have established specimen pick up and transport modalities.”
The disease, which has spread to 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has claimed 143 lives in Nigeria as of Sunday, May 10.
COVID-19 distribution in Lagos
According to the list released by Abayomi as of Saturday, May 9, Lagos Mainland Local Government Area has the highest number of infections.
Alimosho, Oshodi, Mushin, Ikeja, Kosofe and Isolo local government areas also have increased cases and the numbers are still on the rise daily.
Abayomi said the state was using the data to plan its strategies to tackle the disease.
So far, Surulere has 31 cases, Shomolu has 40, Oshodi/Isolo has 34, Mushin has 138, Lagos Mainland has 500 and Lagos Island has 30 cases.
Also, Ikorodu has recorded 18 cases, Kosofe has 59 cases, Ikeja has 73 cases, Ifako-Ijaiye has 12 cases, Ibeju-Lekki has 26 cases, Eti-Osa has 200 cases and Epe has eight cases.
There are five COVID-19 cases in Badagry, 55 in Apapa, 35 in Amuwo Odofin, 69 in Alimosho, 18 in Ajeromi/Ifelodun and 13 cases in Agege.
Abayomi added that Alimosho, Oshodi and Isolo had begun to record more COVID-19 cases.
He, however, noted that 97 per cent of positive cases at the state isolation centres were mild and moderate cases.
Only three per cent are severe cases, he said.
The Lagos State governor has threatened that a new lockdown could be imposed if people continued to flout the guidelines meant to ensure public safety.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu issued the warning during the first briefing since the five-week lockdown in the state was relaxed on Monday, May 4.
Following the easing of the lockdown, images of Lagos residents disobeying social distancing rules and refusing to wear masks flooded the internet, causing more panic.
Sanwo-Olu said, “Another round of interminable lockdown of movement and business activities would be introduced if there is no improvement in the adherence to the guidelines initiated to break the cycle of transmission of the dreaded virus.”
“As a government elected to uphold security of its citizens, which include health security, we will not hesitate to review the terms of the easing of lockdown if we do not see an improvement in adherence to our public health guidelines in the next couple of days.
“We will be forced to take a painful decision of bringing the entire system under lockdown if we continue to see evidence that Lagosians are determined to flout the rules,” he warned.