Explainer: What data says about Nigeria’s Covid-19 fight eleven weeks after index case

On Saturday May 9, 2020, the centre for disease control, NCDC announced that Nigeria had again bridged another grim milestone as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose above the four thousand mark to 4,151 cases. That was exactly 59 days after the country’s index case, an Italian engineer who came into the country to work at a plant in Ogun State.

It is now week 11 and Nigeria’s coronavirus landscape has changed in such quick succession, with several scary milestones having been recorded.


So, what has happened?

From February 27 when the first case was recorded, there were only were a total of 97 cases in Nigeria during the first five weeks, including the index case. It was also after the 5th week when 75 new cases were recorded, that the president imposed a lockdown on Lagos, Ogun and the FCT.

The 6th week ending April 4 saw the total number of new cases surging past the hundred mark. A total of 119 cases were recorded and the following week another 104 cases were recorded.


The total number of new cases in a single week shot up to 223 in the 8th week and 641 in the 9th week. The 10th week saw the weekly total of new cases going above the thousand mark for the very first time, rising to 1206 and a then a staggering 1763 cases in a single week on May 10.

In this period, the lockdown came and has gone in some key locations including Lagos where the government is now threatening to reimpose some form of restrictions because of the failure of residents to comply with the social distancing requirement as well as the wearing of face masks when outside.


What has lockdown got to do with it?

Before the lockdown, Nigeria had recorded a total of 131 cases, two deaths, while five patients were discharged in 11 states and the FCT.

However, in the time during lockdown, Nigeria recorded 2427 cases, 85 deaths and 395 discharged patients in 34 states plus the FCT.

In just one week since the partial relaxation of the lockdown, there has been 1593 new cases, 41 deaths and 345 cases of discharge.


How does Nigeria compare with peers?

As at the last count, South Africa leads in Africa when it comes to total number of confirmed cases and the country also leads in the number of tests for covid-19 carried out. South Africa has recorded 9,420 cases with 186 deaths, and it is followed by Egypt with 8,964 cases with 514 deaths and Morocco comes in third with 6,038 confirmed cases with 188 deaths. Algeria is fourth with 5,558 cases and 494 deaths and followed by Ghana with 5,263 cases and 22 deaths, followed by Nigeria with 4,151 cases and 128 deaths. Nigeria with the largest population is believed to have conducted the least number of tests. South Africa and Ghana have tested more than 100,000 persons. It is in the area of testing that Nigeria’s pathetic healthcare infrastructure becomes amplified.

On what trajectory is Nigeria?

Scientists still say it is too early to say what the future holds for Africa’s most populous nation in its fight against the pandemic, especially because it is undertaking very low number of tests daily. No one can confirm if Nigeria has yet attained its target of 2,500 tests daily nationwide. South Africa tests over 15,000 tests daily with the private sector in the south African nation accounting for about 50% of the total tests so far carried out. Nigeria has so far resisted the push for the private sector to join in carrying out tests. While it is gradually allowing result analysis to be carried out in private laboratories in the country, the collection of test samples is still carried out by the NCDC. The NCDC is grossly underfunded and under resourced and so expect Nigeria’s testing level to remain tempered by this factor going forward.


And why is Lagos called the epicentre?

Lagos is not just the point at which the first recorded case was confirmed, the commercial capital is now truly established as the state with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Nigeria and it is also the fastest growing.

Since the first case was recorded on February 27, the virus has spread across the state with one local government alone, Mainland having a total of 541 cases. Today, Lagos now accounts for about 39% of the total number of cases in Nigeria. Over 70% of the confirmed cases in Lagos are still on admission and this will quickly put strain on the current healthcare structure of the state. It will be unsurprising if the state government begins to empower primary healthcare centres in the state to manage mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 because of this pressure.

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