Developments around characteristics of COVID-19 emerge – Mustapha

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Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and secretary to the government of the federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha has said that as Nigeria enters the last few days of the extended eased lockdown phase of the Nation’s National Response this week, the task force, like the global community, had been confronted with a series of emerging new developments around the characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the committee’s press briefing held in Abuja yesterday, Mustapha said the global number of confirmed cases has exceeded the 25 million mark and is attributable to resurgence in countries hitherto considered to have effectively contained the virus.

“While a good number of countries that have relaxed restriction measures are actually re-introducing such, which in some cases are being made more stringent on the basis of lessons learned.

“The PTF has observed that South Africa is no longer in the top five with the global cumulative cases. It has similarly observed that Ethiopia is also rising strongly.

“The PTF will continue to monitor developments all over Africa even as we prepare to open up the international air space for flights.

“The PTF has also observed that from the point the global numbers entered the 20th million, growth in cases has been on the average of a million cases every four to five days.

“This is a trend that deserves a lot of attention and the PTF is doing that. For us in Nigeria, the last three weeks have shown a slowdown in the number of confirmed cases.

“Indeed, in the last four months of testing, the lowest daily figure of confirmed cases, 138 were reported on 30th August 2020,” he added.

He, however, called for caution and vigilance on the declining numbers because the virus was still potent and very dangerous.

Mustapha explained that the position was informed by the fact that in spite of the nation’s enhanced testing capacity, the number of samples collected for testing have not been encouraging.

He said that while the government intensifies its targeted testing strategy, it still urged the states to expand the scope of their sample collection.

The PTF chairman also recalled that at the outbreak of the pandemic, it was predicted that the African continent, with its weak health infrastructure and propensity to high disease burden, would be the worst hit.

He, however, said that a recent publication by the Weekly Science Review had indicated that in spite of having 17 per cent of the global population, Africa had accounted for just five per cent of global confirmed COVID-19 cases and three per cent of deaths.

“A recent study by a group of African countries in East Africa indicates that Africa has weathered the storm of the pandemic with a death ratio of 1:10000 persons at a total of 23,000 so far.

“According to the study, far more Africans have been infected with the virus and are now resistant to it for reasons such as more exposure to variants of the coronavirus and regular exposure to malaria and other infectious diseases, which prime the African immune system to fight new pathogens.

“The PTF is, however, studying the manifestation of the virus in Nigeria and in other countries and continents in order to understand its nature.

“This should ordinarily give us encouragement that we are winning the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But unfortunately, the science, data, and experience from other parts of the world indicate that such data should be viewed with extreme caution, as it is prone to be very deceptive and could be misleading.

He said the noticed gradual shift in areas of high infection burden with Plateau reporting the highest number of confirmed cases could be related to increased testing by citizens of the state.

“However, we also need to look at the flip side that there are a number of highly undetected cases lying around which we need to discover and deal with early.”

Mustapha noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had published a draft landscape of the COVID-19 candidate vaccines and that as of August 2020 a total of 173 candidate vaccines are under evaluation.

He said: “Thirty-three are under clinical evaluation (eight at phase 3 trials); 143 candidate vaccines are in pre-clinical evaluation;

“As the PTF has always maintained, early testing, detection, tracking, and treatment remains the second-best option for dealing with this pandemic, with the first being staying safe.

“In this wise, we implore Nigerians to get tested and present cases requiring treatment early to reduce our avoidable fatalities.

“Testing positive for coronavirus is not a death sentence, not testing and concealing cases of symptoms and presenting late is what leads to death,” he said.

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