The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, says the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic had shown that ”COVID-19 is a disease, which we will have to learn to live safely with”.
Mr Ihekweazu said this on Monday in Abuja at the national briefing of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, while encouraging Nigerians to get vaccinated, if they were yet to, and endeavour to get tested, if they felt any COVID-19 like symptoms.
“Continue to take responsibility, to prevent COVID-19 infections, and work with us while we continue to lead on the response and ensure the continued safety of Nigerians, our neighbours and the world.
“Globally, COVID-19 confirmed cases are now over 229 million and deaths of over 4.7 million. Over 5.8 billion vaccination doses have been administered.
“Across the world, schools have reopened, masks and vaccine mandates have been debated, the Delta variant continues to dominate and pose a threat with its increased transmissibility, and countries like New Zealand have reinforced restrictions.
“Here in Nigeria, COVID-19 confirmed cases now exceed 200,000 and unfortunately, deaths exceed 2,600,” he said.
The NCDC boss said that the Agency had continued to work with sister agencies and partners, to sustain the COVID-19 response and ensure better preparedness for future outbreaks.
“Last week, the NCDC and partners – US-CDC – concluded the public health emergency management for professional development programme certification course in Lagos.
“The pandemic has continued over the past 19 months and now it is quite easy to become desensitised to numbers, however, we must not forget that the cases and deaths are not just numbers but family members, loved ones, friends and even colleagues,” he added.
Mr Ihekweazu noted that countries across the world were continuing to live with the new normal of facemasks, providing proof of vaccinations to gain entry to work, younger age groups now receiving vaccines in countries such as Cambodia, which was now vaccinating children aged 6-12.
“Of the great achievement of almost 6 billion vaccine doses being administered, only 2% had been administered in Africa.
”Vaccine inequity has been an unfortunate feature of this pandemic and while efforts persist towards advocacy for increased sharing, for those who do have access to vaccines, we must not squander our opportunities,” Mr Ihekweazu said.
“I encourage us all to make sure to take the opportunity provided to get vaccinated. The vaccines are safe and they are effective.
”Keep yourselves informed with credible information, from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the World Health Organisation and such,” he said.
He added: we are faced with a different world to what we knew pre-pandemic and we have to continue to take responsibility, assess the situation in our environments and take well informed decisions to protect ourselves and those around us.
Mr Ihekweazu said that colleagues, other sister agencies and the agency’s strong partners continue to work together to lead on all pillars of the COVID-19 response.
“The national COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) continues to meet weekly to assess the epidemiology of COVID-19, following up on non-testing and on non-reporting states, strategising on ways to effectively sustain the response.
“Antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests have been piloted at NYSC camps nationwide, selected high burden health facilities in FCT, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Rivers.
”In addition, zonal level Training of Trainers has occurred in five zones, with the last zone, the South-East, which held last week.
“We continue to extend efforts to scale-up genomic sequencing to enable us make informed decisions based on the circulating variants in-country,” he said.
Mr Ihekweazu noted that the logistics’ pillar had successfully distributed medical commodities and personal protective equipment nationwide in recent weeks, ensuring that laboratories, treatment centres and other relevant facilities had all that they needed.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Monday’s PSC briefing was the last for Mr Ihekweazu as the Director General, NCDC as he heads to the World Health Organisation to take up post as Assistant Director-General for health emergency intelligence on November 1, 2021.
The chairman of the PSC and secretary to the government of the federation, Boss Mustapha, praised him for his diligence, professionalism and commitment to duty and the nation.
At the WHO, Mr Ihekweazu is expected to lead the work on strengthening pandemic and epidemic intelligence globally, including heading the WHO’s hub for pandemic and epidemic intelligence.