UPDATE ON THE COVID-19 RESPONSE, VACCINATION STRATEGY AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW GUIDELINES TO ENFORCE MANDATORY ISOLATION FOR TRAVELERS IN LAGOS STATE
Update on the Lagos State COVID-19 Response
The Lagos State Government has continued to strengthen its response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a resolve to mitigate the oncoming of a possible 3rd wave, as seen in countries with similar experiences, albeit working with the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19. As at 27th of May 2021, Lagos State had tested 495,339 COVID-19 samples, with 58,975 of these samples confirmed positive. 54,426 have recovered in community and 274 are active in community. Of the 58,975 confirmed cases, 356 deaths were, unfortunately, recorded. These amount to a death rate of 0.6%.
On March 12, 2021, the vaccination campaign was flagged off in Lagos, and, so far, a total of 317,916 people have been vaccinated with the first dose of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine. This means that 1.32% of the State’s population have received the first dose.
COVID Vaccination Strategy
On Friday the 28th of May 2021, we commenced the administration of the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Given the requirement for achieving herd immunity (60% of total population vaccinated), Lagos State still needs to vaccinate about 14,000,000 (14 Million) people to reach this target, as is actively happening in many parts of the world, to collectively eradicate this global pandemic. Therefore, the government is considering several channels, including discussions with the Federal Government and the Private Sector, to ramp up the vaccination numbers.
The administration of the second dose is in continuation of Phase 1 COVID vaccination that started on the 12th of March 2021. For anyone to be fully vaccinated, two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine are required with an interval of 6-12 weeks. The second dose will be administrated on working days (Monday to Friday) across our approved 88 health facilities till the 9th of July 2021.
I therefore implore citizens who have received their first dose to proceed to the health facilities where they got their first dose on their scheduled appointment dates, which are clearly stated on the vaccination card that was issued. They are also advised to avoid overcrowding and overwhelming the health workers by staggering their arrival at the vaccination site from between 8 am to 1pm. I would like to reiterate that every vaccinated person should visit the health facility where they got their first dose with their vaccination cards so that the process is seamless, and their data accurately captured.
We would like to remind all persons who visit the health facilities to continue to adhere to the infection prevention and control measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. We must continue to wear our face masks in public, avoid large crowds and practise good hand and respiratory hygiene until about 60% of our population has been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
3rd Wave Mitigation Strategy & Implementation of the New Guidelines
Regardless of the reduction in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lagos State, many countries are still experiencing a vicious second and third wave of the pandemic. The rising number of cases around the world is largely a result of new variants of the virus that are more contagious. As part of the strategies to curb the third wave, the Lagos State Government will carry out the following activities:
• Ramp up testing and ensure all travelers carry out COVID-19 Tests. Lagos State will introduce new PCR tests to determine variants of the virus for confirmed positives cases. Those that turn out to be positive for variants will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine or till they clear the virus.
• Utilize EKOTELEMED to monitor confirmed cases and provide telemedicine services. EKOTELEMED will become the backbone of the State’s response.
• Enforce Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions, i.e., hand washing, social distancing, thresholds for public gathering, discourage super spreader events.
• Ramping up its oxygen supply and logistics management.
• Apply the new guidelines as published by the COVID-19 Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) for all inbound travelers into the country from India, Brazil and Turkey.
The new guidelines are explained as follows: The Federal Government of Nigeria recently banned Foreign Nationals from India, Brazil and Turkey from entering into Nigeria. However, Nigerians and non-Nigerians with a resident permit returning into the country are still allowed to come in, albeit under strict controls, such as mandatory isolation in Government approved facilities and Day 2 and Day 7 testing.
Implementation of Mandatory Isolation for Travelers
Lagos State accounts for more than 95% of the in-bound passengers into the country and, as such, the State Government has been proactive in setting up a system as well as protocols to manage in-bound passengers from all countries, especially countries where variants are actively circulating. Lagos State Government is working closely with Federal Airports Authority and Agencies. We have set up structures that will ease the passenger journey by modifying the Lagos State booking platform to provide several hotels that have been accredited by our Accreditation Agencies for passengers arriving from India, Brazil or Turkey.
Lagos State medical personnel have been posted to these hotels to support the management of passengers of interest in situations that the passengers might need some medical care. Passengers with medical conditions should elect to stay at our isolation centre in Yaba Mainland Hospital or at the Gbagada Isolation Centre as these facilities have additional amenities to provide medical care, if required. It is important to note that logistics services with security have been provided through our logistics partner to transport passengers from the airport to their individual hotels at no additional costs.
Corona Virus Act & Sanctions
Whilst the State has gone through great lengths to provide a seamless experience for passengers, it is important that the passengers adhere strictly to the laid-out protocols to avoid sanctions which may include penalties and/or prison time as laid out by the Lagos State House of Assembly and to be implemented by the Attorney General of the State.
It is worthy of note to state that the new Coronavirus Act of 2021 empowers Mr. Governor to quarantine anyone he deems fit and for any period of time. The act also empowers him to sanction erring individuals with fines of up to N500,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 5 years. According to the act, providing false or deliberately misleading information when filling out the online platform is an offence punishable by 1 year imprisonment and/or fines according to Section 17 of the Corona virus Pandemic law 2021. According to Section 17 of same, if passengers break the quarantine rules, they may be required to pay the stipulated fine and/or 1 year imprisonment. All passengers are advised to avoid the long arm of the law and act in good conscience by adhering to the guidelines to protect the lives and livelihood of all Lagos residents.
Since the commencement of the new guidelines and the ban on non-Nigerians travelling from three countries (India, Brazil and Turkey) into Nigeria, Lagos State has recorded 568 in-bound passengers, who have been permitted to enter Nigeria from these 3 countries. We have isolated 433 passengers in our various accredited hotels and facilities; 262 are in Isolation and 154 passengers have been discharged with a negative COVID-19 test. Nine have tested positive to COVID-19 and successfully isolated to prevent community transmission. Of the remaining 135 passengers, 119 have refused isolation and 16 are unaccounted for.
The families of those that have refused to be isolated should appeal to their loved ones to return for testing and isolation. On the 24th of May 2021, the Presidential Steering Committee led by Mr. Boss Mustapha and working together with the COVID-19 response in Lagos State, led by the Incident Commander, the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, published a first list of defaulters of the laid down protocols travelling through the Murtala Mohammed International Airport as it relates to the red listed countries (India, Brazil and Turkey).
All passengers affected should contact the lead of our Case Management Unit, Dr. Abimbola Bowale, on firstname.lastname@example.org who will verify their status. The list of names who may have been mistakenly placed on this list and have been cleared will be sent to the Presidential Steering Committee for removal from the published names.
However, all passengers that have been confirmed absconders will have their passports deactivated for a minimum of 1 year, if Nigerian and if foreign, will have their resident permits cancelled and deported as stated by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19. All absconders will also face the penalties of the Coronavirus Pandemic Law 2021 of Lagos State, including varying lengths of prison time up to one year and fines of up to N500,000. All affected passengers are to present themselves to the Yaba Mainland Hospital for assessment and COVID-19 tests to evaluate their status.
A second list of absconders will be published.
I want to express my profound appreciation to the Incident Commander, Mr. Governor for his continuous support and leadership in the management of the pandemic and not forgetting all the various members of the response that have assisted in managing the situation so far.
Prof. Akin Abayomi
Honourable Commissioner for Health
30th May 2021