Nigeria puts six states on ‘red alert’ over virus fears

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Health workers wait to take a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Cacovid isolation centre, Mainland, Infectious disease hospital, Yaba, in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo by: Emmanuel Osodi/Majority World/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Nigeria has put six states and its capital on “red alert” over rising coronavirus cases, the government said late on Saturday, urging caution ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Last week, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said it had detected the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, putting officials on alert for a third pandemic wave.

“The Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19 (PSC), has put six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on red alert as part of the preventive measures against a third wave of the pandemic,” Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha said in a statement.

The states concerned are Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and the FCT.

Lagos, the country’s commercial capital, has been the epicentre of Nigeria’s outbreak, accounting for more than a third of the nationwide total.
Spokesman for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Willy Bassey told AFP that “red alert” meant that states should “fully deploy all Covid-19 prevention and containment measures in place” and intensify “testing, identification, treatment and isolation of infected persons.”

But the presidential steering committee added in its statement that “all states… should heighten their state of preparedness and continue to enforce all protocols put in place.”

“These steps are critical as we begin to see worrisome early signs of increasing cases in Nigeria,” Mustapha said.

With Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha next week, also called Eid el-Kabir in Nigeria, the government recommended that prayers be held outdoors and that indoor gatherings should be limited.

It also recommended the suspension of the traditional Durbar festival showcasing horse riding displays.

Last month, Nigeria barred passengers who are not citizens or permanent residents from entering the country if they have been in South Africa in the past 14 days over coronavirus concerns.

The decision followed similar restrictions imposed on travellers coming from Brazil, India and Turkey.

Nigeria started inoculating its population in March with four million doses.

More vaccines are expected to be received next month.

Africa’s most populous country, with 210 million residents, has officially recorded around 169,000 cases and 2,126 deaths from Covid-19, but the real figures are believed to be much higher, in part because of low testing rates.

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