Calling for lockdown without enforcement is a mere charade – Dr. Dayo Faduyile.
– Steve Ovirih.
Dr. Francis Adedayo Faduyile is the immediate past President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). His tenure witnessed the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus pandemic and he was at the forefront of the battle to curb the spread of the virus in Nigeria for the better part of 2020.
In this interview session with Steve Ovirih, the Consultant in Forensic Medicine and an academic at Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) bared his mind on the challenges of the new strain of Coronavirus among other issues pertaining to the resurgence of the pandemic in Nigeria.
Thepolity : As the immediate past NMA President, you were at the forefront of the battle to curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic last year. What’s the new strain of COVID- 19 about?
Dr. Faduyile : The new strain of COVID -19 is a mutation from the first strain which was novel Coronavirus that came and the new strain has been seen in two different parts of the world, South Africa and United Kingdom. I must say that the new strains were gotten when sequencing was done. I mean repeated sequencing of the virus among the infected and that means in some countries where the sequencing are not done , there could be other strains. This is not new in Medicine; any time we have a new infection, we tend to have mutation quite often because it’s not very stable. It’s this mutation that can either make the virulence more worst or it can actually cause it to be less virulent. What we have seen in this new strain is that it causes more virulent symptoms and the rate of transmission is much more higher than the old one that was ravaging the world. I can tell you in countries where they have done the sequencing, they have found the UK mutant COVID – 19 , several States in The US have also had the variant. If you follow the trajectory of the mutation in The UK, we have seen more of the mutated ones being the one causing the second wave.
Thepolity: If the new strain of the virus from the UK causes more serious illness, what measures do you think government can put in place now to curb the spread of this new strain of the virus?
Dr. Faduyile: We really need to redouble our efforts to make sure we are able to contain this new strain . What we expected the government to do was to be bold enough to stop people bringing this new strain into the country but unfortunately , we have lost the golden opportunity. I can tell you by the end of the festivities, a lot of Nigerians who have gone outside the country to celebrate Yuletide would come back unhindered and many of them perhaps would be coming back with this new strain; so , the effort that the government can put in place to curb the spread of this new strain is like the effort we were able to muster in the past in the time of the novel Coronavirus, that is adhering to the safety protocols of washing your hands in running water regularly with soap, use of alcohol based sanitizer, putting on our face mask to cover the nose and the mouth at all times. I have seen a lot of people who hang the face mask on their cheek. That’s the greatest disservice they can do to themselves and the populace. The face mask must be worn to cover the nose and the mouth at all times. We need to ensure we observe physical distancing of between 1 to 2 meters or more when talking or moving. It must be observed particularly in market places , places of worship and events or ceremonies. In all these places , physical distancing
must be adequately maintained and we must observe social distancing as well. We should guide against touching objects generally and touching our faces when we have not washed our hands. Individually, if we follow these guidelines , we can guide against the spread of this second strain of Coronavirus.
Thepolity: Can we conveniently say the variant seen in the UK is the same as the one in Nigeria? Is the P681H variant possible to contribute to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria?
Dr. Faduyile : I think we can say that the new strain is in Nigeria. Although, I am not aware if they have done the sequencing in Nigeria; I think they have, I am not sure. However, the new strain that we have seen or the type of those infected in recent time had changed from the elderly; now we have seen younger people being infected too and also the virulence has increased. These are the characteristics of the new strain of the virus. I believe that the new strain either from the United Kingdom or South Africa must have already been in Nigeria. But I am yet to scientifically ascertain if the sequencing has been done in Nigeria. With the presentation we are seeing so far , I am very positive that it is in Nigeria and we are now seeing a resurgence and increase in the number of those already infected. In the past few weeks , we have seen very high rate of people positive with COVID -19 as a result of the new strain in this country.
Thepolity: Is government’s effort in analysing more samples adequate?
Dr. Faduyile: The government is not doing enough. It is expected that government starts adequate Community testing . We are still doing more of syndromic testing and it’s unfortunate because it is only in the course of community testing that we can identify those who are positive and have them isolated and they can curb the transmission of the virus. But once you are not doing Community testing and those already infected are freely moving around, it means they can actually be disseminating this infection to everyone they would have contact with. The important thing we expect from the government is to ramp up the testing exercise. Again, in treating those who are positive, we require government to provide amenities for those already infected. For instance, in some hospitals , the government doesn’t provide the facility of a pipe borne water and this is a sinequanon to a good management of the health challenge. In many of our hospitals, they still put water in buckets and some kind of container and as you can see, this is risky for people. Also, oxygen is not readily available . I learnt Government has directed every state to have an oxygen plant. It’s very important otherwise, a lot patients who may likely survive will die at the height of the infection. They needed oxygen for them to be able to scale through . Again, Community awareness and education on the dangers of the new strain is very poor amongst the community. A lot of people still think there is nothing like COVID-19 and that’s is just a farce. We need government to really let the people understand the severity of this infection and have the awareness that covid 19 new strain is real and it’s already with us so that everyone can begin to take all the necessary precautions. These are the things that I think government should put in place: get more testing , get more samples, get more ways of treating people very well and improve the channels of information dissemination to guide against this infection from spreading virulently.
Thepolity: COVID- 19 Vaccines, how safe are they considering the fact that trials were not carried out in Nigeria?
Dr. Faduyile: Well, for the vaccine, we may not necessarily need to have our own trials in Nigeria but I want to remind you that sometime ago, they said they wanted to do multi nation trials of one of the vaccines and Nigerians were included. There are people who are like us ; any of the Negroid can also stand in for an average Nigerian . Many of the tests have been carried out on different ethnic groups, although we have seen that the severity of the cases of the infected is not as that of the cases in Europe or in the Americas and that is good. So, why it is important that we do our own trials, I think the more important thing is to think about safety. Safety has been established wherever these vaccines have been made. So. I think Nigerians can also benefit from the use of the vaccine and anybody who wants to do research on it can continue from there. We really need to protect ourselves as far as the virus is concerned.
Thepolity: As a Medical expert, will you support the National Identification Number (NIN) registration drive during this period of the second strain?
Dr. Faduyile : Thank you Steve. You see, on NIN , we really need to look at the cost and the benefit: the cost is this pandemic which I think we need to be extra careful about so that we do not spread it. As you can see any gathering and clustering together of people is a veritable super spreader of the pandemic. But the benefit is about security to ensure that every number is accountable for and can be traced and I think it is unfortunate that Nigerians do not carry out their responsibilities as and when due. If they do, a lot of us should have gotten this registration done over two years ago . I think government can find a way to control the crowd and get more centers to do the registration and quickly improve the security in this country which I think is one of the major challenges in the society as we see them.
Thepolity: Finally, Dr. Faduyile, a lot of opinion has been canvassed against another lockdown because of the precarious situation of the nation’s economy. Right now, COVID-19 in Nigeria is on the basis of 52% increase. Would you suggest another regime of lockdown to curb the spread of the new strain of the virus?
Dr. Faduyile : Another lockdown? Well it’s neither here nor there. We have to also look at the cost and the benefit of such decision. The cost of the lockdown means economy will shutdown again and Nigeria’s economy is in dire strait, a very prostrate situation now and can we actually survive another lockdown? I think that is left for the Economists. If we want to look at it from Public Health , calling for lockdown without enforcement is just going to be another charade and even before you call for lockdown, you need to have some condition precedent ; how are people going to eat? Those in the non- formal sector, how are they going to eke out a living? If all these conditions are not factored, ordering a lockdown will not have any effect especially when people are not in tune with the government that there is COVID- 19 in the community. So, I think a lot need to be done if government wants to call for another lockdown. The first thing we need to do is for government to ensure that all known pharmaceutical measures are followed adequately. It’s when we do that and we still cannot control this infection that we should be thinking of lockdown.
Thepolity: Thank you so very much for your time sir.
Dr. Faduyile: Thanks for asking these germane questions and I wish us all a great year ahead and I want to strongly advise that we should all stay safe.