Nigeria lost 405 persons to coronavirus in the last two months, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 said on Monday.
Seventy-five health workers were infected last week, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The Federal Government said seven cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 have been identified in the country.
It described Kogi State, whose Governor Yahaya Bello denies the existence of the virus, as a “high-risk state.”
It also listed 22 high-burden council areas, some of them in Lagos State, and hinted of a likely suspension of flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and The Netherlands.
PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, said the fatality rate is 34 per cent higher.
According to him, COVID-19-related deaths increased from 1,173 as at last November 29 to 1,578 on January 31.
The SGF spoke during a sensitisation meeting on COVID-19 vaccine introduction with leaders of the Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN) and scholars in Abuja.
He said: “The global infections have exceeded 100 million, while fatalities have also crossed the two million mark.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria, like the rest of the world, is now experiencing a more virulent second wave, which has increased the number of COVID-19 related deaths from 1,173 on November 29, 2020, to 1,578 on January 31, 2021, an increase of 34 per cent.
“The number of infections has also grown, tremendously.”
Mustapha said the arrival of vaccines has, however, given hope to humanity, adding that the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) will not be discarded.
He said from now on, the national response strategy would be a combination of the NPIs and the vaccines.
“I wish to make it abundantly clear that nobody is safe around the world until everyone is vaccinated,” Mustapha said.
He noted a lack of compliance with the NPIs even among church leaders and the very low testing, which limits detection
The Federal Government said the Africa Centre for Excellence in Genomics in Ede, identified five new COVID-19 variants in Osun, one in Kwara and one in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The government urged health workers to increase their index of suspicion for COVID-19, as the new variant has been identified with the increased transmission.
NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, speaking during the PTF briefing in Abuja, said: “We are all aware that there is increasing transmission and this virus is adapting all the time.
“We are working very hard with my colleagues to get access to the vaccines because if we don’t, the virus keeps circulating, mutating and potentially getting better adapted to (PTF) the environment and its ability to transmit.
“The fact that we are finding the variant is not surprising because it is found in more than 50 countries around the world. As countries look for this, they will find them because people travel and viruses travel with people as they travel.”
Ihekweazu noted that some health workers, particularly doctors and nurses, were found not to be wearing their face mask within the hospital premises.
He urged them to be an example to Nigerians by complying with the protocols.
He said: “We are gradually experiencing an increase in the number of deaths. These are tragic circumstances.
“Everything we are doing in the response is really about preventing severe cases and death. This is what we are most worried about.”
The Federal Government is considering flight suspension from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and The Netherlands.
The decision, according to the PTF, is due to the new COVID-19 protocols introduced by both countries for travellers.
The two countries recently asked passengers from Nigeria to do a PCR test four hours before departing.
Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, who spoke during the PTF briefing, said: “For us, passengers do the test 72 hours before departure and then the PCR test.
“The PTF recognises the right of all countries to put in measures to protect their citizens just like Nigeria has done.
“However, these countries and airlines cannot determine for Nigeria who to approve or how these test will be done. We are going to be discussing with these airlines and these countries.
“If they insist on having these additional tests being done, then the PTF has decided that their operations will be suspended into Nigeria until the time the PTF puts in a structure and deals with the logistics on how this second test can be done successfully within four hours before departure to these two countries.”
Nuhu said the procurement process to have the test done at the airports has begun.
He said: “The PTF has started the procurement process of who will be allowed to do the test at the airports and there is a shortlist of four or five companies.
“So, this process will be brought to conclusion to select the laboratories who will carry out the tests at both Lagos and Abuja airports.”
He said airlines that flouted the COVID-19 protocols have been sanctioned, adding that a comprehensive list would be out soon.
No fewer than 57 million doses of vaccines from various makers are expected in the country in batches, beging from this month.
Over 50 million Nigerians are to be vaccinated this year.
Kogi named high-risk state
The PTF named Kogi as a COVID-19 high-risk state for not testing or reporting testing results at all.
Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has repeatedly questioned the existence of COVID-19 in his state.
PTF National Incident Manager, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, ranked Kogi highest among the high-risk states for not reporting data on testing and analysis.
Besides Kogi, he named Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara and Kebbi as the others.
“We have states where data is not coming forth. If we don’t test, your data will not be analysed and if your data is not analysed we won’t know the level of the pandemic in your state.
“Notable among the states that have not been reporting adequately are Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi and of course Kogi that has not been reporting at all.
“States that are not testing are probably at much higher risk than the states that are currently known as high burdened states.
“A state that is not testing at all is an absolute high risk for Nigerians to go there because, there is no testing facility and even if you fall sick, there is no isolation centre and they don’t even acknowledge that the disease exists.
“So for that reason, epidemiologically, we put that state at the top of high-risk state,” Muhammad said.
Eti- Osa, Kosofe, Ikeja among 22 high-burden Council areas.
He also revealed that the PTF’s analysis of the spread of the virus indicated that 22 council areas in 13 states have been identified as high-burden.
The areas host of about 95 per cent of the total number of new cases discovered in the last six weeks.
Muhammad gave the names of the locations.
He said: “The PTF has analysed the epidemic in the country and we have identified 22 high-burden local government areas located within 13 states.
“These local government areas, which are mostly in the cities or in the state capitals, contribute over 95 per cent of the epidemic, particularly new cases in the country.
“The states and local governments are Nkanu West (Enugu); Abuja Municipal (FCT), Gwagwalada FCT, Gombe (Gombe); Chikun (Kaduna), Kaduna North, Kaduna South; Nassarawa (Kano), Katsina (Katsina), Ilorin South (Kwara), Ilorin West (Kwara), Eti-Osa (Lagos), Ikeja (Lagos), Kosofe (Lagos), Lagos Mainland (Lagos), Keffi (Nasarawa), (Lafia), Nasarawa, Ibadan North (Oyo), Jos North (Plateau), Jos South (Plateau), Port-Harcourt, (Rivers) and Wamako (Sokoto).”
On the new COVID-19 Regulations signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, and the plan for enforcement and compliance, the National Incident Manager said the PTF was working to provide support to the states.
“As mentioned earlier, the regulation covers places of worship, public transport, banks, workplaces, sports and so on.
“Notable features of the regulations include Restrictions on gatherings, mandatory wearing face masks in public and above all the powers of prosecution by law enforcement agencies.
“We expect governments, institutions, owners of private buildings and other regulators to enforce these regulations.
“For example, putting a notice of no mask no entry or no mask no service, to enlighten the users of your services.
Pertinent strategies will be adopted and they will include mobile court on strategic locations such as markers, motor parks and it is expected that every law enforcement agencies will monitor complaints or their staff within which they supervise.
“We are providing advisory to the states to develop community engagement strategy and risk communication strategies to sensitize the public on compliance with these regulations and to promote behavioural changes.
“Last week we started with the FCT, where we had a very fruitful meeting with the Minister and the stakeholders of the FCT.
“We are currently developing the implementation plan and the timeline for which the FCT Taskforce will commence operations all over the FCT,” he said.