Nigeria may be on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections amid a rising number of confirmed cases in Africa’s most populous country over the last few weeks, the health minister said on Thursday.
Osagie Ehanire, speaking at a televised news conference in the capital Abuja, said 1,843 cases were recorded last week compared with 1,235 two weeks before that, and 1,126 the week before that.
“We may just be on the verge of a second wave of this pandemic,” he said. His comments came a day after South Africa said it had officially entered a second wave.
The health minister said the rise in cases was mostly driven by an increase in infections within communities and, to a lesser extent, by travellers entering Nigeria.
Ehanire, addressing reporters as part of a weekly briefing by Nigeria’s COVID-19 task force, said he had ordered the reopening of all isolation and treatment centres that had been closed due to falling patient numbers.
Nigeria has not been hit as hard as other countries by the pandemic. The country, which has a population of around 200 million people, has had 70,669 confirmed cases which resulted in 1,184 deaths as of Thursday.
Dr Sani Aliyu, coordinator of the task force, said the threat of a second wave could be averted if people observed social distancing measures and avoid the temptation to gather in large groups during the upcoming Christmas period.
“This is clearly a delicate period for the response. We may potentially be heading into an epidemic crisis but there is still time to reverse this trend,” he said.
On Thursday the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention urged rich countries that have ordered more COVID-19 vaccines than they need to consider distributing excess doses to Africa.