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‘Why entire country should be on red alert for COVID-19 third wave’

By Chukwuma Muanya and Ijeoma Thomas-Odia |   20 July 2021   |   4:18 am  

Prof. Oyewale Tomori

People living with HIV more vulnerable, says UNAIDS
A virologist and chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, has faulted calls by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC) that six states and Abuja should be placed on red alert following the impending third wave of the pandemic in the country and confirmation of the Delta variant of the disease.

The chairman of PSC and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, had said that given the confirmation of the Delta variant, the rising number of infections and hospitalisations in the country, Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been put on red alert as part of preventive measures against a third wave.

But Tomori, who is also the pioneer vice chancellor of Redeemer’s University and a consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO), said: “This proclamation and red alert is the typical short sightedness and failure to be proactive. COVID-19 goes where we take it – from Ikotun Egbe in Lagos to Oba in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State.

“The entire country should be on alert. After the Sallah holidays and the recent burials that violated all Non Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), celebrants who may have asymptomatically harboured the virus before and after will travel and return to different destinations. PSC is basing its decision of the faulty towers of poor uncoordinated testing in the country. I say declare Nigeria at the reddest alert, and not some states!”

A new report from UNAIDS Global AIDS update 2021, meanwhile, has highlighted evidence that people living with HIV are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and that widening inequalities are preventing them from accessing COVID-19 vaccines and HIV services.

According to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Ms Winnie Byanyima, the report shows how COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions have badly disrupted HIV testing and, in many countries, this has led to steep drops in HIV diagnoses, referrals to care services and treatment initiations.

The report, ‘Confronting inequalities: Lessons for pandemic responses from 40 years of AIDS’, notes that in 2020, 1.5 million new HIV infections were predominantly among key populations and their sexual partners. Furthermore, people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men and other men who have sex with men, and the sexual partners of these key populations, accounted for 65 per cent of HIV infections globally in 2020.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, remarked that Nigeria’s rapid mobilisation against COVID-19 is a remarkable lesson that needs to continue to politically mobilise and address social injustices and inequalities in order to end AIDS and change the paradigm for people infected and affected by HIV in the country.

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