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Awareness on new COVID-19 variant at risk as Twitter ban persists

From Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and now, the new, highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 is becoming active and driving Nigeria’s daily recorded cases to triple digits as against two figures seen in the last two weeks of June.

There has been steady rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 with six states and the Federal Capital Territory placed on red alert by the government. As of July 18, a total of 169, 532 cases have been confirmed, and 203 cases of infections were recorded on Sunday. The chart revealed that Lagos top the list with 186 cases followed by Edo (4).

Part of the strategies deployed by the Federal Government to keep her citizens abreast of the situation and control the spread of the novel virus was aggressive public enlightenment and non-pharmaceutical such as masks, social distancing and lockdowns.

Read Also: Concern in Ogun over 15 new cases of Delta variant of COVID-19

This was achieved through various social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, which are the go-to applications for sharing and receiving information.

However, Twitter, which was instrumental to providing reliable updates on COVID-19 through the nation’s disease control agency handle, has entered 45 days of indefinite suspension by the government.

As of Monday, July 19, a close look at the page of the  Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that there are 1.1million and 2.5million followers on Twitter and Facebook respectively.

“I know other social media networking aren’t banned but trimming channels of information to Nigerians isn’t the right thing to do, particularly now that the new, so-called deadly COVID-19 variant is increasing in numbers in the country,” says   a twitter user who didn’t want his name mentioned.

Another tweet, Enahoro Iyemefokhai, said the ban on Twitter usage has negatively affected his access to COVID-19 information, especially daily update of confirmed cases of the pandemic, deaths and recovery.

“Twitter used to be my regular social media platform to access information about the pandemic. Before now, I switched on notifications on NCDC and other accounts to alert me on health information update but the ban on the application has forced me to resort to other social media platforms like facebook which I wasn’t used to and I’m finding it difficult to follow situation reports  as regards COVID-19”, he said.

Andrew Obi, Edo State COVID-19 incident manager, said they have improved response in terms of risk communications, noting that “the ban on Twitter is a blow to the entire thing but we also have other social media platforms. We are also engaging them on facebook and others to ensure people are continually sensitized.

“The Federal Government knows what is best and I believe they are acting in the best interest of the nation. But, I also want to believe that whatever differences they have will be resolved quickly because it is a very useful social media platform to sensitize our people, especially with regard to health information like COVID-19.

“I think it is something we need to quickly resolve. Even the NCDC update also come through Twitter.

On the level of preparedness, he said Edo State, with its well-coordinated response and case management team, is ready to curtail the third wave.

Obi emphasized that early detection is key to curtailing COVID-19 as the complications will not be severe and there will be reduced mortality.

“Edo State has not confirmed that it has a Delta variant but we had four positive cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, precisely on Saturday. Our strategies are clear, and one of them is to continue to sensitize people wether we have Delta variant or not, the treatment protocol has not changed.

“We want to encourage our people to continue to observe and comply with the non-pharmaceutical interventions such as compulsory use of face masks, physical distancing, hand washing practice and vaccination. These are four critical interventions and if we do the needful in that regard, we will be able to curtail the outbreak,” he said.


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