Covid-19 infection in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, is now in the 6th wave, and the state is set to open the Infectious Diseases Research Institute in two months to enhance its bio-capacity to track the virus, Akin Abayomi, Lagos commissioner for Health confirmed on Wednesday.
The commissioner said the infections, which will keep swinging high and low until it dies out, have nudged the authority to embark on elaborate preparations to flatten the curve, ensuring the number of people presenting cases is very low.
“Hopefully, we should break ground in the next two months and this will become a platform where scientists from across the world can carry out elaborate collaboration and research looking for how the pandemic will in the future affect Lagos population,” the commissioner said speaking during 8th African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity in Lagos.
The planned structure will be powered by a renewable energy component, a central ventilation escape mechanism, and sophisticated infrastructure, he added.
In addition, the state is developing a molecular biology sequencing suite to determine variants of Covid-19 or any other pathogen in order to gather quick genomic intelligence for appropriate response.
Work is also ongoing to strengthen the capacity of the Lagos State Biobank to carry out more molecular tests and develop some of its reagents and consumables.
The state is worried that its fast-expanding population could make it vulnerable to biological shocks such as Covid-19 and Ebola, in an era when threats also rise from the laboratory of scientists who have the capability to change and modify pathogens or other living organisms.
With data from the Lagos Bureau of Statistics showing that the population is now approaching 30 million from 25 million in 2015, Abayomi said the government has to prepare for the footprint that the population will exert on the ecosystem of the city.
Moreover, global warnings already predict that as Africa’s population quadruples in the next 50 years, it will be a continent of megacities with major health toxicity and biosecurity threats.
As a result, Lagos is exploring multiple mitigation options including the introduction of the Lagos State Bio-Security Governance Council to ensure preparation for biological shocks
The council is expected to work in line with global treaties including the Biological Weapons Convention, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, and the Global Health Security Agenda. It will also align with the International Health Regulation and the Practice of Veterinary Sciences, and the One Health Agenda.
According to Ideki Matsuno, representative of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, infectious diseases have the ability to cause staggering global impacts. And if the deliberate use of disease as a weapon were to happen, it could trigger an even more severe global crisis with widespread security implications.
The inter-governmental tools for the security side are less known but essential.
“The biological weapons convention is the first international treaty that outlaws an entire class of weapons of mass destruction and the UN Security Council resolution 1540 is aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction,” Matsuno said.
Highlighting the economic shocks that could arise without a well-structured system to mitigate epidemiological threats in the future, Richard Munang, deputy director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Africa said losses to the global economy were over $700 billion in capital availability and $6 trillion in trade opportunities in just one year.
Africa endured up to 50 percent loss of jobs and 40 million more people slipped into extreme poverty.
“But had the contamination been contained at source at its nearest provincial border, if we had been better prepared with a more contextual response, the risk and liability would have been much less.”