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Lagos may soon experience fifth COVID wave – Health Commissioner

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Akin Abayomi, commissioner of health, Lagos state on Tuesday said the state, which is the epicentre of COVID-19 may soon experience a fifth wave of the pandemic.

Abayomi explained that recent emergence of more transmissible variants in some parts of the world, rising political gatherings, return of citizens from war-torn Ukraine and as the festive period draws near, are factors that could push the state into another wave, while noting that Hong Kong is already experiencing a devastating fifth wave.

The commissioner noted that the high population density of Lagos state and poor sanitation practice makes it easy for the virus to spread faster.

Abayomi said this at the Annual Health Security Policy and Financing Forum with the theme “Exemplary Health Security Policy and Financing Reforms at the Sub-national Level” organised under the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI)-funded Prevent Epidemics (PE) project being implemented by Legislative Initiative for Sustainable Development (LISDEL) in Abuja.

Abayomi disclosed that during the first wave of the pandemic, a quarter of the Lagos population numbering up to 5 million were infected with the virus, but said the state had to downplay the figure to 500,000 after consultations in order not to cause panic. This, according to him, helped to manage the pandemic.

He also informed that subsequent waves saw millions of Lagosians infected with the virus and health centres were almost overwhelmed.

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“We are expecting a fifth wave in Lagos state, we don’t know what it will be, but we are waiting for it. We are hearing of new variants coming out of Hong, the B.A.2 which is even more contagious. Omicron went through Lagos like wildfire, we don’t know what the new variants are going to do. We have to again be careful about our ports of entry, we need to keep up the vaccination so that when a new wave comes, it won’t make people sick. We have survived four waves, except if the new wave is lethal,” the Commissioner said.

On how the state managed the pandemic, the commissioner said Lagos government built an economy around COVID such that people changed their businesses to covid response. He said, “We privatised it and it generated a lot of income which drove the response. We did not take money from the health budget to manage the pandemic and there was no collateral damage, other health challenges did not suffer during our response to the pandemic.”

He added that improved sanitation, strong policy and guidelines, and political will are key to developing a strong public health system.

Moving on, Abayomi said Lagos state will learn to live with COVID, but pointed out that the process is a double-edged sword in which citizens would need to follow the guidelines and the government fulfil their obligations.

Lanre Tejuoso, president, LISDEL in his opening remarks, informed that the essence of the forum is to appraise progress Nigeria has made in addressing health security challenges through Policy and financing landscape reforms especially at the Sub-national level.

While some progress has been recorded in strengthening preparedness and capacity to manage disease outbreak especially in the area of budgetary allocation, the president however said much still needs to be done.

He stressed that the world is still under threat of emerging diseases , and the outbreak of covid reinforces the need for strong public health financing and better preparedness.