Nigeria may be on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the health minister warned on Thursday, as another official said the country expects to roll out a vaccine by April next year.
Osagie Ehanire, speaking at a news conference in the capital Abuja, said 1,843 cases were recorded last week compared with 1,235 two weeks 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.
Ehanire, in a weekly briefing by Nigeria’s COVID-19 task force, said the rise in cases was mostly driven by an increase in infections within communities and, to a lesser extent, by travelers entering Nigeria.
He said he had ordered the reopening of all isolation and treatment centers that had been closed due to falling patient numbers.
Nigeria, with a population of around 200 million people, has had 70,669 confirmed cases which resulted in 1,184 deaths as of Thursday.
Looking ahead to a vaccine, Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said Nigeria planned to access one through the Covax initiative backed by the World Health Organization.
“We are on course to access safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines in the first quarter of 2021,” he said.
The health minister later in the briefing said Nigeria hoped to start with at least 20 million doses from the Covax facility, initially covering healthcare workers and vulnerable people who would be most at risk if infected, such as the elderly.
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. (Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Pullin)