Nigeria's number of confirmed COVID-19 infections nearly doubled on Wednesday, to a record of more than 4,000 — the most since the start of the pandemic. Nigerian officials say the jump raises serious concerns and are urging people to stay away from gatherings.The figures were announced as Nigeria destroyed a million doses of coronavirus vaccine that had passed the expiration date.
The latest tally of COVID-19 infections, released early Thursday, nearly doubled the 2,123 cases reported the day before.
Authorities say the spike signals a fourth wave is in full swing and that the omicron variant is responsible.
"The whole genetic makeup of that part of the virus has changed in such a way that has conferred on the virus some advantages," says Ifedayo Adetifa, the head of the Nigeria Centers for Disease Control. "The advantage that has been confirmed so far is that this new variant as a result of those changes is highly transmissible.”
Nigeria has reported over 230,000 cases of the coronavirus since February 2020.
Officials are highly concerned about the current wave. This week, Nigeria's CDC advised citizens against non-essential travel during the holidays in order to curb the disease's spread.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday Nigerian authorities destroyed over one million doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccine at a public gathering in Abuja. The expired vaccine is the most to be destroyed by any nation.
At the event, the director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria had used about 60% of the vaccine from the expired batch before it went bad.
He said even though Nigeria's vaccination campaign has gained traction in the past two weeks, the country needs to move past myths and disinformation to protect more people from the new variant.
"Now that we have over 10 million Nigerians that have been vaccinated, there is ample evidence that these vaccines do not cause you die immediately after you take them. These vaccines don't make you magnetic, these vaccines don't make you become a robot, these vaccines do not do all of the crazy things they say happen to you because you have taken the vaccines,” said Shuaib.
In early December, Nigerian authorities began administering booster shots to stem the spread of the omicron variant.
This week, President Muhammadu Buhari received a booster shot during a televised session in order to encourage citizens to participate in the exercise.