Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said that the federal government will not stop Nigerians from travelling to China or any other country where coronavirus has manifested.
He said that the country was not considering any move to advise its citizens to leave China on account of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The minister, who spoke to journalists shortly after the meeting of the inter ministerial and multi sectoral committee on coronavirus held at the Ministry of Health, Abuja on Friday, said that rather than impose travel ban, there will be travel advisory that will help Nigerians who wish to visit China to do so without any encumbrances to their health and wellbeing.
Against the background of the recent decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring coronavirus a global public health emergency, Mohammed said his ministry will mobilise all public communication platform at the government’s disposal to ensure massive sensitization of the Nigerian public on safety practices.
When asked whether the federal government will be considering issuing travel restrictions on Nigerians going to China, the minister said: “No, I think that what we will do is to give travel advisory and advise people that except it is very essential, that they should avoid such trips.”
He said it will be too difficult to stop people from travelling to places of their choice.
The minister said that the international community has shown its confidence in the ability of Nigeria to handle the health challenge posed by coronavirus, adding that the country’s performance during the Ebola fever is still a reference point.
Speaking at the end of the inaugural meeting of the committee, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said that a committee has been set up to develop an action plan to drive government’s intervention.
He also said that the federal government has approved the sum of N71 million requested by the ministry to improve the services of the Port Health Services.
While inaugurating the committee, Ehanire said the number of deaths so far recorded from the virus disease is 213.
Quoting figures from WHO, the minister said that 9,700 persons have been confirmed infected in China alone, while there are 100 cases in other countries.
He also disclosed that the Ivorian woman earlier quarantined on suspicion of being infected by coronavirus has tested negative and been set free.
The minister, who stated this at the inauguration of an inter ministerial and multi sectoral committee to oversee the national response to prevent importation of coronavirus assured Nigerians that government was taking adequate measures to address the challenges posed by the virus which first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The coronavirus committee is made up of several line ministries, including Health, Aviation, Transport, Information and Culture, Police Affairs, Internal Affairs, Agriculture and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Also, the committee involves various government agencies and parastatals as well as state governors where international airports are located, Lagos, Enugu, Rivers and Kano.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ehanire said the committee will help to map out strategies to prevent the importation of coronavirus into the country.
He said with the declaration of coronavirus as a major public health emergency by WHO, government has decided to further step up action to protect Nigerians from the disease.
While urging members of the committee to work together to achieve positive result, Ehanire cautioned that coronavirus has the capacity to spread fast and overwhelm communities’ health facilities and cause havoc.