Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
As the Coronavirus spread to 28 countries with case fatality rate placed at 2.2 per cent and transmissibility rate at 1.5 to 2.4 per cent, the Chinese government has clarified that no Nigerian in the Wuhan Province, the epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak, is affected by the deadly virus that has ravaged the country.
The Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, while addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, also revealed that a total number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection has climbed to 17, 205, with 21, 558 people suspected to be infected.
This is coming as the Chinese Armed Forces have been deployed in to lead interventions in Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has however, disclosed that isolation facilities for Coronavirus would be sited in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and seven states across the country.
The ambassador stressed that there were 60 Nigerians in Wuhan north and none of them is infected with the virus.
He lamented that some countries have overreacted by denying Chinese visas to their country, saying it is not the best way to tackle the epidemic.
He said: “As of 7.00 a.m, Abuja time today (yesterday) the total number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection climbed to 17,205 and 21,558 people were suspected of being infected with the virus in the Chinese mainland, according to China’s National Health Commission.
“A total of 361 people had died of the disease; 475 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery. These are not numbers. These are lives, families, communities. This is going to be an unforgettable Spring Festival for the Chinese, as families are separated but united to stand together in the of face the disease.”
Pingjian stressed that fighting the spread of the epidemic is a common concern of the international community, adding that China was willing to work with other countries in the world, including Nigeria, to respond to the epidemics actively.
He stressed that China has taken the most comprehensive and rigorous containment and mitigation measures, stressing that there are 60 Nigerians in Wuhan north and none of them is infected with the virus.
The ambassador also assured that the Chinese government was committed to safeguarding the safety and health of the Chinese people, adding that it would also in a responsible manner, safeguard the safety of every foreign national in China, including the Nigerian expatriates and address their legitimate concerns in a timely manner.
Pingjian noted that the Chinese government has kept very smooth communication with foreign embassies in China to keep them abreast on how to contain the virus, while the embassy in Abuja is not sleeping about the virus.
Despite the spread of the virus, he said that the embassy has not stopped issuing visas to those who plan to visit China.
The Chinese government said it was not the first time it is facing such epidemic, adding that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARA) broke out in the country in 2003 and it was contained, while insisting that it has the capability to contain the spread of the virus.
Military Takes over Wuhan
Meanwhile, the Chinese Armed Forces have been deployed in Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak, to help contain the epidemic.
Reports show that there is a combined presence of heavily armed army, navy and air force personnel across major hospitals, highways, borders and other public places across Wuhan city.
Although, the Chinese Military, in its official website, claimed that the military deployment was for the armed forces to deliver emergency medical supplies to the city, it is believed their job is also to ensure total compliance to the lockdown put in place by the government, which ensures no resident or visitor leaves or comes into the highly volatile area.
The Chinese Defence Ministry said: “Upon direct order of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force on Sunday began airlifting 1,400 medical staff as well as 58 tons of medical supplies to Wuhan, located in China’s Hubei province. Many of the military doctors and nurses chosen for the job have experience treating either the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 or Ebola in West Africa in 2014.
“They are to join the 450 military personnel already in the city. The Chinese military also took control of the newly constructed Huoshenshan Hospital on Sunday after it was constructed in less than 10 days. It is expected to open Monday and includes 1,000 beds, intensive care units and sections for diagnosis and infection control,” it added.
The Chinese government has also commenced the construction of a second makeshift hospital in the city, the Leishenshan Hospital, which is expected to be in operation by Wednesday.
Countries so far affected are; Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, Macau, Australia, Hong Kong, United States, France, Vietnam, Canada, UAE, Italy, Russia, Cambodia, Finland, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Finland, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Phillipine which has had one fatality, and of course China.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government, through the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and the Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has on several occasions, stated that the Ports Health Service at airports have been beefed up to detect signs of the virus. It has also asked travellers from China to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days.
In a statement on the NCDC’s website, it said, “NCDC is currently preparing treatment and isolation facilities in the Federal Capital Territory and seven other priority states in Nigeria. They are Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Enugu, Delta, Cross River, and Kano State.
On the risk of the virus coming to Nigeria, NCDC said, “The risk assessment conducted by WHO places the country at High Risk, meaning that there is a high chance of an infected person (traveller) coming into Nigeria. Till date, there is no confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian government is closely monitoring the ongoing novel coronavirus 2019 outbreak which originated in Wuhan, China. A multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group has been established at the NCDC. The Coronavirus Preparedness Group meets daily to carry out regular epidemic intelligence gathering.
“The Port Health Services Division of the Department of Public Health has heightened screening at the ports of entry, especially for travellers with a travel history to China. The NCDC has established a standard case definition for novel coronavirus and circulated it to State Ministries of Health, health facilities and all relevant stakeholders to guide detection and response.”
However, in some countries, even more developed than Nigeria, including Russia, United States, and France, their governments have ensured travellers from China are first quarantined by the government for 14 days before they are asked to integrate in the country they are in. The quarantine, monitored by these governments, is to ensure the travellers adhere to the directive, as this will work more effectively than asking travellers to self-quarantine.
WHO Wants Countries to Heighten Health Security Surveillance
In a related development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to heighten their health security surveillance to be able to quickly detect cases.
To minimise the risk of contracting the disease, WHO has said people should protect themselves and families thus: “Avoid close contact with anyone coughing, sneezing or showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
“Others symptoms of coronavirus includes fever and shortness of breath, severe cases can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and in worse scenarios death.”
“Cook food thoroughly before consumption. Scientists are claiming that animals are the primary host of the coronavirus. Due to this health official recommended cooking meat and animal products like eggs, milk, thoroughly before consumption.
“When visiting markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.”
“Anyone with underlying medical conditions should avoid live animal markets and raw meats together, since those people are “considered at higher risk of severe disease.”
“Do not eat sick animals or those that died from diseases or unknown causes.
“ Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
“If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider.
“Cover mouth and nose if you are the one feeling sick, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and disinfect the objects and surfaces you touch.
“When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands”.