Coronavirus Not Yet a Pandemic, Says WHO


•House kicks against evacuation of Nigerians from China
•No request for evacuation of Nigerians, insists Chinese govt

Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos with agency reports

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday stated that the outbreak of the deadly Novel Coronavirus, which has spread from China to two dozen countries, does not yet constitute a pandemic.

This is coming as the House of Representatives yesterday kicked against the evacuation of stranded Nigerians in Wuhan Province, China, the epicentre of Coronavirus.
Head of WHO’s Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness division, Sylvie Briand, told reporters in Geneva, that “Currently we are not in a pandemic.”

According to her, “We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci.”
The disease has killed more than 425 people and infected a further 20,000 in China, mostly at central Hubei province.
It has spread to about 12 countries since it emerged in December.

But Briand said that while there is the rapid spread of transmission in Hubei, outside the province there are mainly “spillover cases” with sporadic clusters of transmission.
“In these other places in China, the strategy currently is to stop transmission,” she said, adding that the same was true for affected countries outside of China.

“We would like to make sure that we don’t have a second Hubei type of scenario,” she said.
Authorities in China have taken dramatic measures to halt transmission, while other affected countries have put in place steps to rein in the spread.

While insisting that wearing mask is not enough, Briand added: “Countries are implementing early case detection, early isolation and treatment of patients, contact tracing to make sure they identify very early contacts that become symptomatic.
“We hope that based on … measures in Hubei but also in other places where we have had spillover, we can stop transmission and get rid of this virus,” she said.

According to her, people wearing masks but not taking other precautions like frequently washing their hands could have a false sense of security.

“Masks alone are not enough. It is a package of measures that you have to put in place,” she said., adding: “If people use the entire package, it is fine. If they just use masks, I think it is not enough.”

She acknowledged that halting the spread of the new pneumonia-like virus would be challenging, adding that “I am not saying it is easy, but … we believe that it can be done,” she said.
The respiratory disease spreads through droplets, for instance when people sneeze or cough, or likely through direct contact with infected people or with objects they have touched.

Briand, however, said it remained unclear how long the virus could linger on an object.
She stressed the need for frequent hand-washing to protect against transmission.
“To stop transmission of this virus, it is very important that sick people wear masks” to avoid infecting others, she said, adding though the benefits of healthy people wearing masks as a precautionary measure were less clear”.

House Kicks Against Evacuation of Nigerians from China

Meanwhile, a mild drama played out on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday when the lawmakers vehemently kicked against the evacuation of stranded Nigerians in Wuhan Province, China, the epicentre of Coronavirus.

The Chinese government had on Monday said that no Nigerian in the Wuhan Province, was affected by the deadly virus that has ravaged the country.

But at the resumed plenary, a motion titled: “The urgent need to quarantine and evacuate Nigerians stranded in Wuhan, China,” was moved by Hon. Ben Kalu.
Immediately Kalu moved the motion, the lawmakers started grumbling, which forced the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, to ask him to read the title of the motion again.

Kalu said, “The motion is on the urgent need to quarantine and evacuate stranded Nigerians in Wuhan.”
After reading it, the Speaker said that Kalu had managed to confuse the members, saying, “your intention was to said evacuate and quarantine.”

Even though the Speaker pleaded with his colleagues to hear what the prayers of the motion are, the lawamkers kicked against it without a blink of an eye.

Hon. Nicholas Ossai, said China has a better facility than Nigeria.
The bill was finally stepped down as the lawmakers voted against the adoption of the bill.
Meanwhile, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has denied receiving any letter from Nigerians in Wuhan demanding immediate evacuation.

NIDCOM’s Head of Media and Public Relations, Mr. Abdur-Rahman Balogun, in a statement issued yesterday said that the commission is in constant touch with Nigerians in Wuhan.

He stated: “Our attention has been drawn to a statement on various social media platforms allegedly from the Nigerians in the Diaspora organisation (East China) claiming it had written a letter to Nigerians in Diaspora Commission requesting to be evacuated in the face of the dreaded coronavirus ravaging the people living in China.

“We must say, however, that NIDCOM did not receive any correspondence from NIDO East China but saw it on different social media outlets. However, we have been in constant touch with Nigerian Students Association in Wuhan (NSAW) whose President is Okoye Chiamaka and Vandi Kamaunji (Secretary General), several Nigerians resident in China as well as our Mission in Beijing.
“All communication and suggestions we have received so far have been forwarded to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who will take appropriate decisions.”

He assured that NIDCOM would continue to coordinate with the Ministry and the mission in Beijing as it awaits further instructions as directed by the Minister in this particular situation.

No Request for Evacuation of Nigerians, China Insists

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pinjiang has said that 65 Nigerians living in Wuhan, the centre of Coronavirus, have not made any request to be evacuated from the city.

Speaking yesterday with some editors in Abuja, he also disclosed that the sudden closure of a Chinese supermarket in Abuja last week by officials of the Federal Government of Nigeria has nothing to do with the coronavirus but with some trade practices of the shop.

The supermarket known as Panda and located in the Jabi District of Abuja was shut by operatives of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, which said the action was taken as a precautionary measure in the wake of the spreading virus.
Pinjiang also disclosed that Nigeria’s trade volume with China has hit $19.2 billion.

He explained that the decision to shut the shop had nothing whatsoever to do with coronavirus, which he said was preventable, curable and controllable and should not cause unnecessary panic but requires proactive and concerted efforts.

The ambassador said he had made contact with the Nigerian Ambassador to China as to whether there was any request for evacuation, saying there was none as at the close of work on Monday.