Coronavirus: Nigerians Panic as Lagos Scouts for Persons in Contact with Italian

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By Martins Ifijeh

Following the confirmation of a case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Lagos State Friday, Nigerians have expressed fears over the nature of spread of the disease, especially since the index case had contacts with some people in Lagos and Ogun State.

This is even as the virus has so far killed 2,873 persons, infected 83,654, and affected 47 countries, including Algeria and Egypt in Africa.

A Lagos resident and dentist, Tijani Kolawole, said although Lagos was one of the most technologically advanced state in the country, its population may play a role in the wild spread of the virus.

“My only concern is that the index case may have had contact with people, who may in turn spread it to others. Have you noticed how we clump ourselves into buses, Nigerians normally do not respect personal space, and it is a fast way to spread diseases like this. And compared with the heat, it will be easy to transmit this virus from human to human.”

An Uber driver, Joel Ugo, said with the level of spread of the virus, he may start wearing gloves and masks while plying his trade, noting that he was still presently shaken by the case in the country.

He said: “I can only hope it stops with the man that has been quarantined.”

A former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, called on Nigerians to be united as that was the only way to fight the outbreak.

In a message on his Twitter account, @realFFK, said: “Let us put our differences aside and stand as one to fight this evil plague called coronavirus that has afflicted our shores.

“The federal government must be proactive and we must do our part and pray. May God defend our people and protect our shores,” he said.

Another Twitter user, Victor Babatunde (@vhic_tore) called on Nigerians to stop making funny tweets about the outbreak, saying it was an important issue.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State government said it had commenced tracing of persons who have been in contact with the index confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.

In a press briefing Friday, the Governor, Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the airline with which he flew into Nigeria February 25 had been contacted to provide details of travellers who sat close to the index case, so that they can be tracked and placed under surveillance for possible infection.

He said: “We have also contacted the company in Ogun State where he went to work on February 26. We have put the staff of the company who were in contact with him under surveillance.

“We will ensure everyone who have had contact with him is contacted and monitored.”

He called on Lagos residents to go about their normal business, noting that until it reaches the point of human-to-human spread, the state will not escalate the process it currently has in place.

Sanwo-Olu said the isolation centre in Yaba has the capacity to take in a minimum of 80 confirmed or suspected cases, adding that plans were being put in place to expand the facility to accommodate more people.

The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi said air travel was one of the commonest ways the virus could come into the country, adding that it has, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health beefed up surveillance at airports.

He also said: “For sea borders, it takes a minimum of three weeks for ships to enter Lagos from China. This means before it gets here, the occupants of the vessel must have manifested the symptoms.

“Land borders have longed been closed by the federal government, which means we need to intensify efforts at the borders.”

He said there was no point closing public institutions, as the thread has not reached that point. “We do not want to cause panic,” he added.

Sharing his thoughts in an interview on TVC Friday, the Deputy Governor, Lagos State Dr. Femi Hamzat, gave insight on how the index case, an Italian expatriate came into Nigeria.

He said: “The Italian came in from Milan on February 25. He had a consultant job in Ewekoro in Abeokuta where he spent all his February 26. He eventually fell ill, and the doctors who attended to him were smart enough to call us.

“We went there with an ambulance and then brought him to our isolation centre in Yaba. He was brought in yesterday morning, and within hours he was diagnosed. Testing tools normally take eight hours on the average, but ours worked faster than we expected; within four hours, he was diagnosed and confirmed to be infected.

He said at the moment the index case is the only person at the Yaba centre which can house almost 100 people, adding that he was hopeful other beds will not be occupied.