Coronavirus: Italian Improving, as 28 Contacts are Isolated in Ogun


•Scores of Turkish Airlines’ passengers wanted
•NCDC deploys rapid response teams to Lagos
•Ehanire: government will not impose travel ban on anybody
•Sanwo-Olu: No cause for alarm in Lagos
•Italian-Nigerian footballer becomes first sports victim
•Coronavirus could reach all countries, WHO warns
•First vaccination available from in April
•Stocks drop to lowest level in one year on NSE

Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, Segun James, Martins Ifijeh and Chinedu Eze in Lagos, Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Federal and Lagos State health sources yesterday night confirmed to THISDAY that the Italian who brought Coronavirus to Nigeria and was subsequently isolated at a facility at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, is improving.

Nigeria confirmed this first case of Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, yesterday. The Italian, who works in Nigeria, returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos on February 25, 2020.
He moved to Ewekoro in Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State on Wednesday, for a consultancy job with Larfarge Africa cement factory in the town.

Also at a press briefing yesterday, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi said the Italian was stable and was not showing any acute symptoms of the virus yet.
This is coming on the heels of the manhunt launched by federal, Lagos and Ogun states health authorities for all contacts of the infected Italian who brought Coronavirus to Nigeria.
Epidemiologists in Ogun State, supported by both Federal and Lagos governments, are line-listing every contact the Italian had at the cement factory.

Already, 28 workers of Larfarge Africa cement that had contacts with the Italian are self-quarantined and health officials will be checking on them for the next two weeks, to determine their status.

State and federal health authorities are also looking for all the passengers in the Turkish Airlines that brought the Italian to Lagos on February 25. He came into Lagos from Italy, en route Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.

The Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Femi Hamzat, who spoke on a television programme yesterday morning, said: “The young man landed and went to Ewekoro, Abeokuta. He fell ill, so we sent an ambulance there and he was diagnosed within four hours. We are ready and prepared. We are trying to track everybody on the airplane he came in through – people that he had met, and then we can isolate them.”

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi also confirmed that the state’s health authorities have begun a search for all the contacts of the Italian.

Abayomi expressed concern that the disease might be severe in those that had contacts with the Italian. He said the patient had been placed in isolation in Lagos.

Abayomi said: “We will use all the resources made available by the state and the federal government to respond to this case. We are working to identify all the contacts of the patient since he arrived in Nigeria.

“Please, be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only a mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses.”

He warned residents not to create tension by spreading false information about the disease on social media.

“Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic. The Lagos State Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of the outbreak in Lagos,” he added.

Prof Abayomi said the Italian did not exhibit any symptom of the disease on arrival at the Lagos Airport.

He said the patient slept at a hotel in Lagos from where he left for Ogun State, where he lodged in an accommodation provided by host.

The Commissioner revealed that the patient fell ill on Wednesday while still in Ogun State and was brought over to Lagos on Thursday, where he tested positive to COVID-19 and had been confined at the isolation facility at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba.
He noted that the patient was showing no acute symptoms of the virus yet, adding that the management of the company where the patient works in Ogun State had been cooperating with the State Government and had also put in place monitoring mechanisms for all those who came in contact with the patient.

NCDC Deploys Rapid Response Team to Lagos

The NCDC has deployed its Rapid Response Teams to support the Lagos State Government in the fight against the Coronavirus.

The Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who spoke in Abuja, said the NCDC has also ”escalated the multi-sectoral coronavirus preparedness group to an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), at Level II to lead response activities”.

Ihekweazu assured Nigerians of their safety against the Coronavirus.

”The NCDC will continue to keep Nigerians informed. It is important for them to be focused on facts and not fear.

”Nigerians should protect themselves by staying calm, drink lots of water.”

He said Nigerians should frequently wash their hands, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, practice respiratory hygiene and if anyone has fever, cough and difficulty breathing, they should seek medical care early.

The DG assured Nigerians, that with appropriate information, treatment and precautions, Nigeria will beat Coronavirus like Ebola.

The NCDC said that the team investigating the incident would in the next 48 hours be turning in their report.

Also speaking on Arise Television yesterday, Ihekweazu said that a team of health officials have commenced thorough investigation into the first case of importation of the deadly Covid-19 virus.

When asked if the team had identified some of the contacts, the DG said: “it is too early to give that information but the obvious ones are the co-passengers of the gentleman in that plane. However, in the next 48 hours or so, we hope to start getting reports from the investigating team.”

Ihekweazu said that the team has so far got the contact details of all those on the plane and are reaching out to them.

But the DG said that in line with practice in the health sector, the identities of the contacts will be kept secret.

Larfarge Africa Cement Factory Quarantined

The Ogun State Government yesterday announced that the whole facility of Larfarge Africa Plc, cement factory in Ewekoro, had been quarantined.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, who disclosed this, explained that the victim had developed fever and was treated at the clinic located in Lafarge facility before he was rushed to Lagos on Wednesday when the case grew worse.

The Commissioner said a team of epidemiologists had commenced line-listing to detect all contacts the victim made during his stay in the state.

The Commissioner hinted that the victim made three contacts before his arrival in Ogun on Tuesday. Coker, however, said it would be premature to put the number to contacts he made in Ogun “since the case was just confirmed on Friday.” Coker vowed that every single contact with the victim would be identified.

“Before arriving in Ogun State, he had made contact with three people, spent the night in Lagos and arrived on Tuesday morning in Ogun State. He stayed at a guest house and at about 4-5pm on Wednesday, he developed body ache and fever.

“The staff clinic of Lafarge was very sensitive to the case. They responded speedily and contacted Lagos. They had a high index of suspicion and once they contacted Lagos, the protocol kicked in and the individual was transferred to Lagos in a closed ambulance according to protocol. He was transferred to the infectious disease centre in Yaba, Lagos, where tests were conducted and a definite confirmation came out earlier this morning hence, the press release nationally and from Lagos.

“However, my colleague, the Commissioner for Health in Lagos contacted me very early this morning to alert us about the situation. My message to the people of Ogun State is, there is no cause for concern.

“The epidemiologists in Ogun State, supported by both Federal and Lagos governments, are line listing every contact that this individual has had, which means we are going to phone them, get in touch with them, quarantine them and monitor their temperature for two weeks. Also, I’m urging us that individually, we have to be responsible for our health.

“Every single one of us has to have good respiratory hygiene, which means that if we have a cough or we have a cold, we have to cover our mouths with tissue or handkerchiefs and dispose them responsibly. Don’t leave them on surfaces because the virus could still be in those things, use them and dispose them immediately, don’t put them back in your pockets,” she said.

In a related development, the federal government has directed officials of NCDC and Port Health Services to commence contact tracing of all the persons that have so far come in contact with the covid-19 patient.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire dismissed assertions that the nation was probably caught unawares by the first discovery of the virus in the country on Thursday.

He said that there was no issue of failure of the screening process or any negligence on the part of health officials.

The Minister said: “It is not a failure of screening or anything else. Everything was done very well and we have to commend the Lagos government and its officials for acting promptly and decisively.”

The minister also said that officials of the Port Health Services will be working with the airlines to study the aircraft manifest so as to figure the passengers the Italian sat with and others that he made contact with while aboard the plane.

Ehanire said that despite importation of the covid-19 into the country, the government would not impose travel ban on Nigerians or citizens of other countries.

The minister however expressed concern that the Coronavirus spreads easily because patients do not show symptoms immediately and may not know they have the virus for days, adding it was a relief that the patient showed mild symptom and is already under strict isolation.

“The relief is that the patient is not showing any serious symptom and the other relief is that as far as statistics is concerned, more than 97 percent of patients have recovered,” Ehanire said.

“The man walked through the screening with no symptoms, but a day after he started to feel unwell and wisely enough, he went to a hospital and the doctor examined him, he tested negative for malaria, and he was immediately referred to LUTH where he tested positive for coronavirus and he was immediately put under strict isolation,” Ehanire explained.
He said that the ministry had been in touch with the aircraft authorities to find out who his seatmates were and how many people had possibly been infected. “We will do everything possible and use the resources to limit and contain this virus so it doesn’t spread,” he assured.
Ehanire also said the discovery of Covid-19 case in Nigeria was not a failure of screening, noting that 80 per cent of Coronavirus cases were mild and could go undetected, as obtained in other countries that had recorded a case, while 20 percent were severe, though the disease was still under investigation.
He also said the four laboratories across the country have full capacity to respond to the virus.
Ehanire said that Nigeria had already obtained treatment protocol from China, which was used to treat over 5,000 people from the virus.

Stocks Drop to Lowest Level in One Year

Nigerian stocks dropped to their lowest level in the year in intra-day trade yesterday, following the announcement of the first case of the coronavirus in Nigeria.

The NSE all-share index fell 1.62 per cent to 26,373.83 points around mid-day, according to Bloomberg data, making it the biggest decline since early July 2019.

Also, the global oil markets have been roiled by the fast-spreading coronavirus, as crude oil was on course for its biggest weekly loss since 2011, intensifying speculation that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies will strike a deal to support prices.

Futures in New York fell a sixth day after fears over the outbreak sent shares on Wall Street down by the most in almost a decade. With crude prices down more than 14 per cent this week, there are signs that OPEC and its allies could be nearing agreement on action to stem the rout before meeting in Vienna next week.

Bloomberg quoted unnamed OPEC’s top official to have said the group and its allies are displaying a “renewed commitment” to reach an accord as the virus puts the world economy on course for its worst performance since 2009.

Saudi Arabia has been pushing for deeper production cuts over the last few weeks, but Russia has so far taken a more cautious stance. One silver lining for markets is that prices are now at a level that may be uneconomic for U.S. shale producers.

“Whatever production cuts that might be forthcoming next week are too little too late, given how oil prices have declined so rapidly,” the report quoted an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore, Howie Lee as saying. “If OPEC+ cuts by 1 million barrels, that can shore up prices a little, but anything less is going to disappoint.”

Coronavirus Could Reach All Countries, WHO Warns

In a related development, the World Health Organisation said yesterday that the coronavirus outbreak is “getting bigger and warned that the virus could reach most “if not all countries”.

Five more countries have reported their first case of COVID-19, all with travel history connected to Italy – Nigeria, Estonia, Denmark, Netherlands and Lithuania – Reuters quoted WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier to have said.

“The outbreak is getting bigger,” Lindmeier told a Geneva news briefing on Friday after Nigeria confirmed its first case.

“The scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple countries, if not all countries around the world, is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while,” he said.

Sanwo-Olu: No Cause for Alarm in Lagos

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babjide Sanwo-Olu has warned against panic among the people following the confirmation of the case of Coronavirus in Nigeria.

The governor, who is the Chief Incident Commander on the COVID-19 virus in the state, disclosed that even though victim was an Italian who was on a business visit to Nigeria, “the man has been in stable condition at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (LDC), Yaba, where he has been quarantined.”

According to Sanwo-Olu, there is no cause for alarm yet on the incident even as he assured that the government would do everything in its powers to contain it.

“He will remain in strict isolation,” says the governor, adding that the movements of the man from the moment he left the Turkish Airline flight to Nigeria is being traced to know all the people he came in contact with.

He assured that others who were in contact with him in Ogun state had been placed under watch.

Delta Switches from ‘Watch’ to ‘Alert’ Mode

As a response to the first case of the dreaded Coronavirus infection in Nigeria, the Delta State Government has set up a team for a Primary Healthcare Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) as well as five Holding Centres in anticipation of quarantining of suspected cases across the state.

Delta State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, who disclosed this at a press conference in Asaba yesterday, stressed that the state public healthcare architecture was being strengthened because the state was switching to “Alert Mode” from “Watch Mode” activated over two months ago following the outbreak of Lassa Fever in the country.

Ononye said the Incident Management team from the state health ministry would work with the Rapid Response Team (RRT) of the NCDC.

While appealing to the people of the state not to panic, the health commissioner said that the state government was working in collaboration with director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to ward off the spread of the virus in Nigeria through “Standard Precautionary Measures”.

He explained that “Delta has been listed as one of the six high-risk states in the country” because it not only shares common boundaries with several other states but because it has several gateways to other countries including seaports and airport’s.

Asaba International Airport was already carrying out screening of all passengers or visitors coming into the state through the facility, Ononye said, adding that Warri, Sapele, Koko, Burutu and Oghara seaports would be continuously monitored under the medical emergency arrangements.

First Professional Footballer Infected

An Italian-Nigerian footballer has reportedly become the first professional player to be infected with the coronavirus.

King Paul Akpan Udoh, 22, who plays for Pianese in Serie C, was diagnosed on Thursday and has been quarantined, media outlets have reported.

He was once on the books of Italian giants Juventus before dropping to the country’s third tier.

Footballers, worried about the impact of coronavirus, have been contacting unions “out of fear” they could be forced to play in “high-risk environments”, according to global body Fifpro.

In the statement, Fifro said there was a danger of football “acting as a vehicle to spread” the disease.

“Our talks with various football stakeholders also address the rescheduling of international dates, including but not limited to qualifying matches for this year’s Tokyo Olympics and 2022 FIFA World Cup,” Fifpro said.

AFC Champions League matches due to take place next week have already been rescheduled as a result of the growing outbreak, said the BBC.

First Coronavirus Vaccination to Start in April

The United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) has said a U.S. biotech firm, Moderna, has developed an experimental vaccine against the Coronavirus (COVID-19), which will be ready for first clinical trial in April.

In a statement by the Director, NIAID, Anthony Fauci yesterday, the agency said the vaccine had been shipped to researchers just six weeks after it started working on the immunisation.
Fauci said the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine called mRNA-1273, would be used in a planned phase 1 study in the US, which typically involves testing a vaccine on a small number of healthy humans.

He said the clinical trial could start by the end of April, and that this represents the first step in potentially making a vaccine available for use.

The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the development, said that two doses of the vaccine would be tested on volunteers to see if it produces an immune response that protects against the virus.

Fauci told CNN that 45 people would participate in the trial.

“Even if the clinical trial is successful, further testing and regulatory approvals would be needed before the vaccine could be deployed widely,” he said.

Health officials and pharmaceutical companies around the world are working at a breakneck pace to identify treatments or a vaccine to help fight the coronavirus, which has infected more than 80,000 people around the world, and killed over 2800 persons.

Fauci previously told CNN that researchers could expedite the approval process for a vaccine following a successful Phase 1 trial in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
But even when proceeding at an “emergency speed,” a vaccine would not be available for use for at least a year or 18 months, according to him.

Moderna is not the only drug company hoping to find an immunisation for the virus. Pharma giants, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline are working on vaccines, as are government scientists including some at NIAID.

While the experimental vaccine developed by Moderna remains unproven, the speed at which it was created represents a breakthrough.

According to Moderna, the vaccine was developed within 42 days of the company obtaining genetic information on Coronavirus.

By comparison, it took researchers about 20 months to start human tests of the vaccine for SARS, an older Coronavirus, according to a journal paper written by Fauci.