- FG dismisses report of second case
- Lagos explains how Italian entered Nigeria
- Three Chinese nationals test negative in Plateau
- Catholic Church suggests measures on how to avoid transmission
- Atiku: With unity, national resolve, we’ll defeat it as we did Ebola
- US records first death
Tobi Soniyi, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Governors of the 36 states of the federation have declared their readiness to contain the deadly coronavirus wreaking havoc around the world. Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said this in a statement on Saturday in Abuja. While also appealing to Nigerians and foreigners with symptoms of the coronavirus to embrace self-isolation for a period, to leave room for confirmation of their status.
Fayemi, expressed the readiness of the states to tame the virus, stressing that they would deploy all resources at their disposal to respond and contain the spread of the virus.
This was as the federal government refuted social media reports that the Uber driver, who took the Italian index case from Lagos to Abeokuta, had also tested positive to coronavirus and had refused to be quarantined. But in a seeming attempt to set the record straight, the Lagos State government explained how the infected Italian got into Nigeria.
On its part, the Catholic Church, yesterday, announced new measures of personal hygiene that could help to contain the spread of the virus. And on an optimistic note, former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 elections, Atiku Abubakar, assured Nigerians that coronavirus would be defeated, just as the country defeated Ebola, in 2014, albeit in unity and a collective resolve to be victorious.
Meanwhile, three Chinese nationals were reportedly placed on self-quarantine in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State, have tested negative to the virus.
According to the NGF chairman’s statement, “We encourage the citizens to self-quarantine, if they notice symptoms related to the viral disease, and contact the nearest health facility within the states…We will deploy all resources available to respond and contain further spread of the virus.”
Fayemi said as a form of proactive step, the governors had initiated monitoring infrastructure in all the states to ensure quick response and attention to anyone showing symptoms of the disease. The forum appealed for calm and urged that all should follow the necessary precautions and directives announced by the Federal Ministry of Health.
“We hereby appeal to the general public to be calm and follow precautionary measures recommended by the Federal Ministry of Health and other relevant government agencies,” NGF said, adding, “We also enjoin citizens not to spread fake news and misinformation that can trigger fear, panic and chaos.”
NGF said the Federal Ministry of Health and other designated federal and state agencies would provide the relevant updates on the disease.
The statement also said state governments had been strengthening emergency response preparedness and capabilities in conjunction with the federal government and other relevant agencies. It explained that in response to the first case reported, the federal government, through the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), had already activated the National Emergency Operations Centre and was working closely with the Lagos State Ministry of Health to respond to the case and implement firm control measures to prevent spread.
Speaking on the state of the Italian, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, said the Italian had been moved to a better location after he protested that he was uncomfortable where he was initially kept.
Abayomi said yesterday on the Arise Morning Show that there was some discomfort arising from heat, and the patient was moved to a renovated air-conditioned facility.
“As at 6am today, I’m told that he is comfortable,” the commissioner said, adding that the state has ramped up its capacity to 100 beds. He, however, said it was a bit worrying that the victim could enter the country through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, without being detected.
But the commission added that a change in the dynamics of the outbreak might have caused the oversight at the airport. He said the focus until the last four days had been Southeast Asian countries, like South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. And all of a sudden, there were these new epicentres in Italy and Iran and a few cases in England and France, he observed.
According to Abayomi, “We have developed a form which you will have to fill if you are coming from what we defined as high risk countries. Then, you will automatically be flagged; we will put you in what we call supervised self-quarantine.
“It means that you go home, stay at home for 14 days. We will call you twice in a day; we will sometime visit you if there are issues and then after 14 days, if nothing has developed you are free to move around.
On the Italian, Abayomi said, “When he came in, he filled out the form actually. He stated that his point of entry is Italy, through Istanbul to Lagos. We have the form. I think there is so much going round that people didn’t realise that Italy has joined the league of High Risk nations. It is a bit worrying. But the airport is a federal facility. Lagos is there to give our support by deploying about 60 of our healthcare professionals to make sure this kind of thing does not happen.
“Now we have put Italy up front, as well as Iran. It is important for us in Africa and the rest of the world to recognise that this virus is in many more places than Southeast Asia. We need to have a higher index of suspicion of people.”
He explained that the Italian man, who came into Nigeria with the virus, could not recollect having contact with anybody who had the virus.
Abayomi stated, “He came in to Lagos on Monday evening, spent a night in the hotel, on Tuesday morning he proceeded to Ogun State. On Wednesday afternoon, he fell ill, he was seen by the company’s doctors and they recognised his point of origin, they were suspicious.
“They thought he could not have had malaria since he just came into the country and they called us, because they don’t have a testing centre in Ogun State. We recognised that this is a High Risk situation. We advised that he be brought to us immediately under full protection. When he arrived, we put in an isolation unit and conducted the test and within hours it came out positive.”
He said to prevent the virus from spreading rapidly, everybody the Italian had come in contact with must be identified and isolated. To this end, Abayomi said the state government had obtained the manifest of the flight that brought the Italian into Nigeria and collected all the forms filled by the passengers.
He said, “We are identifying the whole passengers. We have started contacting them one by one. We have also been to the hotel he stayed. We have identified a possible contact point with him; we have identified his room. This morning, we are going to decontaminate the whole hotel. Anyone who has used his room will also come under surveillance.”
The commissioner said the Lagos State government was worried because of the crowded nature of the state, but assured that proactive measures were being put in place to protect residents.
Abayomi said both Lagos and Ogun states were working together to ensure the virus did not get out of control. He explained that after the Ebola outbreak, Lagos had acquired a sophisticated bio security facility, which he said, was second to none in the continent.
He, however, maintained that for now, there was no definite treatment for coronavirus.
As part of the safety measures to control the disease, the Catholic Church in a statement issued by the Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins, said shaking of hands during the Sign of Peace at Mass had been suspended.
The church said, “In the light of this present circumstance, we hereby instruct as follows, till further notice. During this season of lent, in order to reduce the number of gatherings in church to the barest necessary, we encourage people to do Stations of the Cross privately on Wednesdays while public celebrations will take place only Fridays, especially, as it is often followed by Mass.
“Communion, for the time being, shall be received on the palms. People are encouraged to have hand sanitizers handy to be used as and when needed. The use of Holy Water fonts in churches and public places should be suspended till further notice.”
The church also prayed for divine intervention saying, “May the Lord deliver us from this plague and all evils.”
Atiku, who assured Nigerians that the virus would be defeated, said in a statement on Friday that the federal government must be proactive and not resort to blame game in trying to contain the virus. He said in the statement posted on his social media pages on Friday,, “Now that Nigeria has had her first confirmed case of the Corona Virus infestation, via a citizen of Italy, who visited Lagos and Ogun states, I would want to offer my patriotic counsel to the government of General Muhammadu Buhari on how best to tackle this issue.
“We must call upon our experience with the wild Ebola virus, of which we were the first nation in the world to defeat that scourge in 2014. How did Nigeria do it? We achieved it by showing unprecedented unity.
“The federal government of the day worked closely with the Lagos and Rivers State governments. There was complete unity, solidarity and oneness of purpose, which created the atmosphere that defeated that deadly infestation.
“I strongly counsel that any tendency to blame and point fighters must be temporarily, if not permanently, suspended. If fingers must be pointed, it must be to solutions.”
He emphasised that Nigeria needed firm and decisive actions to prevent an escalation of the scourge.
The former vice president contended that if Nigeria could close its borders because of economic sabotage, it should not hesitate “to temporarily halt flights to and from any nation with a prevalence of this scourge.”
According to him, it is more important to secure human lives than to secure an economy. “We also need to invest in early detection facilities at our airports,” he said.
Atiku, therefore, advised Nigerians, whether at government or individual levels, not to panic.
“We have defeated Ebola before, and we can defeat this present predicament,” he said, stressing, “This crisis is an opportunity to show that we are first and foremost Nigerians and that we have no other country but our dear fatherland, which we must work together to keep healthy and secure.”
But the federal government dismissed reports of a second case of coronavirus in the country, insisting no other person has tested positive for the virus. Director-General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said there was presently no other suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus in the country apart from the 44-year-old index case. Ihekweazu said only its three laboratories had the capacity to test anyone in the country.
According to him, “The test cannot be done outside of our laboratories. No one can claim there is a second case because we are the only ones with the facilities and reagents to test for it. We haven’t done that.
“Since the outbreak started in Wuhan city in China, we have so far conducted test for 12 persons, 11 came out negative, and the only one that has come out positive is the Italian index case, who is responding to treatment. The public should disregard rumours of an escaped second patient.
“If we diagnosed any case, we will definitely let Nigerians know whether it comes out negative or not, because we want to be very transparent about the whole thing. It takes four hours to get the results out, and another two hours to announce the results, so within six hours Nigerians can actually know of any case.”
He described as false reports that the index case attempted to escape from isolation, noting that the expatriate has been cooperating with the authorities.
Ihekweazu added, “He was the one who contacted the authorities through his doctor in Abeokuta. He knows we are doing the best to ensure he is given quality treatment. He came from a developed country, so definitely, there may be one or two minor issues he may not be used to here, but he definitely did not attempt to escape. The report is untrue.”
However, confirming that three Chinese nationals had been placed on self-quarantine in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State, Ihekweazu said the Chinese nationals did not have symptoms of coronavirus, but as a policy of the Nigerian government, they had been asked to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
Confirming also that no one with the virus had escaped quarantine, the Ogun State government said everyone that the primary contacts had interactions with was being monitored. The government, in a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Kunle Somorin, stated, “We wish to put it straight that there is nothing of such. It is the figment of the imagination of some unscrupulous elements, whose desire is to incite fear in the members of the public.
“This period calls for sombre, responsible and responsive actions. COVID-19 is challenging the global community like no other disease in the past. The government is treating the challenge as such. How to contain and provide lasting solution to the scourge is our concern. We do not wish to dissipate energy on responding to this kind of frivolity. We all must be sensitive at this critical time in our history.”
The statement said the state government had activated an Emergency Operation Committee (EOC) to manage any development that might arise from reported case of coronavirus.
The committee, headed by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, comprises staffers of the ministry, Hospital Management Board, representatives of NCDC, World Health Organisation (WHO), and representatives of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Abeokuta.
The EOC consists of seven sub-committees, including Risk Communication and Mobilisation, Surveillance, Case Management, Infection Prevention Control (IPC), Central Coordination/Planning and Logistics/ Finance.
Briefing newsmen at the end of a meeting with the committee, Coker said the multidisciplinary committee would meet daily and update the general public on developments. She said an Emergency Operation Centre had been opened at Block C within the State Secretariat to attend to issues relating to the outbreak.
Reassuring residents on efforts made so far to contain the spread of Convid-19, the Commissioner said the Governor Dapo Abiodun government had put everything in place ahead of time to arrest the situation.
Meanwhile, a Member of Parliament in Iran, Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak, has died of Coronavirus disease. Iranian State TV reported on Saturday that the MP, who tested positive to the virus few days ago, was recently elected as the representative for Astana Ashrafieh.
“He died on Saturday morning after being taken to hospital for treatment,” the station reported.
Deaths in Iran from coronavirus have hit 43, the highest number outside China, and the total number of infected people has risen to 593, an Iranian health official said on Saturday.
“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours, increasing the death toll to 43 … the total number of infected people is 593,” Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV, calling on people to stay at home
US records first death from new virus
A person has died in Washington state of COVID-19, state health officials said Saturday, marking the first such reported death in the United States.
State officials issued a terse news release announcing the death, gave no details and scheduled a news conference.
Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities after confirming three patients were infected by unknown means.