South Africa Records First Case of Coronavirus

  • Three new suspected cases isolated in Lagos, Italian patient to be released next week
  • Report says tourism hit by outbreak

Chinedu Eze, Peter Uzoho, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The South African government has confirmed the first case of Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, in the country.

This is coming as three new suspected cases have been isolated at the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba pending the outcome of his result.

The Lagos State government is also planning to release the Italian patient next week following the potential decline of his viral load to negative.
Announcing the outbreak of the virus, the Minister of Health, South Africa, Dr. Zweli Mkhize said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has run a test on the patient, and it turned out positive to the virus.

He said: “The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people and they arrived back in South Africa on March 1, 2020.

“Meanwhile, two South Africans, who tested positive to the disease aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess, have now tested negative and will shortly be making their way back to South Africa,” the minister said.

The pair, who initially tested positive for Coronavirus, had been hospitalised in Japan after being taken ashore from the cruise ship where they worked.
The Diamond Princess was first quarantined in January when a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for Coronavirus.

South Africa last week said it would evacuate its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, adding that those plans are at an ‘advanced stage.’
“A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated,” the minister said.
They are said to be mostly students, teachers and other professionals.

Lagos Isolates Three with Suspected Case of Epidemic
Meanwhile, a Nigerian, who returned from France and two others from England and China on Monday, suspected to be infected with the Coronavirus disease, have been isolated at the Infectious Disease Centre in Yaba pending the outcome of their result.

The Lagos State government is also planning to release the Italian patient next week following the potential decline of his viral load to negative.
Stating these at a press briefing in Alausa yesterday, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said the suspected cases, who were referred to the ministry by a private hospital, exhibited signs of flu.

He said: “The Nigerian spent seven days in France, returned to Lagos three days ago and presented with headache and some respiratory symptoms. He has been in a country where there is active person-to-person transmission, so it could be a common cold or Coronavirus. He has been put in isolation, the test is being run right now, I am expecting the result,” Abayomi said.

He said for the Italian patient, who tested positive to the virus last week, his viral load as at yesterday had dropped significantly, and that once he gets to negative viral load, he would be observed for few more days before another viral load test is done on him to reconfirm whether or not he is fit to be discharged.

He said: “If the second viral load shows negative again, it means he is no longer secreting the virus and can no longer infect anyone.
“Although the Italian developed some respiratory issues some days ago, he was given some specific therapies which helped in addressing the symptom. The specific therapies are not curative, but they helped in addressing the specific symptoms he had. His clinical situation is quite stable.”

Abayomi also noted that the patient had been depressed lately, and that the state had provided him with some psychosocial support, adding: “We brought in some specialists to see him because he is lonely and depressed. We understand his situation because he is the only one in the ward.
“We have also provided him with enough airtime and internet so he can be in touch with his family and friends.

“We know within the next one week he will be travelling back. So we are doing all to ensure he is negative before he leaves, because there will be passengers on flight when he leaves. He has to have a zero viral load so no one gets infected,” he added.

In another development, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on Nigerians to seek information from trusted sources, rather than believe myriads of fake news going round.

In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, the media office of UNICEF Nigeria said: “As concerns increase around Covid-19 globally, with information shared on WhatsApp and other social media platforms, we want the public to trust information only from verified sources.

“UNICEF has become aware of messages being circulated that is being falsely attributed to the organisation. All genuine information can be found on our website,, including information on how to protect oneself and loved ones from the virus. People can also see the WHO website for further updated information.”

UNICEF and WHO are supporting the Nigerian government’s response on the outbreak.

NCAA Orders Airlines to Issue Health Forms to Passengers
In another development, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has asked all airlines operating international and regional flights into the country to issue health declaration forms to their passengers, including crew members before arriving at Nigerian airports.
NCAA’s General Manager (Public Relations), Mr. Sam Adurogboye, disclosed this in a statement issued yesterday.

This comes on the heels of the failure of some airlines operating international and regional flights into Nigeria to provide health declaration forms, also known as passengers’ self-reporting forms, to their customers.

Adurogboye stated that the NCAA has issued a letter to that effect to all airlines and other stakeholders.
“In view of the above, airlines are to remind passengers to provide factual address and phone numbers to enhance contact tracing in case there is a need to do so,” he said.

The agency’s spokesman explained that the health declaration forms would be collected and evaluated by the personnel of the Port Health Services on the arrival of the passengers and crew members.

He added that the collected health forms would be returned to the airlines by the Port Health Services at the various international airports of the country.
Adurogboye warned that failure to comply with the directive of the NCAA by any airline would attract severe sanctions.


AU, WAHO Conduct Risk Assessment

In a related development, health ministry officials from African countries yesterday met in Abuja to assess the preparedness of the continent to tackle the looming health crisis posed by the outbreak of Coronavirus.

The countries came together for a two-day simulation exercise aimed at strengthening regional preparedness and readiness capacities to deal with Covid-19 epidemic in West Africa, organised by Africa.

The event was organised by the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (RCSDC) and sponsored by Africa Union Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC)

Speaking in an interview with journalists at the event, the
representative of the African Epidemiology Network, Mr. Patrick Nguku, said the meeting was to assess the level of preparedness by member states of the African Union to handle the Covid-19 disease.

He said that though a few of the countries have reported cases of Coronavirus infection, there are concerns that the ability of most other countries to detect the virus depends on their capacities and facilities available to them.

“This depends on how effective is the surveillance system, the laboratory and human resource capacity in each of the countries. So, this meeting is important to understand what gaps there are and how to effectively address them,” he said.

He said that so far some of the observed gaps are that there are not enough hospitals, laboratories for testing the Covid-19 virus, isolation centres for managing cases of infection and experts to handle the disease outbreak if it gets to epidemic level in Africa.
Nguku said that yesterday’s meeting was an effort to advance solutions to those identified weaknesses.

Report Says Tourism Hit by Outbreak

Cruise ship owners, casinos and hotels are presently “swimming in red ink,” due to low patronage as a result of the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the country.

This is also the situation in other countries where the disease had also been detected.

The Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, stated this in a presentation he made at the Lagos Business School’s executive breakfast session, titled: “Covid-19: When it Rains, it Pours,” obtained by THISDAY yesterday.

According to him, supermarket traffic also fell sharply in February owing to income squeeze and Covid-19.
“In Nigeria, traffic to restaurant, supermarkets, movie houses and clubs has slowed. Revenue impact aside, its shows how vulnerable the world is to a fast spread and contagion,” Rewane added.

He, however, noted that while the disease is presently confined to Lagos and some persons quarantined in Ogun State, public health officials and government seem to be on top of the situation.

In the report, Rewane showed that the global travel market was hardest hit, stating that the global airline industry was set to lose $26 billion in 2020.
“It has already lost $4 billion so far. Flights from China have fallen sharply by 55.9 per cent year-on-year. Global airline passengers jumped from 2.3 billion in 2016, to 4.8 billion in 2018.

“The prices of oil and airlines’ shares have also crashed,” the economist added.

Brent price had fallen below $50 per barrel, its four-year low, intra-day, last week.
He also pointed out that the Coronavirus has drastically slowed down consumer demand, and has resulted in consumers engaging less in activities that might expose them to the risk of infection.

“Restaurants, car dealerships and shops have reported a sharp fall in consumer demand. Chinese car sales fell by 92 per cent in the first half of February,” the FDC boss added.

He revealed that the disease has seen the global markets take a bashing, with the Federal Reserves cutting rates in a surprise move.
“China is the ‘workshop of the world’ and accounts for one third of global manufacturing. It is the world’s largest exporter of goods. Factories have paused their operations in a bid to contain the spread. Restrictions have disrupted supply chains of companies such as Diageo, JCB and Nissan,” he disclosed.

Commenting on the effect on Nigeria, he said the economy was already stalling before Covid-19, adding that, “Nigeria needed Covid-19 as much as a bullet in the head.”

The report predicted that cocoa and sesame prices were expected to fall by at least 10 per cent, stating that import landed price of petrol would also fall and reduce subsidies to approximately N300 billion.

Nigeria’s trade with China is 19.7 per cent of total imports.

The Nigerian stock market has lost 2.06 per cent since Covid-19 in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s potential Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was put at 3.2 per cent, higher than real GDP by 0.93 per cent.
It stated that most sectors that expanded in the full year 2019 GDP figures released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) were oil revenue elastic sectors.

Furthermore, the report showed that banking system liquidity was down by 22.1 per cent in February, to N346.68 billion, while interbank interest rates swung between two per cent per annum and 18 per cent per annum, just as the CBN increased its forex intervention to $761.55 million.
Also, FAAC allocation was down 9.6 per cent to N647.3 billion and ships awaiting berth at the ports were flat at 56 (Lagos port).

“Government revenue would come under severe pressure. FAAC likely to decline to a range of N600 -N620 billion, there is need for more aggressive tax policies to boost internally generated revenues. Gross external reserves could fall towards $34 billion and currency pressures will intensify,” he added.