•93 Turkish Airline passengers wanted
•Three new suspected cases in Lagos test negative
•FG releases N984m to combat virus
Ndubuisi Francis and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Segun James and Chinedu Eze in Lagos
Coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 people across 91 countries globally, according to statistics released yesterday by French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The death toll reached 3,406, while the total number of infections, according to AFP, hit 100,002, after a surge in cases worldwide since Thursday, notably in virus hotspot Iran.
The Johns Hopkins University’s CSSE also updated its global death toll to 3,460 people and the total number of cases to 101,733.
Also yesterday, while providing update on the state of the virus attack, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said only 55 of the 148 passengers on board Turkish Airlines with the Nigerian index case, an Italian, had come forward for testing.
The figures showing over 100,000 infected globally by Coronavirus were compiled from data collected by AFP offices from the competent national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation.
The over 100,000 figure is a grim milestone that now appears inevitable with self-sustaining clusters continuing to expand in South Korea, Japan, parts of Europe, Iran and the United States.
Health experts have suggested that newly emergent clusters in Europe and the Middle East could accelerate the global spread of the disease. India has so far identified 31 cases, at least 17 of which have been linked to travelers from Italy, leading to fears that the world’s second most populous country could see its own outbreak in the coming days. Cases linked to Iran have also emerged elsewhere in the world.
In neighboring South Korea, infections have surged dramatically, with more than 6,500 confirmed cases after the government tested tens of thousands of people as part of a mass screening drive aimed at better mapping and controlling the virus’ spread.
By Thursday afternoon, there were at least 228 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, with 70 in Washington state alone, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local governments.
South Korea has the highest number of cases outside China, with over 6,500 infections and 42 deaths, prompting the country to extend school breaks by three weeks.
Japan imposed quarantine on arrivals from South Korea and China, angering Seoul which summoned the Japanese ambassador to protest the “irrational” move.
Italy, which has the biggest outbreak in Europe, has ordered schools and universities shut until March 15, and on Thursday reported a sharp rise in deaths, bringing the total to 148, with the contagion in Europe’s worst-hit country showing no sign of slowing.
The government, which has imposed draconian measures to try to contain the outbreak, said it would double the money pledged to help the economy cope with the impact of the epidemic.
The accumulative number of cases in the country totalled 3,858, up from 3,089 on Wednesday.
The increase in both the number of deaths and the number of infections was by far the largest since the outbreak began in northern regions two weeks ago.
As the strain on hospitals increased, the northern Lombardy region, Italy’s industrial and financial heartland that has reported by far the highest number of patients and deaths, told inhabitants not to go to hospitals with anything other than urgent problems.
The epidemic is focused on a handful of hotspots in the north of Italy. However, cases have now been confirmed in each of the country’s 20 regions, with 44 in central Lazio around Rome, and 45 in southern Campania, around Naples.
In Malaysia, the Health Ministry has confirmed five new cases of Covid-19, bringing the tally of infections to 55.
Ehanire Pleads with Turkish Airlines Passengers to Come Forward
Also yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said that it plans to commit N1.674 billion in the next 28 days on activities aimed at containing Coronavirus in the country.
The Deputy Director, Special Duties at NCDC, Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe, who spoke at the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the Ministry of Health in Abuja, said from the assessment the centre made, it would need N1.674 billion to carry out its surveillance, testing and isolation activities in the next one month.
“We have met with donor partners on how to access funds to tackle Covid-19 virus. For the first 28 days we have a budget of about N1.674 billion to tackle Covid-19 and so we have spoken to our international partners and local partners and we are going to continue that conversation,” she said.
At the briefing, the Director General of the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr. Obi Adigwe disclosed that the agency has successfully developed a hand sanitizer to address the looming scarcity of the liquid used as part of the prevention for Coronavirus.
He said that the agency responded to the outcry of concerned Nigerians and the subsequent directive by the minister of health to assist in checking the anticipated shortages in local supply of drugs and materials needed to manage the outbreak of Covid-19 disease.
Adigwe, who said that the new product was undergoing process of certification by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), added that NIPRD was engaging further research to help actualise government’s vision on drug security.
At the forum, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire spoke on the claim by former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu that he had developed a medicine that can cure the Covid-19 virus.
He said that he was aware that Prof. Iwu had sent his research to the United States for further analysis, adding that the federal government would not hesitate to cue into any credible effort to contain the disease outbreak.
While providing update on the state of the virus attack, Ehanire said that there was no new confirmed case of Covid-19 in the country.
He said that so far, health officials engaged in contact tracing of all those that have had contact with index patient- the Italian consultant have 61 persons in Ogun and Lagos states.
Ehanire said that 21 suspected people who met the case definition were tested, and put under observation but that they reported negative.
The minister also gave update on the progress being made to trace co-passengers of the Italian Covid-19 patient, saying that 55 of the passengers of Turkish airline that brought the Italian had been traced and were being followed up by health officials.
The minister said that between the 7th of January and 5th of March 2020, a total of 21 suspected cases had been identified across four states in Nigeria.
“The states are Lagos, Ogun, FCT and Kano. There is still only one confirmed case of COVID- 9 in Nigeria, which is the index case and no death.
“Therefore as of today, 6th of March 2020, I repeat that there is no confirmed case of COVID-9 in Nigeria,” he said.
The minister also spoke on the state of health of the index case, saying “he is clinically stable, with mild symptoms and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.”
Ehanire said that health officials were following up with 61 contacts of the index case, 21 in Lagos State and 40 in Ogun State.
He said the contacts of the index case are currently under supervised self-isolation and the states have provided them with temperature monitoring tools.
Of the 148 passengers on the manifest of the index case flight, the minister said 55 are actively being followed up, adding that the NCDC and Port Health Services are in touch with them to monitor their temperatures and possible appearance of COVID- 9 symptoms.
The minister further appealed to other passenger of the Turkish Airlines Flight to Lagos on February 24 to contact relevant officials.
He said: “I urge any passenger of the Turkish Airlines Flight to Lagos on February 24 listening to me to contact us on 080097000-10.”
Suspected Patients Test Negative in Lagos
The three suspected patients quarantined in Lagos have tested negative to the deadly disease.
This leaves only the Italian patient as the only confirmed case in the country so far, the Lagos Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi said yesterday.
Abayomi had on Thursday said three people had been quarantined at the state’s isolation centre in Yaba on suspicion of Coronavirus.
The commissioner tweeted yesterday evening that the three suspects had tested negative to the deadly disease and they had since been discharged and allowed to go.
He however maintained on Thursday that the index case, an Italian was responding to treatment at the isolation centre, as his clinical situation was stable.
He stated that the Italian was in high spirit, but that he required psycho-social support as he was getting depressed for being in isolation, adding that the patient was in touch with his family and friends in Italy.
Abayomi, however, said the level of viral load in his body had gone down and if that continued, in the next few days, he might be discharged if he tested negative to the disease.
He said government would not just release him immediately he tested negative to the disease, but would still keep him and run a second test in few days to ascertain he was completely free of the disease before letting him go back to his country.
FG Releases N984m to Combat Virus
The federal government disclosed yesterday that it had released a total of N984 million to relevant agencies to help combat Coronavirus.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning said in a statement that the federal government released N620 million yesterday, having released N364 million earlier, bringing the total so far released to fight the global scourge, to N984 million.
The statement issued by Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said: “The approval by President Muhammadu Buhari for the release of funds to tackle COVID-19 was an emergency and the process of releasing the fund was also an emergency as it was an unexpected expenditure. However, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning had released the first tranche of N364 million sometime ago and the process of releasing the second tranche has been concluded with the release of N620 million this morning (yesterday), bringing total release to N984 million.”
Vatican Records First Case
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni reported yesterday that the first case of coronavirus infection had been reported in the Vatican City.
He noted that the patient was discovered on Thursday and that emergency services are sanitising the area.
The Vatican is not the first holy site to be affected by the coronavirus this week.
Saudi authorities previously suspended pilgrimages to Mecca due to health concerns, while Israel shut down travel to and from Bethlehem.
Togo Confirms First Case
Togo yesterday confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus after a 42-year-old woman tested positive following her return from a trip to Benin, Germany, France and Turkey.
The presidency in the West African nation of eight million people said the patient, who lives in the capital Lome with her family, was “currently isolated in a treatment centre for infectious diseases” after testing positive on Thursday.
“From February 22 to March 2, 2020 she visited Benin, Germany, France and Turkey before returning to Togo via the land border with Benin,” the presidency said in a statement.
It said all people who had contact with the patient in the country “have been identified and put in quarantine.”
In sub-Saharan Africa, Senegal has registered four cases, all foreign nationals.
Foreign Airlines Record 20% Decline in Passenger Traffic, Says NANTA
President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents, (NANTA), Bankole Bernard has said that Nigeria’s aviation sector has seen about 20 per cent decline in passenger traffic as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Just as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) projected that globally the airline industry would lose between $63 billion and $113 billion to the Coronavirus epidemic.
Bernard said in Lagos yesterday that since the spread of the Coronavirus from China, the travel industry has been affected, especially because Nigeria is an import driven country but Nigerians however are now diverting to other countries such as Turkey to import their goods.
Speaking during a press conference to announce NANTA elective Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Lagos, the NANTA president said the level of resilience and tenacity of Nigerians is second to none, as Nigerians now go to Turkey to bring in their goods instead of China.