•Lagos declares two wanted over contact with index case
•Nigerian scientists record breakthrough in virus sequencing
Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday confirmed a second case of coronavirus disease, officially known as COVID-19, in Nigeria.
He also said the Nigerian who tested positive to the disease in Washington DC was in Nigeria February, but that it was unlikely he got infected in the country.
In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, Ehanire said the patient who tested positive yesterday to the virus, was an Ogun State contact of the index case, an Italian, and that he has no significant symptom.
He said: “This brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria to two. The newly confirmed case in Nigeria is not a new importation, but a contact of the index case, who has since been in isolation and is under clinical follow-up. The new case presently does not have any clinical symptoms but he is comfortable and in care at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos.
“We have diligently and conscientiously pursued contact tracing and monitoring of people who met with the index Italian patient,” he said.
The minister had last week said 40 persons in Ogun and 20 in Lagos, who had contact with the index Italian patient, were under isolation.
He explained that those monitored have remained free of any symptoms since but that as it is with the ministry’s practice, it decided to test them for the possible presence of coronavirus, adding that one unfortunately tested positive yesterday.
Ehanire said: “Since the beginning of the outbreak in China and subsequent spread to other countries, one of the important response strategies at the containment stage has been to identify all contacts, ensure their strict isolation and to follow up daily with checks for any symptoms of the disease.
“Following recent experience from other countries and evidence from newly published studies on non-symptomatic infections, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), advised that samples should be taken from all contacts of the index case for testing. It is in this process that this new case was detected.
“Recent studies in China have shown that increased surveillance, self-isolation and in particular, contact tracing does reduce the risk of spread because of further opportunities for transmission of the virus by the infected patient in the community, are limited.”
According to him, all other contacts of the index case in Ogun and Lagos will remain in isolation and testing will be carried out on those not yet tested, including some in other states.
Ehanire also stated that the federal government was in contact with US Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the one in Abuja and through that got to know that the Nigerian infected with coronavirus in Washington was in Lagos last month.
“However, given the timelines between the time he was in Nigeria briefly and when he became ill, the likelihood that he was infected in Lagos is very low.
“We are assuring Nigerians of our commitment to do all that is needed to control the spread of this outbreak. Since the first case was confirmed in Nigeria on February 27, 2020, the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Abuja continues to work closely with Lagos and Ogun State EOCs to coordinate response activities,” he stated.
He advised against spreading misinformation to cause fear and panic.
The minister also highlighted a major breakthrough by Nigeria, saying that a team of researchers from various institutions in the country have successfully performed the genome sequencing of coronavirus.
According to him, the team, including scientists from the Centre for Human and Zoology Virology in LUTH, African Centre for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Redeemers University and the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Lagos, combined their efforts to successfully perform the genome sequencing of the coronavirus strain that the index case brought to Nigeria.
He said the team proved the virus to be a match with the virus circulating in Italy and Wuhan, a Chinese town where the outbreak first occurred.
“This was coordinated by the Lagos State Ministry of Health and NCDC. It is the first time the sequencing of this virus has been performed in Africa,” he added.
Ehanire said the medical feat had been shared with international authorities, adding that the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has sent a congratulatory message to the Nigerian scientists for the achievement.
The minister had earlier in Benin, Edo State capital, yesterday said the federal government had spent about N1 billion since the disease broke out.
According to him, the second confirmed case was detected early due to close monitoring of contacts, adding that the N1 billion spent so far was committed to monitoring and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The minister explained that the federal government has also got promises of cash donations from private individuals and organisations.
“The government of Nigeria has committed about N1 billion to fight the virus.”
He said every amount that was requested by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had been granted by the president with no delay at all. Money is available and is being used and utilised.
“We also have promises of donations from several organisations, private sectors and we got a letter the other day that we can apply for the global funds that have been allocated to Nigeria for this response,” he said.
Buhari Sets up Task Force for Control of COVID-19
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja set up a Presidential Task Force for the Control of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
In a statement, presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president constituted the committee in view of COVID-19’s potential to cause significant disruption in the country’s health services and negatively affect the economy.
Shehu said Buhari also constituted the committee ahead of a probable major outbreak of the disease in view of the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said the committee is expected to conclude its assignment within six months.
“This action is in preparation for the unlikely but probable major outbreak of the disease in the country, which will require a multi-sectoral inter-governmental approach as advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) similar to that adopted for the HIV epidemic in the last two decades,” he said.
The committee, chaired by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, also has Dr. Sani Aliyu as National Coordinator.
Other members of the committee are the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services, Ms. Sadiya Farouk, and Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu.
Others are the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Environment, Alhaji Mohammed Mamood; Director-General, State Services, Alhaji Yusuf Bichi; Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chike Ihekweazu, and WHO Country Representative.
UNIZIK Suspends Chinese Language Programme
Meanwhile, the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in Anambra State has suspended the Confucius Institute programme, which teaches the Chinese language and other country-to-country relations of the Asian giant in view of the outbreak of coronavirus.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Charles Esimone, told journalists during a press conference to unveil its programme for the forthcoming 14th convocation of the institution that the programmes would now be done online.
“Last December, most of our Chinese lecturers in that institute went on holiday but when the disease broke early this year, we had to suspend the programme and stop them from coming back immediately,” he said.
Esimone said because of the importance of the programme, the university was considering starting the programme online, to fill the void.
Lagos Declares Two Wanted over Contact with Index Case
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has declared two persons, who had contact with the index case wanted.
They were identified by the Ministry of Health as Enwelunta Obumnore Godfrey and Salami Abiodun Sadeeq.
The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, told reporters yesterday that Godfrey and Sadeeq who had been in contact with the secondary case of Coronavirus will begin a 14-day isolation process.
The secondary case of Coronavirus was the individual, who had direct contact with the index case, a 44-year-old Italian male, who is currently quarantined at the Mainland Hospital, an infectious disease facility in Lagos.
Abayomi said: “The secondary COVID-19 patient has had contact with a few people and those contacts will begin a 14-day isolation process.
“As per our protocol, we have the capacity to test so that we can pick up whether any of those in isolation are turning positive and we have tested the 40 individuals in isolation in Ewekoro at the Lafarge factory because that was the group that had close contact with the index case.
“Out of the 40, we detected one positive and that individual happened to have spent a lot of time with the index case by virtue of his job.
“That demonstrates the first transmission for the index case and the good news is that we have the individual under surveillance, so that significantly minimises the chance of transmission to a large number of people.”
The commissioner also said the government was still in search of the remaining two passengers aboard the Turkish Airlines with the Italian coronavirus patient.
He appealed to the two individuals to reach out to the ministry.
“It is vitally important that you reach out to us with the numbers that are generally available with the press -08023169485 or 08033565529 or 08052817243 or to the Federal Ministry of Health or to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control,” the commissioner said.