COVID-19: NMA Adamant, Says Won’t Collaborate with Visiting Chinese Doctors

  • 15-member medical team arrives Abuja from China
  • Cases rise by 22 to 276, tested samples now 5,000
  • 66-year-old Briton dies in Lagos
  • US evacuates another 281
  • 200 Nigerians request evacuation from US
  • FG urges govs not to issue counter directives on pandemic
  • Faults Wike, condemns arrest of Caverton Helicopters’ pilots

Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Chinedu Eze and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has vowed that its members would not interact or collaborate with the 15-member Chinese medical team that arrived Nigeria wednesday.

The team, whose members arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, is in Nigeria to help the country combat COVID-19.
The confirmed cases rose by 22 to 276 yesterday.

Five Nigerians have also tested positive for the pandemic in China while a 66-year-old Briton died of the virus in Lagos, bringing to seven the total number of deaths in Nigeria.

The United States also yesterday evacuated another batch of 281 Americans from Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
Meanwhile, following a rash of actions by several state governors on the pandemic, the federal government has advised them and other political leaders to avoid statements that may mislead the people or jeopardise the current efforts to tackle the virus.

NMA President, Dr. Francis Faduyile, speaking exclusively to THISDAY yesterday, said for the physicians to practise in the country, they would have to go through the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), write examinations, and if they are successful, they could practise in the country.

His statement was in spite of the assurance of the federal government that the Chinese medical team would not be practising medicine during their mission, but focusing on installing medical equipment and training Nigerians on their operations, among others.

He said: “There is nothing the Chinese doctors will do that can complement what we are doing. Nigerian doctors have been doing well so far. We have made our position known that we do not need these Chinese here at this time.

“We heard the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said they were going to quarantine them for 14 days before being allowed to support the treatment of persons with COVID-19.

“For them to practise in Nigeria, they should undergo our council examinations, and if they are eventually successful, then they can complement our work. Otherwise, we will have no interaction with them.”

He explained that NMA’s position is in tandem with the protocols Nigerian doctors go through before they are allowed to practise abroad.
He, however, expressed appreciation for the medical supplies brought into the country, saying the items were not easy to come by.
“We have no issues with their supplies. We will not reject their gifts because they are needed. But, Nigeria has the expertise to fight COVID-19,” he said.

NMA had last week rejected the plans by the federal government to bring in the Chinese medical team.
Faduyile had said: “The federal government did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the MDCN Act. MDCN was not consulted before granting the necessary approval for foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.”

Also, NMA Chairman, Lagos State Branch, Dr. Saliyu Oseni, told THISDAY that the body was beginning to suspect that the federal government had a hidden agenda for bringing the doctors into the country.

He added that the health sector had not used up to one per cent of its workforce not to mention being overwhelmed.
He said: “In Lagos, we have not lost any patient in our facilities due to COVID-19. The deaths you are hearing are people who did not come out for treatment. In Lagos, we have 8,000 doctors and 27 general hospitals. We are not overwhelmed in any way, so we are surprised by the government’s insistence that they come here.

“We heard they are coming for one month, and by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) case definition protocol, anyone coming into the country from a high-risk country is meant to be quarantined for 14 days. So, how much longer are they then going to stay in the country?”

He stated that the federal government was also breaking the Nigerian law, noting that foreigners have no jurisdiction to touch any patient in Nigeria even if that patient is their national.

Chinese Medical Team Arrives in Abuja

The medical team arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja yesterday in a chartered Air Peace aircraft.
The aircraft also delivered the second batch of medical supplies along with the medical personnel from China.

The flight was operated by the airline’s Boeing B777-200 ER (P4 5-NBVE) in a non-stop 14-hour service, which landed in Beijing, China at 14.18 p.m. local time on Tuesday and arrived in Abuja yesterday at 4.25 p.m. local time.

Ehanire and the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, along with other top officials from both countries received the medical supplies.

The Chinese ambassador put the total value of the items at $1.5 million.
He explained that the medical supplies would be used to help contain the spread of the virus in Nigeria.

The consignment was immediately taken to a warehouse facility maintained by the Ministry of Health in Abuja.
The materials brought in include 16 tonnes of test kits, ventilators, disinfectant machines, disposable medical masks, medicines, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, and infra-red thermometers.

The federal government had on April 5 delivered the first batch of medical supplies from Istanbul, Turkey, airlifted by Air Peace.

Nigeria’s Cases Rise By 22 to 276

Nigeria’s confirmed cases yesterday rose by 22 to 276.
Lagos remains the epicentre of the pandemic with 145 cases; while the FCT has 54 with 20 in Osun; 12 in Edo; 11 in Oyo; eight in Bauchi; five each in Akwa Ibom and Kaduna; four in Ogun; two each in Enugu, Ekiti, Kwara and Rivers, and one each in Benue, Delta, Katsina, and Ondo. So far, 44 patients have been discharged, while seven died.

Five Nigerians test positive for COVID-19 in China

However, five Nigerians have tested positive for COVID-19 in China, according to
The Guangzhou Health Commission had confirmed that four of them had recently visited the same eatery, ‘Emma Food,’ multiple times.
The restaurant owner, alongside her daughter and another child, later tested positive for the contagion.

The Nigerians were detected between March 28 and March 30, after screening 3,779 travellers from high-risk countries living in the city.
The Emma Food restaurant has been closed for inspection.

Briton Dies of COVID-19 in Lagos

A 66-year-old British citizen has died of COVID-19 in Lagos, bringing to seven the total number of deaths in Nigeria.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said yesterday that the deceased came into Nigeria on March 17.
He said: “Lagos has recorded another COVID-19 related death in a 66-year-old Briton, who travelled from India via Dubai to Lagos on March 17, 2020.

“As of April 7, 2020, there are 10 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed. The total of COVID-19 cases in Lagos rose to 130.
“Another COVID-19 patient was discharged after full recovery. This brings the number of discharged patients to 32.”
The Briton, THISDAY learnt, died at the Isolation Centre in Yaba.

US Evacuates 281 More Citizens from Nigeria

The United States yesterday continued the evacuation of its citizens in Nigeria as another batch of 281 were airlifted from Lagos because of the pandemic.

The Americans were evacuated by Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 777-300 aircraft with registration mark, ET-ASK to Washington DC.
The flight, which departed at 4.00 p.m. local time, had both children and the elderly on board.
A total of 866 US nationals have so far been evacuated from Lagos airport.
The evacuation began on Monday with the first batch of 385 nationals and 200 were airlifted on Tuesday.

200 Nigerians Seek Evacuation from US

No fewer than 200 Nigerians living in the US have signified interest in plans by the federal government to bring its nationals back home.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, said the Nigerians, who are legally residing in the United States had contacted the federal government to be evacuated back Nigeria.

The US presently has the largest numbers of global virus cases and more than 10,000 mortalities.
Onyema, at a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, said the federal government was also working with the Nigerian Embassy in China on the logistics of returning Nigerians stranded in the country.
Onyema said the Nigerians complained that they were being harassed in the country and chased from their apartments on flimsy grounds of having the virus.

He added that the federal government has also initiated talks with the authorities in Togo and Benin Republic to allow the 67 Nigerians that were returning from Cote d’Ivoire to pass through their land borders.

He said they had engaged Togo at the diplomatic level to allow the Nigerians to observe the mandatory 14-day isolation, while they had got approval of Benin Republic to enable them to transit through the country en route to Nigeria.

FG Urges Govs Not to Issue Counter Directives on Pandemic

Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, has urged governors and other political leaders to avoid acts that may mislead the people or jeopardise the current efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Mamora, at the press briefing, pleaded with the governors not to issue directives or take decisions that might endanger public health and safety.

He also disagreed with those who had described the pandemic as a hoax, saying no one should mislead Nigerians or try to trivialise what is now regarded as a major global public health concern.

Speaking with reference to a statement credited to Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who had tested positive for COVID-19 that he recovered after using herbal medicine, the minister said care should be taken to avoid endangering public health.

“I am not aware of the treatment protocol His Excellency, the Governor of Oyo State had to test negative and I am not even aware of where he was treated, to be able to make a categorical statement,” he said.

Mamora said he had received telephone calls and text messages from people claiming to have developed herbal remedy against the virus but that his response had always been to refer them to the department of the ministry in charge of herbal medicine.
The minister said before anyone could claim the efficacy of a drug in the treatment of diseases, such a drug must have been subjected to clinical tests and declared effective.

Making a presentation at the briefing, NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said: “We should remember that 90 per cent of COVID-19 patients recover without taking any drug intervention and so any person that takes something and say that he has been cured because of that, it doesn’t add up.”

For instance, Ihekweazu said only 20 per cent of Lassa fever patients die, with 80 per cent others surviving without any particular drug treatment.

Ihekweazu added that the centre has trained 270 health workers in each state of the federation on Coronavirus response.
He also appealed to government officials not to disclose the health details of victims of COVID-19.

FG Condemns Arrest of Caverton Helicopters’ Pilots

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who also spoke at the press conference, faulted the arrest of two pilots of Caverton Helicopters in Rivers State for allegedly flouting the lockdown of the state by the Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike.
The minister said the pilots had the approval of the federal authorities to fly.

According to him, civil aviation is on the exclusive list item and only the federal government has the authority to legislate upon it.
Sirika said the Air Force officer who placed a call to Wike to come into the property of the federal government and the police that accompanied the governor to make an arrest, exhibited dangerous ignorance and gross incompetence, from the perspective of civil aviation.

He explained the federal government’s position: “Whether we have approval for the flight, yes, we did and we did in the national interest. All of these flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary. So, those flights by Caverton, Aero Contractor, Arik, and Bristow were for national interest and improved national revenue.

“At a time when oil has gone below $30 per barrel and the cost of production is $30, President Muhammadu Buhari thought that this is allowed so that the nation will not be crippled and national revenue will not be lost.

“It was against the background that we have the authority and being exclusively on the exclusive list and we have the powers in civil aviation, guided by the Civil Aviation Act 2016 approved such flights,” he added.

Task Force Denies Receiving Daily Sitting Allowances

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who doubles as the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, denied the allegation that members were receiving sitting allowances of N500,000, while a sum of $150 million had been approved for its sitting.

According to him, sitting allowances are in the public service rules and regulations and would be applied when the need arises and when funds are available.

He said there was an extant guide on the payment of allowances for committees, commission and task force.

“As the chairman of this committee, since we started sitting, we have not received a dime either way of operational cost, talk less of sitting allowances. Sitting allowances are there in the civil service rule and regulations,” Mustapha said, adding that they would be paid when the need arises and funds are available.

He said the members of the cabinet had already sacrificed half of their salaries as their own modest support towards the fight against COVID-19.