Contacts: We may be heading the way of China, Italy, FG warns

2020-03-24
THE PUNCH Newspaper- John Alechenu, Eniola Akinkuotu


Cases rise to 40, govt orders complete border closure
We will deploy soldiers to enforce contact tracing –FG
Former PPMC MD, first Nigerian to die of coronavirus
Nigeria has less than 500 ventilators for patients


The Federal Government on Monday said Nigeria had 40 coronavirus cases and one death caused by the disease.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, had earlier at a press conference in Abuja on Monday said the country had 36.

But at 11pm on Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on its twitter handle said the cases had increased to 40.

The centre stated, “Four new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria. Three are in Lagos State and one in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory). Two of these cases are returning travellers

“As of 11:00pm on March 23, there are 40 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death recorded.”

The NCDC announced the new cases just as the Federal Government ordered complete closure of land borders to human traffic and postponed the Federal Executive Council and the Council of State meetings indefinitely.

The Federal Government also advised Lagos and Abuja residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease.

Giving an update on COVID-19 cases, Ehinare said the Federal Government would publish names of people who refused to go into self-isolation after returning to Nigeria from countries with high burden of coronavirus.

He said Nigeria could be heading the way of China and Italy, which had recorded high number of coronavirus cases and deaths. The health minister said some people who had been infected were hiding.

Nigeria recorded its first coronavirus case on February 27 when an Italian was diagnosed with the disease, but the Federal Government then rejected advice that it should ban flights from high-risk countries.

The government on Thursday banned flights from 13 high-risk countries when the cases increased to 18.

The cases rose to 31 on Sunday with the disease spreading to Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti states, as well the Federal Capital Territory.

FG to publish names of returnees who ignore self-isolation

On Monday, Ehanire said although the country had not enforced isolation, it would take any step to ensure that those who were returning to Nigeria from high risk nations did not infect others.

Some returnees hiding –Minister

He said some of the returnees had been hiding while also pleading with them to take the right approach.

He said, “We have not come to forced isolation, but we have had occasion to go after those who came from abroad and have not registered their presence and have not gone into self-isolation. We will publish their names until they volunteer themselves and be put under investigation.

FG to recall retired doctors, nurses

According to the minister, part of the measures being considered is to recall retired medical doctors and nurses to help in the fight against the virus, saying that state governments have been notified of the step.

He said that 26 out of the 36 infected persons had history of travelling out of the country, while six had contacts with infected persons. He noted that four of the infected persons had no travel history or known contact with a confirmed case.

The minister said the five laboratories being used for testing of samples were adequate, noting that more would be added if the need arose.

He noted, “A ban was placed on all international flights effective from March 23, 2020 with the exception of emergency and essential flights. These were not easy decisions to make but they became necessary in view of the changing development in our country as we witness more and more confirmed cases coming from outside the country.

I urge all Nigerian residents to take self-isolation and social distancing seriously in order to prevent the spread of this disease in our country. Social distancing reduces the risk of someone who you do not that may have been infected from infecting someone else. Ensure you maintain five feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.”

He said however that nations with sophisticated medical system were finding it difficult to contain the virus.

“The behaviour and pattern of the illness are becoming clearer and countries are adjusting to what the disease looks like,” he stated.

The minister said government hoped that the disease would not get to the grassroots, adding, “if it does, we are prepared for that eventuality. We have received money and placed orders. We are expecting some deliveries. We have countries that have offered to support us.”

He added that government was taking an inventory of respirators in public hospitals. “We are talking to private facilities to know the number they have in their stores. Those that are not functioning are being repaired,” the minister stated.

He said five laboratories in Nigeria could test for coronavirus. “We have an offer for a new machine that will be placed in a strategic location,” he added.

We may be heading the way of China, Italy, FG warns

Ehanire said that 179 persons had contact with the Italian who brought the first case of coronavirus to Nigeria.

The minister said although new cases being recorded were Nigerians who were returning from countries with high burden of the virus, Nigeria could head the way of China and Italy if those who had contracted the virus already were not fished out and treated.

He said, “In less than 48 hours, the Italian who came to Nigeria (index case) was identified. The contacts we found for him were 179. They were all traced and monitored. Out of the 179, one was positive and put in isolation with the Italian. Both were cured and discharged.

“If other cases had not come to Nigeria, that would have been the end of COVID-19 in Nigeria, but other cases came that were not part of the first one. That is why we are saying that you do not compare what we have now with what they have in China or Italy. If we do not act fast, we could be heading in something dangerous like that (in China and Italy). They now transmit, among themselves

“We have to get those who have been infected now. If we don’t, it may be a serious burden in the system. I am sure some are hiding, they will not report for whatever reason. Nobody will be arrested or asked to pay anything. Those who are returning now are Nigerians. With the closure of our airports, we will reduce inflow of new cases and deal with the ones we already have.”

As of Sunday, China had recorded 81,093 cases and 3,270 deaths, while 63,927 people had been infected in Italy, which had recorded 6,077 deaths.

FG closes land borders for four weeks, suspends FEC meeting indefinitely

The Presidential Task Force for the Control of COVID-19 at a press conference on Monday evening, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had ordered the immediate closure of all land borders for the next four weeks with immediate effect.

The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said Buhari after a further review of the coronavirus situation, also approved the “suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings until further notice.”

He said the President also approved the “postponement of the meeting of the Council of State scheduled for Thursday March 26, 2020.”

“All land borders that have been hitherto under partial closure shall now be closed to human traffic for four weeks effective, 23rd March, 2020.

In order to protect federal civil and public servants, Mustapha said a circular would be issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, to direct on actions to be taken immediately.

Lagos, Abuja residents asked to stay at home

He added, “All Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home, avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings, until further advice is given.”

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said only cargo aircraft, or those on essential duties, emergency, in distress or stopping for refuelling would be allowed to land in Nigeria at the international airports.

The Minister of Health, at the press conference, said further investigations had been launched into the index case in Ekiti State where an American reportedly died of suspected case of coronavirus.

He said results confirmed that the American tested negative with his female caregiver while the driver that conveyed them to Ekiti was positive. “The driver could have contracted it from another place but investigation is ongoing,” he said.

Bauchi Gov goes into isolation after contact with Atiku’s son

There was fear in Bauchi State as the governor, Bala Mohammed, went into self-isolation following contact with a son of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

The governor, who returned to the state on Friday evening after an official visit to Lagos, , laid the foundation of 2,500 housing units on Saturday at Dungal Village, along the Bauchi-Jos Road.

The Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media, Mukhtar Gidado, in a statement on Monday, said Mohammed who recently returned from an official trip to Lagos met with Atiku’s son in the Aero Contractors aircraft where they shook hands.

Atiku, had on Sunday night said his son had tested positive for the virus.

Mohammed’s media aide, Gidado, said, “This is to inform the general public that His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State has gone into self-isolation.

“This development is sequel to the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control that the son of former Vice President of Nigeria, Mohammed Atiku Abubakar, was tested positive for the coronavirus upon his return from an international trip through Lagos.

“Recall that Governor Bala Mohammed, who also recently returned from an official trip in Lagos, met with Mohammed Atiku Abubakar in an Aero Contractors aircraft, where they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.”

The media aide said so far the governor had not shown any symptom of the disease, but based on the recommendation of the NCDC, he would remain in isolation to avoid the risk of spreading the disease.

“Currently, the blood sample of the governor has been taken and is undergoing clinical test. The governor and his entourage will remain in isolation pending the outcome of the clinical result,” he stated.

Bauchi’s gov’s family, 10 aides in self-isolation

Also, the Commissioner of Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, at a press conference on Monday evening said members of the family of the governor had gone into self-isolation.

He also said no fewer than 10 people including commissioners who travelled with the governor on a flight from Lagos to Bauchi had also gone into self-isolation.

Bauchi gov’s self-isolation jolts colleagues, NEC members

But the decision of Mohammed to isolate himself jolted his colleagues on Monday. The development reportedly forced some of the state governors into a panic mode.

Mohammed, at the NEC meeting in Abuja on Thursday, exchanged pleasantries with colleagues, including shaking hands, with them.

The NEC meeting was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who also exchanged banter with some of the governors.

A source on Monday said, “We hear that some of the governors and other NEC participants, who directly interacted with Mohammed, are jolted. They are panicking.

“They are hoping that his test result doesn’t come out positive, else they too will have to go on self-quarantine immediately.

Osinbajo was billed to inaugurate the National Traffic Radio of the Federal Road Safety Commission on Monday morning. The event was cancelled abruptly, owing to COVID-19 scare.

Aisha Buhari calls for total lockdown

Meanwhile, the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, on Monday called for a total lockdown of activities across the federation in response to coronavirus.

Mrs Buhari specifically cited the case of state governors shutting down schools but allowing their parents to continue going to work.

She noted that much as the move by the governors was commendable, it could be counterproductive if the parents continued to report for work.

Taking to her twitter handle, @aishambuhari, she tweeted, “It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work.

“We should not isolate students and expose their parents.Let us remember that they will meet at home.”#TotalLockDown #StayAtHome.”

Presidency accuses senators, reps of avoiding coronavirus screening

Also on Monday, the Presidency accused some members of the National Assembly who recently returned from foreign trips of flouting coronavirus screening at the nation’s airports.

The Presidency in a letter addressed to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker, House of Representatives dated March 21, alleged that the actions of the federal lawmakers posed a serious threat to the health of other Nigerians.

The Presidency, in the letter signed by the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, said it was written based on the report from the Minister of Health on the refusal of some federal lawmakers to subject themselves to screening at the airport as directed by health officials.

Kyari, therefore, urged the presiding officers to direct all National Assembly members who recently returned from trips abroad to report to the National Centre for Disease Control nearest to them for necessary screening and tests.

A copy of the letter, with reference number SH/COS/TP/R3 which was addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was sighted by one of our correspondents on Monday.

The spokesperson for the Senate, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, denied knowledge of such letter when confronted by our correspondent on Monday. He said, “I am not aware of any letter like that. Thank you. “

But while addressing journalists after plenary last week Thursday, Akwashiki said all senators who recently returned from foreign trips have been asked to go for tests.

We will deploy soldiers for contact tracing –FG

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a press conference on Monday, said government would not hesitate to deploy the military and the police for contact tracing in cases where persons suspected to have contracted the virus did not voluntarily show up for testing.

Mohammed appealed to those who recently returned to the country to “give themselves up”, noting that if contact tracing was not properly done, the number of people who had been infected would multiply every five days.

He said, “We should be ready for tougher measures. The forms they will take will be out from the end of today or tomorrow. But Nigerians should be ready for tougher measures.

“If we don’t do proper contact tracing, the figure will multiply every five days. Nigerians must take ownership of this initiative.

“If the situation warrants, we may be forced to use the police and the military for contact tracing. The police are already working on that. We don’t want the figure we have now to multiply. We should work towards containment which is cheaper

Ex-PPMC MD, first Nigerian to die of COVID-19

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control earlier on Monday said a 67-year-old man was the first Nigerian to die of coronavirus.

It said the deceased had underlying medical issues and had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and only returned to the country recently.

The patient, Suleiman Achimugu, a former Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, died at 2am on Monday.

Achimugu, a native of Kogi State, was said to have returned from the United Kingdom two weeks ago.

It was learnt that he started exhibiting the symptoms of the virus on Tuesday and the case was reported to the NCDC which took his blood sample for a test.

It was gathered that he tested positive and was evacuated to the Specialist Hospital, Gwagwalada, Abuja, but died while receiving treatment.

A statement from the family issued by Abubakar Achimugu said the deceased had been buried according to Islamic rites.

“Our family is deeply saddened to inform you of the sudden death of our beloved father, uncle, brother and friend, Suleiman Achimugu ( a former MD of the PPMC),” the statement read.

“He died of COVID-19 on 22/03/2020 some days after he arrived in Nigeria from the UK. He was in self- isolation upon his return from the UK and personally called the NCDC after experiencing some discomfort that are related to COVID-19 symptoms.”

The residence of the diseased was calm when one of our correspondents visited the Peka Close area in Wuse 2, Abuja, on Monday evening.

My son did not attend Juma’at prayers –Atiku

Former Vice-President Atiku said it was untrue that his son, who tested positive for coronavirus, attended Juma’at prayers.

Atiku, in a statement by his media adviser, Mr Paul Ibe, also said his grandson, tested negative for coronavirus while his son’s wife’s result was being awaited. He added that the two persons were in self- isolation.

He explained that the clinical case (Atiku’s son) returned to Nigeria on March 17, via Switzerland from some business engagements in France and Switzerland.

Atiku also said his son attended a private meeting of six persons same day in Lagos, stayed in his private house for the night and took an Aero 5.20pm flight to Abuja on March 18.

He stated that his son did not travel with his family or any other person, but travelled alone by Emirates Airline.

Ebonyi bans weddings, burials, others for 31 days

Apparently disturbed by the ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, on Monday, banned all forms of public gatherings in the state, for 31 days.

Umahi disclosed the ban during a town hall meeting with residents, which held at the International Conference Centre, Abakaliki.

Public gatherings, according to the governor, included burials, weddings, conferences, seminars, among others.

Represented by his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, Umahi noted that the ban was for a period of one month in the first instance.

PDP directs partial shutdown, skeletal activities at secretariats

The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has directed a partial shutdown and skeletal activities at the party’s national secretariat, Abuja, as from Wednesday as a measure over the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Monday, also said the party had already adopted some pre-emptive health safety measures that would safeguard lives in all the PDP offices nationwide.

Zamfara closes ministries

The Zamfara State Government on its part closed down all ministries and other government agencies in the state.

Announcing this, the Head of Service, Alhaji Kabiru Balaarabe, said the ministries should remain closed until further notice.

He, however, said the ministries of health and water resources as well as Zamfara Radio Station and fire service were not affected.

Edo shuts schools

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, shut schools in the state, which recorded its first coronavirus case on Monday.

The case was confirmed on Monday in Benin by the Chief Medical Director of the Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Professor Sylvania Okogbenin.

Okogbenin, who confirmed the new case at a press briefing by Obaseki in Benin, said the new patient arrived in Nigeria from European.

Falana seeks state of emergency

The former President of West African Bar Association, Femi Falana (SAN), has asked the President to declare state of emergency in order to curtail the spread of the virus.

Falana, in an open letter to the President, said this could help the country to enforce the advisories issued by the government on gatherings and social distancing since the action was not backed by any law.

He said, “Last week, the Federal Government and a few state governments belatedly responded to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then the authorities have advised Nigerians to comply with certain measures to contain the dreaded disease.

“But as the said measures are not backed by any law they have been ignored by some highly placed Nigerians including political and religious leaders.

“Millions of other people have also disregarded them out of sheer ignorance. In order to stem the dangerous trend, the Federal Government should put necessary legal measures and mechanism in place without any further delay.”

 

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