Nigeria’s federal government has begun a massive search for all the persons that had contacts with the Italian who was confirmed on Thursday to be infected with coronavirus in the country.
The Italian national arrived the country at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos on Monday before he was driven to Ogun State where he took ill on Wednesday, leading his confirmation as the first case of the dreaded virus in the country and made public by the country’s health authorities on Friday.
Leadership newspaper reports that to curtail the spread of the disease, the Federal Ministry of Health had started working with all the stakeholders to track all the contacts with the patient since he came to Nigeria.
The ministry, however, cautioned against the abuse of social media to spread misleading information that could cause fear and panic among the citizens.
The minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who spoke on the tracking of the contacts, said that Nigeria would still follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and would not put restriction on international travel or quarantining of travellers.
Ehanire, who stated this at a press briefing in Abuja, said that the government would continue to intensify screening at the entry ports to prevent further importation of the virus into the country.
The case, which was confirmed on Thursday, remains the only one so far identified in Nigeria since the outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019, which has spread to about 53 countries.
According to the minister, “the case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, on 25th February.
“He was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” Ehanire said.
With the development, Nigeria is now the third African country to record a confirmed case of coronavirus, after Egypt and Algeria.
WHO had identified Nigeria and 12 others as high risk countries in Africa, and nine states, including, Lagos.
The minister said “the Multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group led by the NCDC has immediately activated its National Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures.
He said: “I wish to assure all Nigerians that we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case.
“All Nigerians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families,” Ehanire said.
The minister further advised Nigerians to “regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Maintain at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
“Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay at home or keep a social distance. They should not mix in the crowd. Make sure you and people around you follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue or into your sleeve or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose off the used tissue immediately.
“Stay at home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call NCDC toll free number, which is available day and night. For guidance: 0800 970 40-0010. Do not engage in self-medication.
“Stay informed on the latest developments about COVlD-l9 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health.”
Also the briefing, WHO officer in Nigeria, Dr Clement Peter, commended the government over the timely response to the first identified case of the virus in the country.
Peter expressed WHO’s commitment to working with the NCDC and other partners to enhance their support for Nigeria in the fight against the virus outbreak.
FAAN, Port Health Services Intensify Screening At Airports
Meanwhile, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Port Health Services have intensified the screening of both incoming and outgoing air passengers at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) and other airports across the country.
The regional manager, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that screening had been strengthened to detect any case of the coronavirus infection.
Shin-Aba said that all the screening facilities, thermal body and infrared scanners had been deployed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 for the screening of both inbound and outbound passengers.
She noted that FAAN was working with the relevant Port Health Unit personnel and other stakeholders nationwide on the containment measures.
The general manager, Public Affairs of FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, said that the agency was on top of the situation as it had escalated containment measures at the airports nationwide, adding that all concerned stakeholders: health officers, airlines and other secondary partners were on red alert on the new development.
I Picked Infected Italian At Airport – Uber Driver
In another development, a Nigerian who picked the infected Italian has submitted himself and has been quarantined in Lagos.
The Nigerian, Olugbenga Bodunrin, gave his identity yesterday morning via his Twitter handle: boldyemi @boldjohnson07.
He said: “I had contact with the Italian citizen the day before yesterday. I am an Uber driver. I picked him at the airport. We talk, gist and laugh together. We even dine together. My name is Olugbenga Bodunrin. 08136464040.”
Ogun Govt Quarantines 28 Persons
While commenting on the incident yesterday, Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, revealed that no fewer than 28 people had been quarantined in the state following the outbreak of coronavirus in the state.
An Italian was diagnosed with the coronavirus in Lagos on Thursday, while the victim travelled to Ogun State and had contact with workers of Lafarge Cement Company in Ewekoro.
At a news conference in Abeokuta, the state capital, Governor Abiodun said that the state government had converted the guest house of the company into a quarantined centre to monitor the workers who had contact with the index case.
He said that immediately the case was discovered, he was transferred to the Bio-Security Centre in Lagos State in a special ambulance with the health personnel fully kitted for isolation and treatment.
“The particular company in question has been shut down and the 28 people who had contact with the index case, an Italian have been quarantined,” he said.
The governor said that the state was leaving nothing to chance in ensuring that the disease was curtailed, adding that the government had distributed items, such as gloves, masks, protective devices, among others to health workers and stepped up advocacy.
He added that the isolation unit set up at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital would be upgraded to a full-fledged Bio-Security Centre to curtail the spread of the disease.
Earleir, the Ogun State commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, told journalists at a press conference yesterday in Abeokuta that three personnel of the company had equally been quarantined.
Coker confirmed that the Italian citizen tested positive to the virus in Lagos yesterday morning had visited the cement company im Ewekoro where he is a consultant to the firm.
She explained that quarantining the Lafarge cement facilities in Ewekoro becomes exigent to enable the state government activate the line listing of those who had come into contact with the Italian national and ultimately move towards curtailing the spread of the virus.
Coker said that the Italian national arrived in Ogun in the Lafarge facilities on Tuesday night, but developed body ache on Wednesday morning, thereby necessitating his being admitted at the company’s healthcare facility in Ewekoro.
“The said individual is of Italian origin, a consultant to the Lafarge, Ewekoro factory, arrived in Nigeria on Monday, 24th February about 9pm; he came to the country. Before arriving in Ogun State, he had made contact with three people, spent the night in Lagos State and arrived on Tuesday morning in Ogun State. He stayed at a guest house and at about 4-5pm on Wednesday, he developed body ache and fever.”
Lafarge Initiates Protocol Medical Unit
Meantime, Lafarge has said that it had initiated Protocol Medical Unit at the Ewekoro plant, adding that the individual concerned works for a vendor that provides services to Lafarge Africa Plc in Ogun State.
Lafarge in a statement signed by director, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development, Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, said that as a business concern they have immediately identified the persons who had direct contact with the infected Italian.
‘’We have equally initiated isolation, quarantine and disinfection protocol. We thank the exemplary leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health, Ogun and Lagos State governments for swiftly providing response and testing facilities and we are working in full co-operation with all local authorities.
‘’Lafarge Africa is also working in close partnership with International SOS, our medical service provider, a leading global health company. Health and safety remains a core value at Lafarge Africa and we intend to leverage this strength at this critical time,’’ she said.
Eni Denies Coronavirus Patient Not Its Personnel
Relatedly, Italian oil major, Eni has denied that the Italian diagnosed and confirmed carrying the coronavirus is its personnel.
The company, which issued a statement in Lagos, said that it remains committed to the health and safety of all its employees, and to maintaining appropriate measures, alongside other conscientious citizens of Nigeria and, indeed, the world, to ensure the effective containment of the coronavirus.
The company equally said that it has reduced national and international business trips to a strict minimum, increased internal awareness campaigns and reiterated the importance of maintaining healthy hand and respiratory hygiene habits at all times.
The oil firm added that it had implemented specific tools to ensure that workers are constantly informed on decisions and actions taken.
There have been several stories making the rounds on the social media that the Italian citizen in question may be an employee of Eni.
But the firm said: “We would like to state that this is not the case. The Italian citizen in question does not work for Eni and has not visited any of our offices. All our offices remain operational.”
Prices Of Face Mask Rises
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that there is an imminent hike in the price of protective equipment, such as face masks, arising from the panic and fears over the discovery of the first case in Nigeria.
Checks show that some traders in Lagos had started to increase the cost of such masks.
A trader who sells face masks in Yaba area of Lagos, Chinedu Kambiri, confirmed a slight increase in price of the masks.
He said: “Yes, many people are looking for it (face mask) now; there is fear everywhere.”
Kambiri said before now, it was only people who work in dirty environments that wear face mask, noting that that the situation had changed now as many Nigerians had started wearing it in public places.
Another trader of the protective material also in Yaba, John Udeh, stated that the price has not gone up but that there were signs that it would rise in no distant time because of the growing demand.
“The price has not gone up in my shop but the truth is that when many people start coming for it, it will surely go up. You know that when demand goes, up price follows.”, Udeh said.
States Step Measures Against Disease Spread
Similarly, the 36 states of the federation have stepped measures to avert the spread of the virus in the country.
Their umbrella body, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said yesterday that it had taken note of the first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case reported in Lagos.
In a statement issued by the chairman NGF and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, he said that an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and journeyed from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria through Istanbul, Turkey on the 25th of February, 2020 and was said to have spent some time in Ogun State.
He said: “The patient is said to be clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is currently being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.
“Since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is designated as a global epidemic, the state governments have been strengthening emergency response preparedness and capabilities in conjunction with the federal government and all other relevant agencies.
He said that in response to the first case reported, the federal government, through the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC, has already activated its National Emergency Operations Centre and is working closely with the Lagos State Ministry of Health to respond to this case and implement firm control measures to prevent further widespread.
“As a forum of proactive governors, we have initiated monitoring infrastructure in all states to ensure that quick response and attention is given to anyone showing symptoms of the disease. We encourage the citizens to self-quarantine if they notice symptoms related to the viral disease and contact the nearest health facility within the states. We will deploy all resources available to respond and contain further spread of the virus,” Fayemi said.
No Cause For Alarm, Says Sanwo-Olu
His Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday allayed the fears of the resident on the outbreak of the disease in the state, saying there was no cause for alarm as the government had put necessary measures in place to tackle the situation.
The governor, who stated this at a press conference in Lagos, said that his administration had commenced contact tracing of those who had connection with the patient that developed the symptoms in Ogun State, where he had a business meeting on Tuesday.
Sanwo-Olu explained that the patient arrived in Lagos from Milan, Italy, on Monday, without symptoms, but was later referred to Lagos after exhibiting the signs and was first treated at the company’s facilities, in Ogun State.
Sanwo-Olu, who hinted that there are various levels of escalation, said that the state is constantly in touch with the NCDC, the federal government and other stakeholders while surveillance, monitoring and containment would be intensified.
Katsina Govt Activates Emergency Centre
The Katsina State government has expressed its readiness to curtail the spread of the virus following its outbreak in Lagos.
The executive director, State Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA), Dr Shamsudeen Yahaya, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the Ministry of Health in collaboration with SPHCA were aware of the case and had activated the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) and had remained on the highest alert level.
“We will continue to sensitise the general public about COVID-19; this will include symptoms and how to prevent the spread, and also the engagement of traditional and religious leaders to sensitise the public,” he said.
Foreigners, Travellers To Undergo 2-Week Screening In Ebonyi
In Ebonyi State, the secretary to the state government (SSG), Dr. Kenneth Ugbala, has said that in line with the state government’s determination to curb the spread of COVID-19 disease, all foreigners living or entering the state are to undergo medical checks.
Addressing local government chairmen, development centre coordinators, traditional rulers, town union presidents, Local Government Advisory Committee members and hoteliers in Abakaliki, yesterday, Ugbala directed that apart from the foreigners, other Ebonyi indigenes or other Nigerians who travelled outside the country must also be profiled before entering the state.
Nasarawa Govt Intensifies Sensitisation Campaign
The Nasarawa State government says it had set up a well-trained response team to curtail any reported case of coronavirus).
The commissioner for Health, Ahmed Yahaya, told newsmen yesterday in Lafia, the state capital, that the response team, which personnel are well trained and kitted, are at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) Lafia and the Federal Medical Centre Keffi.
“Isolation centres in the two hospitals are well-equipped and we got more facilities from NCDC,” he said.
Plateau Monitoring Situation – Commissioner
The Plateau State commissioner for Health Dr. Nimkong Larndam, said that the state government was on top of the situation.
Recently, there were reports of some Chinese nationals visiting the state for mining activities in Wase local government area.
Larndam said that the state government had sent medical personnel and equipment to Wase to test the people, adding that if anyone tested positive, he or she would be quarantined immediately.
He added that the state government had embarked on enlightenment campaigns for members of the public to report any suspicious case to members of the state medical committee.
Osun Inaugurates 15-man Committee
The Osun State government has inaugurated a 15-member Technical Action Committee to put in place measures to tackle any outbreak of the coronavirus in the state.
While inaugurating the committee yesterday at a press conference organised by the Ministry of Health, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola said that the decision to set up the panel was part of the efforts to keep the state safe.
Oyetola, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Benedict Alabi, said that the action was also in furtherance of the government’s determination to provide quality healthcare delivery for the people.
Borno Allays Fears Over Disease Spread
The Borno State commissioner for Health, Dr. Saliyu Kwayar Bura, has assured the residents of the state’s preparedness to response to any outbreak of the disease.
The commissioner said that the state had transited from Lassa fever response to that of COVID-19 since the former had been tackled.
He said that the Maiduguri International Airport Authority had set up a screening section for any passenger coming into Maiduguri from outside the state.
Gombe Takes Proactive Measures
On its part, the Gombe State Ministry of Health has taken proactive measures to protect the residents against Coronavirus.
The commissioner for Health, Dr. Ahmed Gana, said that his ministry in collaboration with the NCDC had placed the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre (PHEOC) in a heightened situation awareness and intelligence gathering.
He added that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) had been procured and placed at Gombe International Airport and other places.
No COVID-19 Outbreak In Benue – Public Health Director
In Benue State, the director of Public Health, Dr Terna Kur, has said that the state government was ready to carry the people along in the dissemination of relevant information about precautionary measures agains coronavirus.
Dr Kur, who said that there was no index case in Benue, admonished the people not to panic.
He said: “The state is fully aware of the recent outbreak of COVID-19, and the state government has taken necessary steps to educate and sensitise the people as well as initiate some interventions.”
Delta Govt Takes Measure on Coronavirus
In the same vein, the Delta State government has placed health-related institutions and disease control mechanisms on red alert in readiness for any possible outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.
The commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye, said the state was prepared to curtail the disease if there was an outbreak.
Ononye said that the special team that successfully managed Lassa fever had built enough capacity and shown commitment to addressing any health challenge in the state.
The commissioner disclosed that the seaports in Warri, Sapele, Koko and Oghara had been designated as holding centres for any possible outbreak, adding that “all hospitals across the state have been mandated to designate an isolated area as a detention centre for any case of COVID-19.”
Rivers Sets Up Ad-hoc Treatment Centre
The Rivers State government has set up an Ad-hoc Treatment Centre in preparedness for any outbreak of the disease in the state.
The acting permanent secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Chinwe AtatA, disclosed this yesterday while briefing newsmen at the Public Health Emergency Operational Centre in Port Harcourt.
Atata stated that the ministry, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, especially the Port Health Services, NCDC and other stakeholders, had taken steps to ensure maximum surveillance at international entry points into the state.
Nigeria Can Defeat Disease, Atiku Declares
Meanwhile, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has urged the federal government to exhibit oneness of purpose in the quest to defeat the spread of the virus.
Atiku gave the advice via his facebook page where he expressed concerns on how best to tackle further spread of the virus.
“We must call upon our experience with the Wild Ebola Virus, of which we were the first nation in the world to defeat that scourge in 2014. We achieved it by showing unprecedented unity, complete unity, solidarity and oneness of purpose, which created the atmosphere that defeated that deadly infestation,” Atiku said.
Facebook To Work With Nigeria Against Misleading Reports
The social networking site, Facebook, has pledged to partner with the federal government to check the spread of fake news and disinformation in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Nigeria.
The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a news briefing in Abuja, yesterday, said that it’s obvious that the purveyors of fake news would scale up their acts to create panic and spread disinformation, following the confirmation of the disease in Nigeria.
“We know that at times like this, purveyors of fake news and disinformation usually ramp up their acts. We are therefore urging Nigerians not to fall for the antics of the purveyors of fakes news and disinformation
“Fortunately, Facebook is working with us in this regard. They have asked Nigerians to report any false or misleading report on Facebook and Instagram pages so they can immediately bring them down,” he said.