Nigeria has intensified efforts to trace all persons that had contact with the Italian whose Coronavirus infection is the country’s index case.
Specifically, it has enlisted the World Health Organisation (WHO) support to reach 103 out of the 158 passengers that flew into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos with the Italian on Feb 25.
Also yesterday, the House of Representatives members sought two weeks break to enable the management of the National Assembly put measures in place to safeguard them against the virus.
The Lagos State Government on Monday raised the alarm that it was finding it difficult tracing the passengers aboard the Turkish airliner that flew the index case into the country.
It said some of passengers had either travelled to other states in Nigeria or gone back to Europe. The government added that those contacted through the telephone.
But on Tuesday, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, and Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said Nigeria was working with WHO to track the uncooperative passengers.
Mamora, who featured on the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja, said 100 people, including 54 co-passengers of the infected Italian, had been traced.
He said: “The contact tracing is going on well. It started from the manifest of the airline that came with the Italian, and I think about 157 or thereabout were on that flight.
“We got the manifest and 54 on the manifest have been traced. Then, moving from there to the hotel where the man (Italian) went, I think we have about six identified as contacts with him, then to the company he went to in Ogun State.
“We have about 30 to 35 identified contacts that are being followed up; then, there are other members of staff like the ambulance and taxi driver; all in all, about 100 contacts have been established.
“It is also important to say that some of these contacts, those on the aircraft that arrived the country with the index case have left the country, but the fact still remains that there was documentation.
“I am aware that WHO has been contacted so that those contacts that left can be traced to wherever they left to. So they have been notified and will get in touch with these contacts, no matter the country that they have gone to.’’
Sanwo-Olu, at a Stakeholders’ Forum on the Management and Control of Coronavirus in Lagos yesterday, also said the state government was working with WHO to identify the uncooperative passengers of Turkish airline flight.
The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said: “So far, we have been able to identify 100 persons and we are following them up on a daily basis. But we have not been able to identify everybody on that flight. We are however working with WHO to try and identify everybody that flew into Nigeria with the Italian.”
However, Lagos State Government in a statement by its Health Ministry gave a figure that differed from that of Mamora. It said out of 66 passengers of the Turkish Airline that alighted in Lagos, 41 were traced. Twenty five of others, it said, had yet to be reached.
The minister assured that the ministry would continue to monitor identified contacts in Lagos and Ogun.
He explained that the identified contacts have been placed on supervised self-isolation by asking them to stay at home and monitor themselves.
“It is supervised because we are also reaching out to them through health officials in the states, we make calls to them and visit them to make sure they do not go out to do business.
“We also told them that if they develop fever, headache, lethargy, body aches, sneezing or cough; they should reach the numbers given to them.”
On the suspected cases reported in Plateau State, the minister said they all tested negative; adding that every state was supposed to have emergency operation centres.
He added: “We have centres in all the states and a national centre activated at the highest level because it is the coordinating body.
“So, we monitor and we collaborate, we share information and then we follow up on whatever we need to follow up on.”
The minister noted that it is in the interest of the contacts to stay away, self-isolate from the public and loved ones, saying “it is important not to just protect yourself but to protect members of the public and your family because they are the first contact.”
Mamora also cautioned Nigerians on the use of herbal products to protect themselves from coronavirus.
His words: “There have been so many claims by some Nigerians that bitter kola can be used to cure coronavirus.
“It is true that bitter kola has anti-viral properties, but I am not sure how the anti-viral properties affect coronavirus.
“I have also heard of garlic, lemon, palm wine and even chloroquine
“We caution against the use of so many herbal drugs because Science has a basis and there is a procedural process to laying claims to whatever .’’
Mamora advised Nigerians not to panic but allow themselves to be “ruled by facts, not fears.”
On Lassa fever, the minister said that the disease had reduced in the country.
“There are three functional control centres in Edo, Ebonyi and Ondo states. The country has the capacity to manage Lassa fever; more people are recovering from it,” he said.
Reps seek 14-day vacation
The House of Representatives members on Tuesday resolved to embark on a two-week break to enable the National Assembly management provide measures to keep them free from Coronavirus while discharging their duties as lawmakers.
They, however, could not fix a specific date for the break as they need the concurrence of their colleagues in the Senate.
The Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, who proposed the break, said the virus should be handled with all seriousness it deserved, especially when the driver who had contact with the Italian carrier has not been identified.
He said: “I think that this House should suspend plenary for a period of two weeks or thereabout for the singular fact of satisfying everybody and also allow management of the National Assembly to put measures in place so that some of us can be tested. “It might sound like a joking matter, but it is a very serious matter and this House should take it as such. Otherwise, you don’t know who you will be shaking.
“The man who was the driver of the Italian has not been seen. Jokes apart, I think that the management of this Assembly and the leadership of the House should ensure that this matter is given the seriousness that it deserves.”
Another member, Awaji-Inombek Abiante, jokingly said that the seat the Minister of Health was sitting on while addressing Nigerians on the virus showed how prepared Nigeria was.
He said that as of Tuesday, there was no measures put in place in the National Assembly to screen people going into the complex.
After their contributions, the House asked the Federal Government to convene an emergency National Council of Health meeting to discuss ways of handling the virus.
It also wants the Federal Government to release more emergency funds, create an enabling environment and support the Federal Ministry of Health as well as other health agencies and institutions to overcome the threat posed by the pandemic.
The House advised that all centres established and designated for the treatment and management of Ebola cases in the country be activated for the management of suspected cases of COVID-19.
In addition, it called for the creation of, at least, two functional isolation centres in each of the six geo-political zones for the quarantine and management of suspected cases.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank on Tuesday canceled their 2020 Group Spring Meetings billed for United States (U.S.) over the raging coronavirus.
The event, scheduled to hold from April 13 to 19 will now be on virtual or online format.
A joint statement by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank Group President David Malpass on the 2020 IMF-World Bank Group Spring Meetings said: “Like everyone else around the world, we have been deeply concerned by the evolving situation of the Coronavirus and the human tragedy surrounding it”.
“Given growing health concerns related to the virus, the Management of the IMF and World Bank Group and their Executive Boards have agreed to implement a joint plan to adapt the 2020 IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings to a virtual format. Our goal is to serve our membership effectively while ensuring the health and safety of Spring Meetings participants and staff.
“We remain fully committed to maintaining a productive dialogue with our stakeholders and will leverage our IT-related and virtual connection capabilities to the fullest to hold our essential policy consultations with the membership. We will also continue to share IMF and World Bank analyses. With this adapted format, we are confident that our member countries will be able to effectively engage on pressing global economic issues at these Spring Meetings.”
The Presidential Villa in Abuja has commenced screening of staff and visitors as the country raises alert level against Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Besides the hand sanitizer being applied to all who must pass through the security screening point at the entrance into the main offices building, health workers were seen carrying out temperature screening.
The ravaging Coronavirus outbreak has taken a heavy on global aviation with four major airliners –Bristish Airways, Emirates, Ryanair and EasyJet – announcing safeguards and cost-saving measures.
While the British Airways British Airways, Ryanair and EasyJet cancelled hundreds of flights, Emirates sent its members of staff on a one unpaid leave.