•Nigeria only preparing, not prepared — NMA; 43 isolated in Plateau
•We’re after all cases of casual contact —NCDC
•LASG upscaling facilities, says Sanwo-Olu; Buhari allays fears — P9
•Ondo, Edo, Benue, Kano, A-Ibom rally to curtail spread
By Sola Ogundipe, Health Editor, Chioma Obinna, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Gabriel Olawale, Peter Duru, Therese Nanlong & Abdulmumin Murtala
Minister of State for Health, Senator Adeleke Olurunnimbe Mamora, yesterday gave a breakdown of the 100 people said to have had contact with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) index case and have been traced by the government.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard, the minister explained that of the 159 passengers aboard the Turkish Airline flight that brought the index case to Nigeria, 54 persons had been traced and were being followed up by officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Health under what he described as “supervised self-isolation,” a situation where the people are asked to stay at home but are monitored by the officials
“In addition, six staff of the hotel where the man lodged that had contact with him have also been identified. From the company itself, 35 members of staff have been identified and are being followed up. The others are drivers, the ambulance drivers and service staff, altogether make up the 100 now.’’
Disclosing that some of the passengers had even travelled outside the country and to other states in Nigeria, he said: “Some of the people the Italian made contact with are established to have travelled; the government has sent an advisory to those states.
“Those who travelled outside the country, if the passengers had left to maybe, the UK, the information will be sent to the WHO office to track down the passengers, wherever they are and let them know that they have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus, and they can do the follow up where ever they are.”
No surprise if we record another case aside Italian – NMA Lagos Chairman
Similarly, yesterday, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, said with the level of preparation at different points of entry into the country, it would not be a surprise if Nigeria recorded another case of coronavirus.
Chairman of the Lagos State NMA branch, Dr Saliu Oseni, told Vanguard that the preparation level at the points of entry needed to be improved upon as the country could still be described as a nation at the preparatory stage.
Oseni said: “My prayer is that we won’t have something serious than this. As far as Nigeria is concerned, I will say we are preparing but not prepared. If we had a major outbreak I’m not too sure we are in a position to contain it. The awareness at the entry points is not enough.
“If a flight is coming into Nigeria from a Coronavirus-prone area, all the passengers should be aware of the need to engage in self-quarantine for 14 days before you start making contact and if they develop symptoms, they should be provided with numbers to call instead of first going to the hospital.
“But regrettably, nothing of such at the points of entry into this country; people just enter the country and start associating with people and moving around. But if we have dedicated personnel at the port that is guiding travellers on what to do and provide them with contacts to call, some of them will definitely engage in self-quarantine. But there is nothing of such at the entry points.
“The reality is that if people take precaution, the situation can actually be controlled, but I won’t be surprised if we have another case of coronavirus, aside from this Italian. But since the government is aware of lapses at the points of entry, I hope and wish they will put measures in place.”
Oseni said the country needs to pay more attention to prevention, adding that China and other countries that have equipment readily available were still struggling to contain the virus.
“We all know that prevention is better than cure. Assuming the Italian had engaged in self- quarantine immediately he arrived in Nigeria, we won’t be in the present situation. Some health institutions are trying their best to carry out some basic test for people that come to hospital premises but there is an issue of shortage of personnel.
“All the necessary things at the isolation centres are not yet in place but Lagos State Government said they are working on it and we are confident that they will do the needful,” he stated.
We are investigating all cases of casual contact — NCDC
Also yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has said that it was investigating all cases of casual contact with the index case that arrived in Nigeria with the virus on the night of February 25th.
Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said: “At present, the patient is very stable. 80 per cent of individuals affected by the disease actually show a mild symptom of respiratory illness. This is not Ebola or Lassa fever, which leads to anxiety because of the rate of transmission and the fact that it’s a respiratory virus.”
Stating that contact tracing was a diligent process, Ihekweazu noted: “We have been reaching out to all flight contacts and have a list of the passengers already, so that is fairly straightforward because we will have contact details, but we have to protect their privacy. We have been reaching out to a specific number of them.
“The more difficult thing is where there has been casual contact, like where there has been a conversation in close quarters with people along the way of the 48 hours that he spent between the airport and his workplace.
“Investigations are going on and we are fairly confident that if we find the people, there are a series of steps that will take effect and we will follow them up for 14 days. What we call the secondary attack rate for this disease, that is, the number of people affected by one person, we are looking at about 10 per cent, so it is not given that if you were within 1-2 metres you are necessarily going to be infected. There are a whole series of circumstances that may make that possible or not.
“When it was confirmed in one of our laboratories in Lagos, we immediately started the implementation of series of the protocols we have developed in the past six weeks preparing Nigerians because when you have a global situation like this, it is not about never but when.
“We were aware that it is only a matter of time and the critical thing is how we are going to respond. Our system is okay, which makes it possible for us to confirm this case promptly in one of our labs in Lagos. The patient is recovering and also told us his contact history, and the people he was in touch with since he came to Nigeria.”
Why we invited Italian to Nigeria – Lafarge
In a related development, Lafarge, a cement manufacturer in Ogun State has said that it invited the Italian, diagnosed with Coronavirus, to Nigeria, to inspect installations of machines at its facilities at Ewekoro.
The company through its Industrial Director, Segun Soyoye, disclosed this at their facility during an on-the-spot-assessment by the host state government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the World Health Organisation, WHO.
Soyoye also said that the guest house where the Italian was lodged is 5km from the manufacturing plant in Ewekoro.
“The Italian came for a business visit. He was in Lagos on Monday and slept at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja. Our driver took him there, and when we observed abnormal temperatures and symptoms, we quickly instituted an Emergency Response Team which is led by the company CEO; we have to find a way of analysing and identifying not only the Italian but also the other contacts,” Soyoye told the News Agency of Nigeria.
“He said those suspected to have had contact with the Italian have been quarantined. Today is Day 3; they will be there for 14 days. We will continue to observe them, we have their database, showing their biodata and other information. The doctor is here and what he is doing is to check them on a regular basis. So far everybody is stable, they are not symptomatic, we are providing everything for them over there.
“The other thing that I have not said is that the clinic used for the infected person is closed, disinfected and we moved everybody out. All the guys on duty that day, they were also quarantined, so they will be there for 14 days as well,” Soyoye said.
Lafarge management and the Ogun State government also debunked news of the closure of the cement production company.
We are scaling up isolation facility, says Sanwo-Olu
Speaking on the issue yesterday, Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, expressed satisfaction over the state of facilities and professionalism of health workers at the quarantine centre in Yaba, Lagos Mainland Hospital, in handling the first index case of Coronavirus in the state.
Sanwo-Olu made the remarks when he led a delegation in the company of his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, on a visit and inspection of an index case, an Italian who is currently being isolated, monitored and treated at the centre.
It will be recalled that at the weekend, there were media reports that the index case of Coronavirus isolated at the Lagos Mainland Hospital tried to escape, which the state government had debunked.
Sanwo-Olu, however, condemned the act by some “unscrupulous” people who he said have seized the opportunity on the outbreak of the disease in the state to hike prices of face masks, sanitizers, among others.
“We are hoping that all of these will get behind us very quickly, but we have all the machinery to deal with it. We’ll continue to scale up advocacy with the various stakeholders that need to be aware and members of the public would be informed adequately. Various medical professionals, both national, international, regional and security operatives are here communicating with one another and exchanging information.
“As you can see, the facility has been completely refurbished. So what it meant was that the state government had been preparing for this long before now. So, honestly, these professionals, they need to be commended. They need to be appreciated, we need to pray with them and for them, but more importantly is also that we have gone round to the biosecurity laboratory, which, is second to none in Africa.
“The power security laboratories are also good, it is done in collaboration with the Canadian government; it is a facility that has four levels of power. There is a 60KVA solar panel with an inverter, generator and the power security lab is also on the grid. The level of research going on there is comparable with anyone in the world. The environment is safe and secured.”
Sanwo-Olu, therefore, urged residents to take both personal and environmental hygiene very seriously, saying “it must become part of our lives, not when we have incidences like this that we begin to learn how to wash our hands or how to secure our environment and how to live healthily.
“People that developed immunity against this type of diseases are people that eat well, sleep well, and live in a safe and secured environment. We’ll continue to do everything that is expected of us as government and we will continue to provide resources needed by the professionals here, to make this place as comfortable as possible.
“Just for emphasis, you know, we have 100 beds, you see, there are wards one, ward two, ward three and in the events that it even scales up, we will have tents that we can immediately deploy. In the event that there are other victims, there are other containment centres. We are collaborating with the Federal Government, National Disease Control Centre, WHO, UNICEF and the African Union.”
The governor lamented that some Nigerians were taking advantage of the crisis at hand to make money by hiking prices of preventive items. “This is not the means to enrich yourselves, people are abusing a rare opportunity, this is not laughable and not what anybody wishes for, people hoarding things and selling 500 per cent above the normal price. We should ask ourselves what kind of people are we? We should be our brothers’ keepers.”
43 isolated in Plateau
Also, a total of 43 Nigerian and Chinese nationals are currently in isolation in Wase town and Barkin Kaya village, a mining community in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State.
The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Nimkong Ndam, confirmed that all those in isolation had not been to Jos, adding that their period of isolation would elapse on the 10th and 11th of March based on the period they were isolated.
He also disclosed that a surveillance team would be stationed at the Yakubu Gowon Airport to screen visitors to the state.
Speaking with journalists in his office, Ndam and his Information and Communication counterpart, Dan Manjang, appealed to residents not to be afraid because “for now, there is no case of coronavirus in Plateau State.”
He said: “On Friday, February 28, 2020, we received communication from the Nigerian Immigration Service that three Chinese nationals were in the state, a team was sent to Wase immediately and what we discovered was that they were not three but four.
“The first came in on the 25th of February, he flew from China to Addis Ababa to Abuja, the other three came in on the 26th. They were screened in Addis Ababa and in Abuja and they drove to Wase, to a mining site at Barkin Kaya and met with two of their colleagues who are also Chinese.
“The two on the ground were not comfortable with their presence since they were just coming from somewhere so they needed to be isolated for at least 14 days. They’ve presented their screening cards, they are not showing any symptoms of the disease.
“We need to keep them and monitor them and within this period, we gave them contacts to call in the event they show any symptoms. Natives of that community have been sensitized to stay away from the water source in that compound.”
He further allayed fears of illegal journeys by the visitors saying, “they have valid travel documents as confirmed by the Immigration Service, we don’t have any case of coronavirus in Plateau State, again, these people didn’t come to Jos at all, in the isolation centre in Wase, we have 25 people there while we have 18 people in Barkin Kaya, five Chinese and 13 Nigerians, making 43 people in all.”
We are on top of the situation – ODSG
In its reaction yesterday, Ondo State government urged residents not to panic over the discovery of Coronavirus in Ogun State, saying all machinery had been put in place to prevent the virus from entering the state.
The State Commissioner for Health, Wahab Adegbenro, who spoke in Akure, said it had become imperative to sensitise the public because the outbreak was in Lagos and Ogun, a few hours drive to Ondo State.
“With the confirmation of a case in Lagos, a few hours away (from Ondo), all stakeholders should join hands to prevent its outbreak in the state,” he said.
An emergency stakeholders’ meeting had been called to quickly map out action plans and necessary precautions to prevent the outbreak in the state.
The commissioner advised the public to refrain from being in crowded gatherings, report any case of fever and flu to the nearest hospital and avoid self-medication.
Edo intensifies campaign to check spread
Similarly, Edo State Government has intensified campaigns against the spread of Coronavirus and deployed health officials to the Benin Airport and all the motor parks in the state to screen travellers coming into the state.
The state Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, stated this during a meeting with stakeholders in the health sector and the representative of the World Health Organisation, WHO, at Government House, in Benin City.
Shaibu said: “Coronavirus is completely different from Lassa Fever. Contact is also there, but the sneezing and coughing is one critical thing we need to look at. From the state government end, we are very cautious of those entering our state.
“We are also looking at the motor parks and Benin Airport. We need to start our screening from all the entry points into the state. Our health workers and our partners will be deployed to these flashpoints.
“If any case is reported in any of the motor parks or the airport; if any passenger is suspected, our team in these parks will have to quarantine them. We will also commence temperature check-in our motor parks and the Benin airport, to be sure that those coming in and out are free from the disease.
“We will intensify public sensitisation on Monday. The purpose of this meeting is really to step up the level of preparedness from our health experts.”
He added that the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital would be a centre for the screening of any suspected cases of coronavirus, adding that “we need to know how prepared they are. The public also needs to know that the Irrua Specialist hospital is one of those hospitals that any suspected case will be taken for screening.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of Irrua Specialist Hospital, Prof. Sylvanus Okogbeni, assured that the hospital was capable of carrying out the diagnosis.
Okogbeni noted that because of the way Coronavirus spreads without symptoms, a patient could still spread it, adding that “a large number of people are going to be quarantined for a long time; we can educate people on self-quarantine.”
The State Coordinator of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Mrs Faith Ireye, appealed that the manifest of the airline that brought the Italian to Nigeria should be made available to Edo State Government since Italy is the second home of Edo people.
Ortom sets up Emergency Response Committee
In the same vein, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has set up an Emergency Response Committee, ERC, on Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 to monitor and intervene in the event of an outbreak of the disease in the state.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the Governor, Terver Akase, issued yesterday in Makurdi, said the committee was also charged with the responsibility to proactively supervise and coordinate state government’s response to the disease.
Akase noted that the Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr Sunday Ongbabor would head the committee as chairman while Dr Samuel Ngise is the secretary.
The statement read in part: “Governor Ortom has directed that surveillance on Coronavirus be stepped up in the 23 local government areas of the state. Already, a treatment centre has been established at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital and a location identified to be used as a quarantine unit in the event of any outbreak of the disease.
“The Governor urges Benue people to adhere to preventive measures and assist health workers in their various communities to succeed.”
Kano dedicates emergency hotlines
Similarly, the Kano State Government has provided hotlines in case of suspicious occurrences. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, said the surveillance and emergency response measures are in place to tackle an outbreak of any communicable disease.
He said the government has provided the emergency hotlines for citizens to call if they feel unwell or suspect a case of the Corona Virus anywhere across the state.
The numbers given out by the commissioner are those of Dr Imam Wada Bello, Director Public Health and Disease Control 08050303343, Dr. Bashir Lawan Muhammad, State Epidemiologist/Incident Manager, Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) 08099973292 and Sulaiman Ilyasu, State Disease Surveillance and Nitification Officer (SDSNO) 08039704476.
Others are those of the State Coordinator, World Health Organisation (WHO), Kano 08037038597 and Dr Sharif Yahaya Musa, Director Disease Control and Epidemiologist 08176677497.