March 27, 2020

CORONAVIRUS: Danger as cases rise to 66, more states shut borders

South Sudan confirms first case of coronavirus

•FG tracing 4,370 cases
•A-Ibom, Delta, Kano, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Anambra shut borders
•Bauchi records 2nd case; Lagos to discharge six patients today
•Coronavirus can be sexually transmitted —Health Minister
•Presidency fumigates Aso Rock; Akeredolu, Diri, Obaseki test negative
•We’re yet to be tested, Kyari’s staff wail; State House journalists panic
•Buhari not coughing, not on ventilator — LAI MOHAMMED

By our reporters

Danger looms in the land as the Coronavirus continues to take a toll on humanity and businesses, with Akwa Ibom, Delta, Kano, Jigawa,  Ebonyi and Anambra states shutting their borders to prevent a spread of COVID-19 in their respective states.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, said that 4,370 people of interest are being traced.

It also urged those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities.

This is as President Muhammadu Buhari assured that restrictions on movement and gatherings for the safety of all citizens, will not affect production and distribution of food and medications.

In the same vein, Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) have tested negative to the CODVIV-19 test conducted on them.

Meanwhile, three days after Mallam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have tested positive to the COVID-19, the Presidency has started fumigation of the nation’s seat of power, also known as Aso Rock.

This is as some staff in the Chief of Staff’s office have isolated themselves when the test result of their boss was positive, lamenting that they were yet to be tested.

Already the panic mood in the State House has hit hard some members of the State House Press Corps, who were said to have come in contact with some governors during the National Economic Council, NEC, meeting last week Thursday.

In a related development, the Lagos State Government has announced that six of the 30 active cases in the state will be discharged today as they have fully recovered from the virus.

FG tracing 4,370 suspected cases

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the Federal Government is considering the adoption of more stringent measures to stem the spread of Coronavirus across the country.

Top on the range of measures being contemplated by the government includes the banning of all inter-state and inter-town movements and closure of all motor parks across the country.

This comes as Nigeria receives 100,000 face masks, 20,000 test kits and 1,000 personal protective equipment from Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, for use against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister said: “I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic, but the truth is that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.

“We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support the authorities in this regard. We are on the verge of reaching the level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to say this.

“In view of this, we are considering tougher measures to enforce compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to states that do not have it and minimize spread. Possible measures include stopping inter-state/inter-town travels, except for essential services, closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations and using fire-fighting and other adaptable vehicles and personnel to fumigate cities and towns. Already, all train movements have been stopped.

“Let me say, without mincing words, that we are not getting the kind of co-operation that this moment deserves from Nigerians. Many are busy engaging in meaningless criticisms instead of complying with the  stipulated directives to keep people safe.”

The minister regretted that tracing some travellers who might have had contact with index cases had become difficult due to the fact that some of them gave wrong addresses and phone contacts while others had continued to defy the order to stay away from large gatherings. Some religious leaders have continued to flout the order on social distancing.

The minister described as fake news media reports that President Buhari was coughing and on a ventilator as a result of contact with a COVID-19 index case; that there were only two functional ventilators in Abuja, of which a top government official had hijacked one, and that a British Airways flight was due to land in Nigeria on Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports in the country.

Movement restrictions won’t affect foods, drugs — Buhari

Also yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari reassured Nigerians that the directives for restrictions on movement and gatherings for the safety of all citizens, will not affect production and distribution of food and medications.

He also directed all relevant agencies and regulators to provide an enabling environment for industries to sustain their operations by ensuring reasonable access to industrial supplies and inputs like water, fuel, gas and essential infrastructure.

In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu in Abuja, yesterday, the President commended the unity of purpose in fighting the spread of COVID-19 in the country, particularly the willingness for self-isolation, social distancing, and contributions of public-spirited individuals and institutions.

Calling for greater compliance with regulations and restrictions on movement and gatherings for the safety of all citizens, “President Buhari further reassures that government directives will not affect production and distribution of food, medications, medical equipment and other essentials as the nation wades through the global health challenge, which already portends dire economic strains.

“The President directs all relevant agencies and regulators to provide enabling environment for industries to sustain their operations by ensuring reasonable access to industrial supplies and inputs like water, fuel, gas and essential infrastructure and relaxing of stringent laws, commending the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and commercial banks for the interventions to make forex and credit more accessible to those on the manufacturing line.”

He commended those that have contributed in different ways, especially those “who consistently mobilize resources to supplement efforts of Federal and State governments.”

The President extolled state governments, religious bodies, health workers, federal agencies, including security outfits, National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, for rising to the occasion to protect the country and its citizens, assuring that the government will remain steadfast in deploying more resources to lessen the burden of the pandemic.

In giving assurances of firm support for MAN  by proactively addressing the potential impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian economy, the President requested “that all necessary measures be put in place to protect and promote the health and safety of industrial workers.”

Kano shuts borders

The Kano State Government yesterday ordered the closure of all entry and exit points in the state from midnight  Friday as part of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje,  Abba Anwar,  in a statement, said: “Against the backdrop of containing the possible spread of Coronavirus, the Kano State Government orders the closure of all routes linking to the state from other parts of the country from March 27, by 12 midnight.  As from then, all movements coming in or out of the state are banned.

“This includes all kinds of movements through the borders of the state. Even those coming to Kano through a domestic wing of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, MAKIA, will remain at the airport, without getting entrance into the city. This decision is hard, but absolutely necessary, as part of precautionary measures against the deadly COVID-19 possible spread. We urge Kano citizens and all other Nigerians to bear with this difficult situation.

“Government would take all the necessary steps in making sure that the state is safeguarded against the deadly disease. People must co-operate with health workers and all other stakeholders to make sure that our state is safe and the country in general. Social distancing, as advised by health workers and the need to stay at home by all is an important aspect that should always be observed.

“Handwashing with soap and running water or cleaning with sanitizers should always be observed by people. Civil servants who were ordered to stay off from offices were given that directive to allow them to stay at home for their safety and that of the society at large.  All members of the public should stay away from going to markets, unless for essential needs.

“While borders would remain shut, according to the governor, the state would continue studying the situation and keep people abreast of any development. We are therefore calling on people to keep on praying and make sure that they always abide by all the medical advice given by health workers.”

Akwa Ibom orders workers home for 1 week

In Akwa Ibom, Governor Udom Emmanuel has issued a one-week stay-at-home order to workers in the state following analysis of the situation relating to COVID-19 pandemic with effect from March, 30.

Secretary to State Government, SSG, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem,  who announced this yesterday in a statement, said all borders and roads leading in and out of the state be closed with immediate effect except for the transportation of food.

According to him, although there is no confirmed COVID-19 case in the state, there is the need to abide by the ancient adage that “prevention is better than cure.”

He said: “Following a critical analysis of the situation relating to COVID-19 situation, I have been directed by Governor Emmanuel to make the following announcements:

“Salaries of state government workers for the month of March will be paid today,  March 26, 2020. Workers are advised to prepare to stop going to work and stay at home for one week with effect from March 30, 2020. The stay-at-home order will be strongly enforced.

“Ibom Air will suspend all flight operations from March 29.

“Markets are to remain open for the sale of foodstuffs and essential items only.  All churches are strongly requested to fast and pray for God’s mercies on March 29, 2020. Residents and citizens are strongly advised to apply all the preventive measures earlier announced.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: C’River State intensify screening, visits airport, seaport, others

“While the one-week stay-at-home order subsists, the Akwa Ibom State government will continue to monitor and provide regular updates on any development on the  COVID-19 situation in our state.”

Okowa shuts Delta’s  borders, Asaba airport

In Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, as part of efforts aimed at containing the outbreak or spread of coronavirus pandemic in the state,  yesterday, ordered the shutdown of the Asaba International Airport to traffic and closure of all land borders into and out of the state.

Okowa in a broadcast said: “As promised, we have continued to monitor and review developments concerning this global pandemic on a daily if not hourly basis. Although there has been no confirmed case in Delta, nevertheless, we deem it fit to take further measures to avert any outbreak or contain its spread if it occurs.

“Consequently, after a meeting with the Central Committee on Managing/Containing the Coronavirus Pandemic headed by me, several far-reaching decisions were made, and I hereby order as follows:

“Asaba Airport is to close to traffic effective from March 27, 2020, by 6 p.m. All land borders into and out of Delta are to be shut effective 6a.m., March 29, 2020. All businesses — malls, supermarkets, markets and shops are to close from Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

Ebonyi closes borders tomorrow

In Ebonyi State, Governor David Umahi said the closure of borders to passengers and commuters from Saturday is to protect residents from contracting the virus from people coming from infected states across the country.

He spoke when he led the state COVID-19 Medical team of which he is chairman to monitor compliance with the state government’s orders on safety measures to be adopted by essential services centres in the state.

Addressing staff of Native Kitchen Restaurant, Abakaliki, the governor said: “We are checking for cholera, Lassa Fever, COVID-19. You have to be your neighbour’s keeper by giving us information. This will help us to protect Ebonyi State.

“From Saturday,  no one will be allowed to come in or go out. Only vehicles carrying foodstuffs, construction materials and medical supplies will be allowed to come in. Only patients going in or out for treatment will be allowed passage.

“Try to use hot water, stay out of air conditioners. Avoid cold water, serve hot water and drink hot. Try garlic and lemon, it is very important. Stay safe, you are very important to us,” he advised.

Meanwhile, the state government has warned that any attempt to resist the ban on movement into the state will be severely resisted by government and security agencies.

Jigawa to close borders

In Jigawa State, following the reported case of coronavirus in neighbouring Bauchi State, state Commissioner for Health, Dr Abba Jigawa,  announced that it will close the borders with neighbouring four states today.

Zakari, shortly after a meeting with NURTW, Council of Ulamas and other religious leaders in the state, said the decision became necessary to curtail the spread of the dreadful pandemic, adding that already, Kano State has taken the stand of closing borders with other states and Jigawa has followed suit.

Zakari who is also chairman of the state task force on COVID-19 explained that the four border states include Kano, Bauchi, Yobe, and Katsina, adding that already the Federal Government has closed the international border as the state borders the Niger Republic.

“The closure of four border states will be closed Friday by 12 midnight,” he stressed.

Anambra watching 6 entry points

For Anambra State, it placed all its six entry points under full-scale watch as part of precautionary measures towards containing the pandemic in the state.

Anambra shares boundaries with the six states — Enugu, Imo, Abia, Delta, Kogi and Rivers.

State Commissioner for Transport, Dr Christian Madubuko said one significant approach was the use of thermometers for reading temperatures of commuters at the border points.

Speaking after an inspection tour of the Onitsha Head Bridge on the Anambra-Delta border and Amansea on the Enugu State border, the commissioner directed that inter-state commercial vehicle operators must provide their passenger manifests before being allowed into the state.

He said: “We want to ensure that those coming from other states comply with our directives. We want to check where they are coming from and where they are going and that is why it is necessary that they are properly manifested.

“We have our monitoring teams in all the areas to ensure that no place is left out in this task.”

He said the idea was to ensure that any commuter with high temperature or suspected case of the virus should be reported to the Ministry of Health or relevant agencies for immediate diagnosis.

Coronavirus can be sexually transmitted — Health Minister

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has said he believes that coronavirus can be transmitted sexually. Speaking at a media briefing in Abuja, yesterday, he said the country now has 51 cases of the COVID-19 disease.

“If a person is positive, the virus can be transmitted sexually,” he claimed.

Ehanire said the ministry is grading Coronavirus cases presented before it to avoid its facilities being overcrowded.

He said confirmed cases were in four categories and that about 80 per cent who tested positive have not displayed symptoms. He said severe cases that require oxygen support and ventilators will be taken to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, assuring that all cases would be well taken care of.

Presidency begins fumigation of Buhari’s offices

Three days after Mallam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have tested positive to Coronavirus, the Presidency has started fumigation of the nation’s seat of power known as Aso Rock.

Vanguard reliably gathered that some staff of Julius Berger, the company responsible for maintenance of the massive structure started sanitizing all keys to the entry point to Council Chamber early this week.

It was further gathered that fumigation experts arrived at the Villa about 9.30 a.m., yesterday, to commence intensive fumigation of all offices and vicinity of the Presidential Villa.

A presidential source hinted that at 11.15 a.m, the experts were already in the main building housing the offices of President Buhari, the floors, corridors and major pathways.

The source said: “These people are not from the Villa. They came from outside of the town (Abuja city). They are dressed in complete white overalls, masked and were wearing other protective gears.

“The dressing is similar to how the NCDC people wear their protective gears.”

Authorities at the State House, through the Office of Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, had on Tuesday pruned down the number of journalists covering the Villa as a precautionary measure to observe social distancing.

Staffers were also scaled down by the management to reduce human traffic in and out of the Villa, in a bid to address spreading of the pandemic.

A source in the Chief of Staff’s office lamented on Wednesday night that they were still waiting for NCDC, to test their status after the result of Kyari was said to be positive.

“We are still waiting for the NCDC to come and test us,” the source said.

Some members of the State House Press Corps also said: “We are having psychological trauma because of the nature of our beat. We all need to be tested but we are being told that the test kits are not enough and until one begins to show symptoms of COVID-19.”

Obaseki tests negative

In Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki has tested negative for coronavirus but has decided to remain in self-isolation.

In a statement, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagie, said: “I can confirm that the governor tested negative for coronavirus when he ran the rapid diagnostic test for the virus. However, we are currently awaiting the result of a more conclusive PCR test.

“In the meantime, the governor has decided to continue to work in self-solation and he is asymptomatic,” he added.

This came as the Deputy Governor, Philip Shuaibu, reiterated that only shops selling foodstuffs and essential commodities are allowed to open.

Shuaibu, after a meeting with representatives of the Nigeria Medical Association, Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria and hoteliers in the state,  stressed the need to enforce government directives on the containment of coronavirus.

He said: “By tomorrow, we have asked the task force to ensure total compliance on the directive on stay-at-home to avoid the spread of the virus. We have also met with transport unions and we have agreed that for every car, it is one passenger in the front and two in the back seat while for buses, it is one in the front and two in each of the seats.”

He urged hospitals in the state to have holding centres from where suspected patients would be taken to government isolation centres, even as he asked management of private and public hospitals not to turn patients away from their facilities.

Akeredolu also tests negative

Meanwhile, Governor Akeredolu said yesterday that his coronavirus test came out negative.

Akeredolu gave the cheering news on his twitter handle when he quoted his Health Commissioner, Dr Wahab Adegbenro, who informed him that the result of the test was negative.

Adegbenro had informed the governor by saying “Good morning sir. The result is negative.  Congratulations your  Excellency.”

Akeredolu thereafter, posted on his Twitter handle that “l just received the above text from the Commissioner for Health regarding my COVID-19 test results. We give all the glory to God.  Wish everyone affected speedy recovery. Our fight to protect the lives of our citizens continues. Huge thanks to all front line key workers fighting to protect us.”

Meanwhile, a statement by the state’s Information and Orientation Commissioner, Donald Ojogo in Akure yesterday, said “This is to officially announce to all residents of the state and indeed, the world that the result of the test carried out on the Governor of Ondo State, Akeredolu, SAN is out. It’s negative.

“Recall that Mr Governor willingly offered to be tested on Wednesday morning after one of his earlier contacts had been confirmed to be positive.

“Mr Governor encourages all to continue to be vigilant and adhere strictly to all regulations put in place to see this debilitating pandemic.  Ondo State shall remain safe throughout this trying period.

In another development, the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps, Ondo, Rotimi Adeleye in a statement directed all drivers and the motoring public to desist from overloading of passengers and goods.

Adeleye said that “drivers are to ensure that only one  passenger occupies the front seat and not more than three people at the rear in order to avoid body contacts.”

…Bayelsa gov too

In Yenagoa, Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa has tested negative for the Coronavirus, putting to rest speculations over his health status.

The governor’s acting Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Alabrah, said in a statement that the test result was obtained, yesterday, from NCDC-accredited laboratory at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State.

“The result showed that Governor Diri had no evidence of COVID-19 infection,” he said.

Officials of the epidemiology unit of the state Ministry of Health led by the state’s Epidemiologist, Ifiemi Iwuji, had on Wednesday conducted the test and the samples sent to the Irrua Specialist Hospital.

On his part, Diri expressed appreciation to Nigerians and Bayelsans for their concern, love and good wishes toward him and his family.

He also prayed for a reversal and healing for all those infected by the virus, and said his administration would continue to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the disease in the state.

As part of these measures, civil servants on Grade Level 1 to 12, have been directed to stay at home for two weeks with effect from March 26,  just as all public and private primary and secondary schools in the state have been shut down.

The state government had also suspended for two weeks burial and wedding ceremonies while the number of persons at worship centres and public gatherings have been reduced to not more than 20.

The restriction order also affects night clubs and drinking bars in the state.

Bauchi records 2nd case

The Bauchi State Government yesterday, announced the second case of a confirmed case of coronavirus disease in the state bringing the number to two.   With the new case in Bauchi which is yet to be confirmed by NCDC,  Nigeria now has 66 cases of confirmed cases. Addressing newsmen in Bauchi, state Commissioner for Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, explained that the second case of COVID-19 in the state is a 62-year-old patient.

6 recover in Lagos, to be discharged today

Speaking on a radio programme, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, said six people will be discharged from the isolation centre in the state today.

“We are going to discharge six of our 24 patients. So, our admitted patients will go down theoretically to 18 but if we admit more they will go up.”

Abayomi assured Nigerians that government is working hard to ensure cases of coronavirus are contained, adding that Lagos State has “expanded capacities” to deal with the pandemic.

He said the Lagos State government is building 250-bed capacity tents in three locations and is also refurbishing a whole hospital in Gbagada to accommodate potential patients.

Currently, the virus has spread to nine states across the country.

NCDC confirms 14 new cases of COVID19

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, has confirmed 14 new cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Confirming this in a tweet, yesterday, NCDC noted that two of the cases are in the  FCT, while 12 are in Lagos.

“Of the 14, six were detected on a vessel, three are returning travellers into Nigeria and on is a close contact of a confirmed case.

“At 7:35 p.m., March 26, there are 65 confirmed cases, three discharged and one death.”

I don’t react to false rumours

On rumours that President Buhari and his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari have been flown abroad, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, when contacted by Vanguard, last night, said: “I don’t react to false rumours.”