March 4, 2020

CORONAVIRUS LATEST: NCDC boss, Ihekweazu sent into 14-day self-isolation

•We insisted he must undergo 14-day self-quarantine — HEALTH MINISTER
•Reps to suspend plenary for 2 weeks over Coronavirus
•Chinese held in Lagos tests negative; index case responding to treatment
•2 users of hotel room after index case traced; 1,811 screened — NCDC

By Henry Umoru, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Chioma Obinna, Gabriel Olawale, Tordue Salem & Chinelo Azike

Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has gone into self-isolation for 14 days.

This came on a day the House of Representatives suspended sitting for two weeks to screen and detect symptons of the virus.

This is even as a Chinese who arrived Lagos aboard Ethiopian Airlines on Monday night, coughing profusely, was quarantined at Mainland Hospital Quarantine Centre, Yaba, though he was last night declared negative to the virus after a test.

Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who disclosed news of self-isolation by the NCDC boss in Abuja yesterday, said Ihekweazu travelled to China to understudy the behavioural pattern of the Coronavirus disease, COVID-19, adding that he was being quarantined in his residence.

Ehanire, who briefed the Senate leadership on the development, said Ihekweazu, an infectious disease epidemiologist and public health physician, was quarantined on his return from China, in line with established safety procedures against the disease.

The NCDC boss had visited China at the request of the Chinese government to understudy and conduct research on the behavioural pattern of Coronavirus and   was immediately quarantined as soon as he returned to the country.

On Nigeria’s preparedness

Speaking on the level of the country’s preparedness, Ehanire explained that there were already established Isolation centres in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt to respond to any emergency.

According to him, these are in addition to   scanners discreetly mounted at four international airports to capture body temperature without passengers being aware.

Ehanire said:  “We were honoured that one of the scientists that WHO had chosen to go to China to study the disease was the D-G of NCDC.  They were there for nine days, during which they carried out investigations. But we have already established rules here that anybody who has been to China will go to self-quarantine.

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“Chikwe has gone (to China) and came back and has done the test. It’s negative, but we have insisted that he must undergo the 14 days of quarantine which is why he was not here today.  He’s not allowed to come out until after 14 days, because if you make rules, you must also obey them, which is to set example for Nigerians that the head of NCDC is in self-quarantine as we speak. He is   very well, but he has to follow the rules.”

Speaking, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who expressed concern over   the idea of having only Isolation centres, however, called on the Ministry of Health to immediately “step up” the plan to create more isolation centres  in all the states of the federation or at least one in each of the six geopolitical zones.

Lawan, who said “we need to do something dramatic,” also also queried arrangements by the Ministry of Health to set up additional isolation centres in four teaching hospitals.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Health, Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, called for the establishment of permanent standard Isolation centres in the country to respond to emergencies.

The Federal Government has so far released N600m to prevent an outbreak of Coronavirus disease in Nigeria but a federal lawmaker, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), said the amount was too small.

He, therefore, called on government to immediately release N1 billion to the Ministry of Health.

We’ve screened 1,811 for Coronavirus—NCDC

Also yesterday, the NCDC said that a cumulative total of 1,811 people had been screened for likely infection by Coronavirus, even as the agency hinted that the laboratory testing capacity for the disease had been expanded to five, with the addition of the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research.

According to the situation report by the agency, a total of 15 suspected cases have been identified across four states (Lagos, Ogun, FCT and Kano), out of which one was confirmed positive (index case) with no death.

“Three new contacts were identified in Lagos and one in Ogun, making a total of 21 and 40 contacts respectively. Laboratory testing capacity has been expanded to five, with the addition of Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Lagos

“Overall, the final reported destination for 103 passengers on board the aircraft of the confirmed case, was within Lagos State, while the remaining (45) were outside Lagos. A cumulative total of 1,811 passengers of interest have been screened: Abuja (1,082); Port Harcourt (74) and Kano (665).

“The confirmed case has mild symptoms and is being managed at the designated treatment facility for COVID-19 at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Yaba, Lagos.

Lagos records 2 suspected cases

Releasing update on the development yesterday, the Lagos State Government recorded two fresh suspected cases of Coronavirus between Monday and Tuesday.

One of the cases, a  Chinese national, who was intercepted late Monday night at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, later tested negative. The second case is a Nigerian who flew in from Dubai.

Briefing journalists over the development, Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said the Chinese national came in Monday night on an Ethiopian Airlines flight and was intercepted at the airport and had been taken to the isolation centre in Yaba where his sample had been taken for testing.

“Within the next four to five hours, we will know if   it comes   out negative, we will release him to go about his business, but if it turns out positive, he will be isolated and commence management of the disease on him,. We will also release the results as soon as we have them.

“The Chinese man was said to have been coughing profusely at the airport last night. He said Lagos was already putting contingency plans in place in the event that the outbreak skyrocketed.

“We currently have 100 isolation centres, but we have put plans in place to increase the number  to 1,000. With time, we will know whether to activate these or not. We are also preparing five general hospitals and our IDP camps as plan B.

“We hope no other case is recorded, but should there be any, we are more than ready to handle outbreaks.

“The Federal Government has activated testing sites at every international airport, including that of Lagos. So as it stands now, we have two centres in Lagos where tests for Coronavirus can be done. This is because Lagos is strategic.”

Abayomi noted that the state had been preparing, adding that it had an extremely sophisticated laboratory with level three, certified by international bodies.

“People criticise us that we are not prepared, but what they don’t know is that we have been waiting for this day,’’ he said.

On the index case, he explained that the patient was fine and responding to treatment but noted that he was complaining of being lonely and far away from people.

Abayomi explained that three tests had so far been carried out on the Italian, noting that the result of the first   test which specimen was taken from his chest area where the virus dominates, showed a baseline of the virus, while the second test showed the virus has reduced.

According to him, the third result showed the virus has gone back to baseline.

“We will keep watching him because the virus fluctuates. Whenever the virus eventually leaves his system, we will be happy to release him. I am sure he will want to travel back to Italy immediately after been released.

“He has a mild-to-moderate case of the virus at the moment. His breathing is fine although he has slight cough. We know he is lonely at the moment because his ward has 14-bed spaces, but we reached out to his embassy. They have provided him with phone, internet, books, and Italian food.

“n his ward, there are 14 beds. He is the only one in there, he’s been lonely. His consulate has sent him internet, food, books to entertain him, all he has will be destroyed when he leaves.

“We will keep him for sometime until his viral presence comes down to zero.  When he is not secreting the virus, we will leave him for more time, then release him,

We are tracing airlines he had contact with.

“As regard the airline, there are about 159 passengers, including the crew, 76 are in Lagos.  We managed to reach 41 and 35 are not reachable, may because they gave wrong information or address.

“Once we get information from the countries they come from, we will reach them through the World Health Organization and other international bodies to send an alert.

“People are very mobile, the rest may have gone back or gone to other states. So far, the patient is in stable condition, with no tendency of developing any major complication. He is breathing fine and comfortable. He is in one of our newly refurbished isolation units with 14 beds.”

‘Nigerian developing severe pains’

Also speaking, Dr. Bankole Akinwale, Manager, Lagos State Biobank, said the  Nigerian who flew in from Dubai a few days ago, had started developing severe body pains and other symptoms.

“The patient showed up at the facility on Monday to make the complaint, but we asked the patient to come back today (yesterday) for possible diagnosis and further action.

Akinwale, however, assured that there was no cause for the alarm over the fresh cases, saying there were enough facilities to handle the situation.

Reps to shut down for two weeks

In their reaction to the development yesterday, the House of Representatives resolved to suspend plenary for two weeks to screen and detect symptoms of the deadly Coronavirus, currently spreading fear across  the country.

The House said the period would allow management of the National Assembly and principal officers, provide screening and detection facilities at the complex.

The decision to close the Green Chamber was taken after the House adopted  an amendment to a motion by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Godwin Elumelu (PDP, Delta).

The motion to confront the disease as an emergency, was moved by Josiah Uyime Idem (PDP, Akwa Ibom).

The House, however, did not fix a specific day for the suspension of business, as they said they will require the concurrence of the Senate.

Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu while speaking on the motion, said the two-week break was necessary because the issue of Coronavirus had become a serious national and international issue, which should be handled with all seriousness it deserved.

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According to him, the driver of the Italian who brought the virus to Nigeria is yet to be held and quarantined.

While contributing to the motion, Elumelu who came under matter of privileges, said members should within the two weeks break embark on routine check.

He said: “What has been recorded in Nigeria today that we have Coronavirus  from Ogun state and from an Italian man who visited Ogun state and turned out to have visited the constituency of Hon. Isiaka.

“I think that this is very serious and 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 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 and the leadership should ensure that this matter is given the seriousness that it deserves.”

Contributing to the debate, Awaji-Inombek Abiante, reminded his colleagues of the motion that was thrown out by the House calling for the evacuation of Nigerians living in Wuhan, China, where the disease was first discovered.

“Now, we are faced with our worst fears because  Coronavirus is here with us. We threw out a motion to bring back our brothers from Wuhan, China, and now, we are caught up with our worst fears.”

He argued that the incubation period of the virus had increased from 14 to 21 days which, according to him,  is enough period for anybody that is infected to travel round the country, getting in contact with as many people as possible.

He lamented there was no emergency response to the pandemic within the National Assembly.

The House also asked the Federal Government to convene an emergency national council of health meeting to discuss ways of ending the coronavirus.

Illegal wildlife trade aids animal-to-man infections — LASU-VC

In his reaction yesterday, the Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University, LASU, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, said illegal trade in wildlife was one of the channels through which human beings get infected with some diseases transmitted by animals.

Speaking at this year’s World Wildlife Day, at an event organised by Lagos State University Centre for Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development in partnership with the United States Consulate, Fagbohun, a Professor of Environmental Law, said illegal trade in wildlife ranked fourth on the list of illicit and criminal activities in the world.

“Flora, fauna and human beings are in a sort of symbiotic relationship but we must not go beyond certain limits. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Supporting all life on Earth”. The vulture for instance helps us clean up the forest when an animal dies.

“The forest helps us clean the atmosphere to let us breath clean air. However, some people engage in illegal acts and activities that harm us all whether flora, fauna or human beings,’’ he said.

The V-C added that of  the about 250,000 plant species identified so far, only about 3,000 species had been put to use by mankind.

He charged Nigerians to strive to conserve the wildlife as the repercussions of doing otherwise could be disastrous.