•Cases now 44 as NCDC confirms new cases in Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi, Abuja
•Presidential Task Force inspects Aso Rock; Jack Ma’s test kits arrive
•Why Aisha Buhari shut office for 2 wks; PDP urges Buhari to speak on Villa status
•Osinbajo conducts meetings via video conferencing
By Chioma Obinna, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Dirisu Yakubu & Charly Agwam
ABUJA — Influential Chief of Staff to President Mohammed Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, has reportedly tested positive to the rampaging Coronavirus that is currently wreaking havoc in the country, forcing some state governors to either put their states on lock down or threaten to do so.
While countries of the world have stepped up efforts to contain the ravaging virus, fear and uncertainty have gripped Bauchi State residents after it was confirmed that Governor Bala Mohammed tested positive to corona virus.
Earlier, yesterday, Senior Special Assistant on Media to the governor, Muhktar Gidado in a statement, confirmed that the governor tested positive to the virus after his blood sample was taken to Abuja and tested by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. This came as anxiety heightened at the country’s seat of power, Aso Villa, over reports of the corona virus infection.
Meanwhile, the number of Coronavirus cases in Nigeria yesterday, rose from 40 to 44, following four new confirmed cases in Lagos, Ogun , Bauchi States and Abuja, respectively.
Confirming this on its twitter handle – @NCDCgov, yesterday, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, explained that one of the cases was a returning traveller while the second case was a contact of a previously confirmed case.
The other two cases have travel history to Germany and the United Kingdom, UK, respectively.
Giving further details on the number of cases, NCDC explained that at 06:25p.m., on March 24, 2020, there are 44 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria; two have been discharged with one death recorded.
According to NCDC breakdown by states in real-time, Lagos- 29, Federal Capital Territory Abuja, FCT- 8, Ogun- 3, Ekiti- 1, Oyo- 1, Edo- 1 and Bauchi 1, bringing the total of cases to 44.
This came as the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi urged all participants and attendees at the just concluded African Magic viewers’ Choice Award, AMVCA, held on March 15, 2020, at Eko Hotels, Lagos to go on self-isolation.
Recall that last week, the First Lady, Aisha Buhari had shut down her office for two weeks over alleged refusal of one of her aides who returned from the United Kingdom, UK, to heed her advice to stay away on self-isolation for 14 days before coming to work.
The news that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari tested positive to the COVID-19 allegedly led the National Centre for Disease Control NCDC, to carry out tests on the President on Monday and the result released, yesterday, was negative.
The mask-wearing members of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of the Coronavirus were led by its chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha on inspection of the nation’s seat of power.
Their presence caused anxiety among State House Staff, especially as the Chief of Staff was reported to have held meetings in the Villa since his return.
The 12-man task force declined to speak to newsmen as they filed out of the State House.
When pressed by State House correspondents to talk, the SGF simply said “you’d be briefed later.”
On departure, staff at the Villa were heard speaking in hushed tones and expressing fears about the consequences of the alleged positive test for Kyari given the nature of his interaction with politicians, other senior government officials and staff.
Since returning from Germany, Kyari who was said to have been asymptomatic, had been attending meetings including last week’s Federal Executive Council, FEC and inauguration of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of Coronavirus, both of which were presided over by President Buhari.
Kyari who was on a trip to Germany on March 7, this year, to meet with officials of Siemens in Munich on Nigerian electricity expansion programme, returned to the country on March 14.
He was sighted after Jum’aat prayers last Friday, but was not seen at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday. His official vehicle was also not sighted at its officially allocated position at the car park in the Admin Wing of the State House, yesterday.
Members of the Presidential task force include Minister of Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services, Sadiya Umar-Farouk; Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu; Minister of Environment, Mr Mohammed Mahmoud; Director-General, Department of State Services, Mr Yusuf Bichi; Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu; and World Health Organisation Country Representative.
Kyari in self-isolation
A top government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the Chief of Staff was in self-isolation, where he was being monitored by medical personnel because he was not showing severe symptoms of the disease.
Asked if he was not expected to be moved to Abuja University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, where cases of COVID-19 are being treated, the source said it was not compulsory that everyone who tests positive must be taken to the hospital.
He said that if the patient was not showing severe symptoms of COVID-19, he can merely be given bed rest, noting that most of the victims of the disease naturally recover.
He also pointed out that over 80 per cent of victims recover without any intervention.
According to him, “He may test positive and not show severe symptoms and so be in self-isolation. The symptoms in over 80 per cent cases are mild as they manifest modestly. Most people will recover without intervention. Fatality is common in old people.
“They only have to be monitored to find that the situation is not deteriorating. He can be on bed rest and given drugs related to the symptoms he’s showing. If the symptom is fever, he can be given paracetamol.
“He will be given water to help him hydrate. His blood sample will be taken to know that he’s not showing any sign of deterioration. The treatment given to them is just to support the immune system.”
He further said that most of the victims of the disease who die were those who showed respiratory symptoms like pneumonia, adding that it was the reason why ventilators are needed.
It was reliably gathered that some notable presidential aides, who had contacts with the Chief of Staff had gone into self-isolation.
One of them, when contacted by Vanguard to confirm their status in a text message said: “Sorry, I can’t talk right now.”
The source at the State House said that staff would not be subjected to tests until there are symptoms of the virus, adding “while it is ideal for everyone to be tested, test cannot be carried out on every suspected case until it is showing symptoms of the disease.”
He explained that there are limited number of test kits, and that it is only reasonable to reserve such a limited number of kits for those who will be in dire need of them.
According to him, “Tests are done if only people are showing symptoms. If they are not showing symptoms, they will only be told to self-isolate. They will not be tested until they are showing symptoms.
“It’s on account of limited kits that this is done. Ideally, everybody should be tested because there are some people that are not showing the symptoms and are positive. We have people from high-burdened countries but there are no kits. It is not prudent to use the kits for those that are not showing the signs.”
Fear grips Bauchi residents
Governor Mohammed, through his spokesman, Muhktar Gidado, has urged everyone who recently had contact with him, and anyone with symptoms of the infection to go for test in order to avoid the risk of spreading the disease. Gidado said Governor Mohammed is currently in isolation.
He said: “This is to inform the general public that the result of the six initial tests carried out by NCDC on Governor Mohammed, his family and aides that accompanied him to Lagos is out. Of the six initial tests carried out, one sample was confirmed positive of COVID -19.
“The positive result happened to be that of Governor Mohammed.
“At this point, it should be noted that the Governor is in self-isolation as his doctors and officials from NCDC have taken full charge of his quarantine. His Excellency, solicits for prayers from all and requests that all those who had contact with him or any one known to have the same medical condition to go for test immediately in order to avert further spread of the COVID -19 epidemic.”
Meanwhile, a student, Munir Abubakar, who spoke with Vanguard said he now sees a reason to get hand sanitizer in order not to contract the deadly virus.
“I am really scared. The same virus that we thought was foreign is now in our state. Who knows how many people have been infected already? I pray the governor comes out of this alive and stronger than before. Nevertheless, I will be visiting a pharmacy to get my own hand sanitizer,” he said.
Another resident, a trader at Yelwa Market, Amina Saheed said, she was scared. “I heard in the news that our governor tested positive to corona virus. It really breaks my heart. Look around, no one is happy. We pray to God to save him. I know that by staying here (market), I am putting my life and that of my family in danger, but what can I do? If I remain at home, we will all die of hunger.”
Jack Ma’s ventilators, test kits arrive
A presidency source, yesterday, said that test kits and ventilators sent to Nigeria by Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, would arrive the country yesterday, raising hopes of possibilities of conducting more tests that may be considered necessary.
In the same vein, patients showing respiratory symptoms can also have access to ventilators which can help their breathing system.
It was gathered that the Ethiopian Airline conveying the items was yesterday waiting for clearance to fly into the country in view of the closure of the country’s international airports.
He assured that both the ventilators and the test kits would arrive the country yesterday.
Why Aisha Buhari shut office for 2-weeks
It will be recalled that last week, the First Lady, Aisha Buhari shut down her office following the refusal of one of her top aides who was said to have returned recently from the United Kingdom to stay away from office and go on a 14 day self isolation. The First Lady, explained that her action was a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19 in the office.
It was gathered that one of the First Lady’s aides had traveled to London but on her arrival, the First Lady advised that she should stay away for 14 days but the staff was said to have defied the advice.
Mrs Buhari was said to have been infuriated by the action of the staff because of the health implications it could pose to other staff and the Presidency.
AMVCA attendees advised to self-isolate
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi, yesterday, said all participants at the African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, AMVCA, which recently held in Lagos should embark on self-isolation due to the high risk of coronavirus infection.
Abayomi said via his Twitter handle that all participants may have been exposed to coronavirus infection as one of the participants tested positive.
He said: “I hereby notify you that all participants at the African Magic viewers’ Choice Award held on March 14, at EkoHotels may have come in contact with one of the confirmed cases in Lagos and are most likely to have been exposed to #COVID19 Infection.”
Abayomi advised all attendees to observe strict self- isolation and call the toll free line; 08000corona if they notice any of the Covid-19 related symptoms.
Speak up on state of Villa, PDP tells Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has called on President Buhari to douse what it called “widespread public anxieties” by immediately addressing the nation on the status of the Presidential villa, in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party said its demand is predicated on “public apprehensions of health safety issues in the Villa following reports that President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, had tested positive to the deadly corona virus disease.”
In a statement iby party’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP maintained that though President Buhari “was reported to have tested negative to the virus, it is yet imperative that he douses public tension by addressing a distressed nation on the status of the Villa, especially given that other officials, like Abba Kyari, had traveled to high-risk countries in the course of their duties.
“The party notes that an address on the situation in the Presidential villa will further douse public concerns about the status of certain key officials, who have not been visible in the last few days.
“The party stressed that Nigerians, no matter how highly placed, should strictly adhere to directives by relevant agencies of government on health safety measures, particularly as they relate to isolation of persons returning from foreign trips.
“The PDP urged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and other relevant agencies to adopt stringent measures to isolate and monitor persons coming into the country as well as track and equally isolate those who had made contact with infected persons.
“In this regard, the NCDC should move into the Presidential villa and immediately track and isolate all those who had made contact with President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, so as to check further spread of COVID-19 in our country.
“The party called on Nigerians to remain vigilant and observe all health safety directives, including social distances, self-isolation, personal hygiene and prompt report for medical assistance in the case of any symptoms.
“The PDP expressed optimism that with a concerted effort by all Nigerians, our nation will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.”
VP Osinbajo conducts meetings via video conferencing
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing.
He also continued his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with NCDC protocols.