Coronavirus: WHO, ACDC, partners ramp up support for Nigeria

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The Africa Centre for Disease Control (ACDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners have Nigeria and other African countries of adequate international support to check and prevent coronavirus.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-Genera, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), made this known in an interview with the Newsmen on Thursday in Abuja.

Ihekweazu said that the support was geared towards ensuring that Nigeria was better prepared to respond, in the event of an outbreak of 2019-nCoV.

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“The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), through its Division of Port Health Services and NCDC received the team of experts from the WHO Africa Regional Office.

“Similar support has also been provided by WHO to eight priority countries in the African region, namely, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Republic of Congo.

“In response to the ongoing outbreak in China and 23 other countries, NCDC established a multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group that meets daily,” he disclosed.

The NCDC Boss said that the the group which meets daily had representatives from the health ministry, , Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and international partners.

“The partners include WHO, U.S. Centre for Disease Control (US-CDC), Public Health England (PHE) and others.

“Since the confirmation of the 2019-nCoV outbreak in China on the 7th of January 2020, the Port Health Services Division of the Department of Public Health has heightened screening at the ports of entry, especially for travellers with a travel history to China,” he said.

Ihekweazu said that NCDC had developed standard case definitions to guide diagnosis and laboratory confirmation of the virus in Nigeria.

He said that the centre has also developed a public health advisory to provide guidance to Nigerians on how to stay safe.

He, however said that the NCDC National Reference Laboratory had validated and announced its capacity to diagnose the 2019-nCoV.

He added that the establishment of this laboratory was done in partnership with WHO, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, Public Health England and the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team.

“In addition to the support from WHO AFRO, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is training laboratory scientists from African countries including Nigeria, at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar.

“These scientists will be trained on how to test for 2019-nCov and will serve as trainers on return to their countries,” he said.

In order to further strengthen the country’s preparedness, Ihekweazu said that WHO AFRO would work closely with NCDC, Port Health Services and the Coronavirus Preparedness group to develop and test a comprehensive and strategic action plan for preparedness.

According to the NCDC DG, the support from partners has been highly beneficial in strengthening the country’s preparedness.

He said: ‘We are very grateful for the rapid support from all our partners in strengthening our capacity to respond in the event of a novel coronavirus outbreak and build our system for future outbreaks.

“Given the spread across countries, the coordination provided by WHO, Africa CDC and the West African Health Organisation is critical to our work”.

NAN, reports that as at the February 4, 2020, 20630 confirmed cases and 159 deaths from the 2019-nCoV had been reported from China and 22 other countries.

No confirmed case has been reported in Nigeria or any other African country.