Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Coronavirus infection: Nigeria’s third case attended UK summit with Canadian PM’s wife, says friend

The confirmation of the third coronavirus case in Nigeria on Tuesday woke the  Federal Government from its slumber as it

rolled out a number of measures to stop the spread of the disease in the country.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, at a press conference in Ikeja on Tuesday morning, said the third case was a 30-year-old woman, who returned to the country on Friday from the United Kingdom.

The announcement of the third coronavirus case triggered a flurry of activities by the Federal Government.

The Federal Government postponed the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival, tagged ‘Edo 2020’, scheduled to start on Friday.

The National Open University of Nigeria put off its 9th convocation, which was slated from  March 21 indefinitely.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, on its part, issued health advisory to religious organisations and other groups that could attract mass gatherings.

It said they should not allow people who had cough, fever or other coronavirus-like symptoms into their mass  gatherings.

In the United Kingdom, the Nigerian High Commission suspended the processing of passports until further notice as a proactive measure to curb coronavirus.

Also, the Federal Government on Tuesday inaugurated a task force on coronavirus, whose members were named on March 9.

Nigeria recorded its first coronavirus case on February 27 when an Italian businessman, who was on a visit to Lafarge Africa Plc, Ewekoro, Ogun State, was diagnosed with the disease. The Italian is currently receiving treatment in Lagos.

A few days later,  a Nigerian, who had contact with him and was isolated in Ogun State, was diagnosed with the disease.

Unlike other African countries, such as  Egypt,  South Africa, Sudan and Ghana, the Federal Government has consistently rejected travel ban on nations with high number of coronavirus cases. Also, passengers from high-risk countries are not being isolated on their arrival in the country.

On Tuesday morning,  Abayomi disclosed that a 30-year-old woman had been diagnosed with coronavirus,  bringing the total number of cases recorded in the country to three.

Abayomi said the woman returned from the UK on Friday via a British Airways flight BA75 after spending 10 days in the European country.

He said the woman had been in self-isolation before developing fever and high cough.

Abayomi said the patient had complied strictly with isolation principles which made contact tracing less cumbersome, adding that she had been admitted to the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba.

The commissioner stated, “She developed high fever and cough during her self-isolation period which she started immediately she arrived in the country. She tested positive and was admitted last night (Monday) at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba.

The commissioner added that the immediate family members of the newly confirmed case had been isolated in a family suite with separate rooms at the IDH.

He said contact tracing for all passengers on the flight that the patient boarded had commenced.

He, however, advised the passengers on flight BA75 to isolate themselves in their various residence and contact the ministry of health on the dedicated toll free and emergency lines for assistance.

“If you are a passenger on British airline flight BA 75 that arrived in Lagos on 13th March, 2020, stay at home and isolate yourself for 14 days and call the Ministry of Health Toll Free and Emergency lines,” Abayomi said.

On the second case, the commissioner said the patient who had contact with the index case in Lafarge factory was tested negative twice and had been discharged from hospital.

Nigerian with coronavirus attended summit with Canadian prime minister’s wife

More facts on Tuesday evening emerged about the third case. It was gathered that the woman contracted the virus while attending a summit in the UK.

The friend of the victim, who identified himself only as Ayobami, told The PUNCH that the victim spent a few days at the conference.

According to him, the same conference was attended by the wife of the Prime Minister of Canada, Sophie Trudeau, who also recently tested positive for the infection.

He said, “She went for a programme in the UK. It was a commonwealth event. It lasted for two to three days. That was the same place that the Canadian prime minister’s wife got it.”

The WE Day summit, an annual youth programme, was held in London on March 4 and was attended by top celebrities, including the Canadian prime minister’s wife and an actor, ldris Alba, who also recently tested positive for the virus.

The Canadian prime minister’s wife was reported feeling unwell following her return to Canada and diagnosed with the disease.

Third case picked by parents at airport, taken to their Ogba home

Ayobami said when his friend arrived in Lagos aboard the British Airways flight, she was picked by her parents and taken to their home in Ogba, Ikeja.

He explained that the victim, who had started showing signs of the flu, isolated herself and was not in contact with anyone.

He stated, “She did not get in contact with any other person apart from her parents. Her parents took her at the airport and she was driven to their home at Ogba. She then went to isolate herself.”

“She did not feel anything serious until on Sunday. From the time she landed at the airport we had been communicating and I told her to go for a test immediately,” he added.

Ayobami had, in a series of tweets on Friday, said when the friend arrived, raised the alarm on her condition, lamenting her inability to get tested on time despite calls and messages to officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

He also decried the shortage of test kits, saying the country was not prepared for the infection.

On Sunday, he said she was eventually tested and the result returned positive.

IDH not ready when third case was brought

He stated, “When they got to the IDH, Yaba, they left her in an ambulance for about two hours to prepare a place for her. The centre was not ready. I was on a video call with her.

“After my complaints on Twitter, they gave her toiletries, but asked her to stop talking to me so that they can manage it,” he added.

Suspected Covid-19 Indian patient isolated at Dangote refinery

In a related development,  a suspected Covid-19 patient was on Monday isolated in Block 21, room 5-A158, on the premises of the Dangote Refinery Camp, in the Lekki Free zone area of Lagos State.

According to an email reportedly circulated by the management of the refinery to alert its workers about the case, the suspected patient was identified as an Indian with an employee ID-62178.

The victim was said to be an assistant pipe fitter, who reportedly arrived in Nigeria on  March 12, 2020, from Mumbai, India.

The email, which was released by Dr Avijit Singh, on Monday, March 16, 2020, but culled from one Akinpelu Akinboye’s Twitter handle, @theakinakinboye, read in part, “I will like to inform that we have a patient who came to our clinic today with high temperature 38.5c, dry cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing. We are suspecting coronavirus as he came from India.

“Following are details of the patient: employee ID-62178; nationality, Indian; passport number, M8869527; job title, Assistant Pipe Fitter; date of arrival in Nigeria, March 12, 2020; port of boarding, Mumbai, India. (Via Cairo, Egypt) flight and transit.

Speaking to The PUNCH, Akinboye alleged that he had been threatened for exposing the suspected case, adding that those who called him claimed to have the situation under control.

A spokesman for Dangote firm, Tony Chiejina, confirmed the suspected case but maintained that the Indian was not an employee of Dangote.

Dangote bans employees from high risk nations

Dangote Industries Limited, in a statement on Tuesday evening said it had placed travel ban on all employees to and fro high risk countries as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The firm said, “We will like to state that an Indian national who is a staff  member of Onshore Construction Company, a mechanical, electrical and instrumentation contracting firm that specialises in fertilizer construction reported at the site clinic complaining of high temperature.

“His complaint triggered our Covid-19 preparation and prevention protocols which necessitated further screening and isolation immediately.”

According to the firm, Akhil Kunyil of the Health and Safety Environment of the Onshore Company reported the development to the management following which local authorities were contacted and the patient was conveyed to the IDH, where he is currently being isolated and undergoing tests.

FG postpones national sports festival

As part of measures to salvage the situation, the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr Sunday Dare, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had approved the postponement of the national sports festival.

Dare, disclosed this to journalists after he and  the Minister of State, Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, visited the President  to brief him on the implications of going ahead with the event.

He said over 11,000 athletes were expected to participate in various sports, noting that it was safer to be on the side of caution than take the risk of proceeding with the festival.

The minster said although enormous resources had been invested in preparing for the festival, the safety of the athletes and other Nigerians was now the most important consideration.

On his part, Momora noted that the worry was the fact that the infection could spread easily, especially that a lot of carriers were “asymptomatic.” He explained that those were carriers who exhibited no symptoms.

He stated,  “We are dealing with a dynamic situation, this morning (Tuesday), we had a meeting at the ministry of health…

 “After briefing Mr President, he took the initiative and gave the directive that Edo 2020 should be postponed as a precautionary measure against the presence of COVID-19. A new date will be communicated later based on developments around COVID-19.”

He added that for the reason of being asymptomatic, “social distancing” was recommended, including gatherings for religious purposes.

Mass gatherings not advisable,  minister tells religious groups

Although Mamora said the Federal Government did not ban mass gatherings by religious organisations,  he advised against them.

“That also extends to religious gatherings or any other gathering that will have a large number of people. It is not advisable at this point in time”, he said.

FG yet to decide flight ban on high-risk countries

On whether the government would consider placing a ban on flights originating from high-risk countries into Nigeria, the minister replied that the periodic reviews on the state of the infection would determine the next line of action to be taken by the government.

The NCDC  in a statement on Monday advised  churches, mosques and schools, which it said could attract mass gatherings.

It stated,  “At this stage, we are not advising the cancellation of gatherings, but our advice may change as the epidemiological situation evolves. This is assessed on a daily basis.”

NCDC issues guidelines on religious gatherings, others

It said before such events were organised, state ministries of health should be informed and the location assessed by officials of state governments.

The NCDC stated that the organisation should advise attendees to regularly and thoroughly wash their hands with soap under running water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

It said they should avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands as well avoid shaking hands, hugging and any other form of physical contact where possible.

The centre said people should stay at home if they felt ill with fever, cough or breathing difficulties.  “Please remain in self-isolation for 14 days, if you have just returned from China, Japan, Italy, Republic of Korea, Iran, France, Germany and Spain,” it further advised.

ECOWAS directs staff to go on self-isolation

The centre stated this just as the ECOWAS Commission  directed its staff who had been on missions to any high-burden country or country with local transmission of coronavirus to go into self-isolation for 14 days.

The commission in a directive issued to its personnel in Abuja, on Monday, said only critically necessary missions would be approved, noting that all missions that had not started should be resubmitted to the Head of Institution for approval.

Nigerian mission in London suspends passport processing

On its part, the Nigerian High Commission said it had suspended the processing of passports. The High Commission disclosed this on Tuesday, in a public notice signed by the Head of Chancery, Rose Yakowa-Okoh and published on its website.

The decision, which takes effect from Wednesday (today), is coming 24 hours after the Nigerian Consulate in New York, issued a similar directive.

It read, “This proactive measure is to protect and limit exposure of both applicants and staff of the mission to the COVID-19 outbreak, which is in line with the health advisory issued by the United Kingdom Government.”

NOUN postpones 9th convocation indefinitely

NOUN, because of the fear of coronavirus spread, on Tuesday shifted its convocation, which was earlier slated for  March 21.

The NOUN Registrar, Felix Edoka, in a statement in Abuja, said the 9th convocation, which 25,000 graduating students and families, would  attend, was postponed   in “view of the health dangers inherent in the gathering of a large number of people at this time.”

N’Assembly seeks travel ban on China, UK, other high-risk countries

The House of Representatives  called on the Federal Government to stop all flights from the United States, United Kingdom, China and other high-risk countries.

The resolution was passed based on the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance at the plenary on Tuesday moved by Mr Onofiok Luke, who warned that such movements and gatherings should be discouraged.

The House urged the Federal Government particularly the Ministry of Aviation and security agencies,  to “immediately halt all flights from high-risk countries especially the UK, Spain, Italy, the USA, China and South Korea, except for Nigerian citizens who will be tested on arrival and may be quarantined if necessary.”

The Senate lamented the poor handling of the outbreak of COVID-19 by relevant  Federal Government agencies.

Like the House of Representatives, the Senate advised the Federal Government to consider banning non-Nigerian travellers from countries with high risk of coronavirus.

The upper chamber stated this following a point of order raised by the Chairman,  Senate Committee on Health,  Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe.

He said,  “Nigerians need to increase the observance of the prevention control practices including avoidance of shaking of hands.

“If it is possible, people should not travel to countries with high- risk of the cases especially in Europe where many countries are affected, unless such trips are very important. Nigeria should also consider disallowing non-Nigerians from countries of high risk from entering the country.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan,  agreed with Oloriegbe and noted with concern, that there were no testing centres in the entire northern and eastern part of Nigeria

He also faulted the poor screening of travellers coming to Nigeria from affected countries particularly Asia and Europe.

Close Nigerian border now,  NMA tells FG

The Nigerian Medical Association, however, called on the Federal Government to close borders against travellers from countries where high number of coronavirus cases had been recorded. It warned that Nigeria would not be able to control the infection if it spread in the country.

In an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, President of NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, said it was time to take decisive measure because Nigeria lacked the capacity to deal with the virus.

He said,  “The isolation centres are not adequate for a large number of people. Nigerian government at this time needs to shut the borders against people coming from countries where we have high level of infection. It is better to prevent than to attempt to cure.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party urged the Federal Government to step up its actions to further safeguard Nigerians from the disease.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement urged the government to move beyond, what he called rudimentary interventions and adopt more stringent measures against coronavirus.

He said, “Our position is that we are asking for stringent measures. So, if the National Assembly is now calling for travel ban, is it not part of the stringent measures that we have spoken about?”

FG inaugurates  special task force a week after  naming  members

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on Tuesday, inaugurated  the 14-member  Presidential Task force for the Control of Coronavirus,

Mustapha, who is the chairman of the panel, said “As we are all aware, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) necessitated the monitoring of developments around the world as well as the management of the index case in Nigeria.  Consequent upon these, Mr President approved the constitution of this Presidential Task Force.

Among others, the committee, which held its first meeting on Tuesday, is “to strengthen the national response strategy, particularly in the areas of testing, containment and management of COVID-19.”

Amidst fear of the disease, the Abuja chapter of the Association of Resident Doctors on Tuesday said it had begun an indefinite strike.

According to a statement by its president, Roland Aigbovo, and dated March 17, 2020, the strike began on March 16, 2020.

The Abuja ARD said the failure of the administration of the Federal Capital Territory to pay their basic salaries for more than two months contributed to the decision.

UK advises citizens against non-essential travel

Also, on Tuesday,  the United Kingdom advised Britons against non-essential international travel for an initial period of 30 days.

The advisory which took immediate effect was announced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, following the rising cases of the coronavirus disease.

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