Coronavirus cases in Nigeria on Wednesday increased from three to eight fuelling fears of the epidemic of the disease in the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, at a press conference in Abuja, said four of the five new cases were in Lagos State, while one was in Ekiti State.
Ehanire said this just as Lagos and Ogun state governments banned gatherings of over 50 people.
It was gathered that the American, who infected the Ekiti case with the virus, might have died of the disease.
But the state government said the American died of complications as test conducted on him was inconclusive.
Coronavirus was first recorded in Nigeria on February 27 when an Italian businessman, who was on a visit to Lafarge Africa Plc, Ewekoro, Ogun State, was diagnosed with the disease and taken to Lagos State, where he is currently being treated.
The second coronavirus case was a Nigerian, who had contact with the Italian and was isolated in Ogun State. Although he tested positive twice, subsequent tests were negative.
On Tuesday, the Federal Government said a 30-year-old woman, who returned to the country on Friday from the United Kingdom, was diagnosed with coronavirus.
Mother, six-week-old baby among five new cases in Nigeria
In Abuja, on Wednesday, the minister of health said a mother and her six-week-old baby were among the new five confirmed cases.
The minister said, “The Federal Ministry of Health, unfortunately, confirms five new cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria within the last 36 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to eight.
“Of the five new positive cases, three arrived from the United States, while two came in from the United Kingdom. We are still collating information on the travellers; but we know that two of the three from the US are Nigerians – a mother and child – making the six-week-old baby the youngest COVID-19 patient we have, and the third person is an American national, who crossed the land border and became the first COVID-19 case not arriving by air. The two cases from the UK are Nigerians.
“A detailed travel history of each person is being compiled and contacts are currently being traced, to identify persons who have recently been in touch with anyone.”
When asked to confirm the case being reported from Katsina State by the state government, the minister said that he had yet to be briefed on the case.
Emergency isolation spaces in place
The minister said that the Lagos Infectious Disease Hospital had 100 standard bed spaces with provision for expansion while the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital had 12 beds. He, however, said that there was provision for fall back.
“We have teaching hospitals and general hospitals where we have medical directors as members of the planning committee. They have been told to make beds available at short notices and train nurses and doctors.”
On the provision of emergency fund by the National Health Act, Ehanire said such fund might not be readily available but noted that the Federal Government had made available more than N1bn with more coming from donors.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said at the briefing that irrespective of where travellers would be coming to Nigeria, they must self-isolate.
Director of Port Health Services, Morenike Alex-Okoh, lamented that one of the challenges faced by the officials was that passengers often gave wrong phone numbers, making contact tracing difficult for officials.
Nigeria bars entries from US, UK, France, Chine, nine others
Earlier on Wednesday, the Federal Government placed travel restrictions on entries into the country from 13 countries with high-burden of coronavirus.
The countries are China, Iran, South Korea, Germany, Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, France and Japan. The country also announced temporary suspension of visa-on-arrival policy.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of Covid-19, Boss Mustapha, announced the decision at a press briefing.“The restriction will come into effect from Saturday for four weeks subject to review, “ he said.
The SGF said, “All persons arriving in Nigeria who might have visited these countries 15 days prior to such arrival will be subjected to supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days.The Federal Government is temporarily suspending the issuance of all visas on arrival.
“The Federal Government is also counselling all Nigerians to cancel or postpone all nonessential travels to these countries.
In Lagos State, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, at a press conference in Ikeja on Wednesday, said six of the eight cases were being managed in state’s Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba.
According to him, the second case, who had contact with the Italian businessman, has been discharged after further tests showed that he was negative.
Abayomi said the index case was still at the IDH and would remain in isolation until his test confirmed he was negative.
He stated that the 30-year-old woman, who tested positive after returning from the United Kingdom was still in the facility.
Abayomi, however, said her family members who were isolated had been tested and they were negative, adding that they had returned home.
Four people tested positive in Lagos
He, however, said the state on Monday received four samples, which tested positive.
Abayomi stated the first two samples belong to the Nigerian mother and her six-week-old baby, who arrived in the country from the US via Virgin Atlantic flight, VS 411 on March 8. According to him, both of them are on admission at the IDH.
He said the American citizen arrived in the country on March 13 through Nigeria-Benin Republic land border.
Abayomi stated, “We also have a Nigerian male that returned from the United Kingdom on March 13 via Virgin Atlantic VS 411. He tested positive too. We are in the process of admitting him at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba.”
He said, “Each of these categories has initiated what we call line listing or contact tracing and that process is ongoing. We are first starting with members of their families and extending it to any possible person they may have come in contact with which includes identifying the manifests of those airline travellers so that we can initiate contact with passengers on that flight and ask them to exercise self-isolation and report to us if there are any symptoms.”
Lagos bans religious gathering of over 50 people
Also, on Wednesday, the Lagos State Government, in a statement by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi, said the state had banned all religious gathering of over 50 people within the state.
According to the statement, the decision was arrived at after a meeting of the Lagos State Government with religious bodies in the state which included the Christian Association of Nigeria and Muslim leaders.
Elegushi said the meeting agreed that all large religious gatherings of over 50 people should be suspended immediately.
He said the suspension would last for four weeks with a necessary review carried out if need be.
He added that a committee had been set up to monitor the enforcement of the suspension to ensure that both Muslims and Christians in the state abide by the decision.
The 15-member committee comprises representatives of Muslims and Christians in the state.
The commissioner also said the meeting agreed that the state government should embark on massive sensitisation of people at the grassroots to the need to embrace proper hygiene.
Elegushi stated that it was agreed that the Federal Government should shut down borders, especially land to checkmate the influx of foreigners into Lagos in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The State Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, had earlier at a briefing said the state government would advise religious leaders to put their services on hold in the interest of the public.
The Chief Imam of Lagos State, Sheikh Oluwatoyin Abou-Nolla, said the action of the state government was commendable, urging all Muslim leaders to abide by the decision and to also make personal hygiene a priority.
The Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, said the nation was at a critical point, stressing that since the outbreak of coronavirus, Christians had been praying.
“We are at a critical moment in Nigeria, since we heard this, we have been praying. We have listened carefully to one another, particularly the government. The responsibility of every government is to protect the lives of the people.”
The Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, said on Wednesday that the patient that tested positive to coronavirus in Ekiti State had been quarantined in the state isolation centre.
Yaya-Kolade, in a statement in Ado Ekiti, said, “The Ekiti State Taskforce on COVID-19, headed by Governor Kayode Fayemi, can confirm that we have recorded an incident of a Nigerian male, 38 years old, of Ekiti origin, who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Ekiti case suspected to have been infected by an American
She said, “The confirmed case is suspected to have been infected while driving an American Caucasian, male, 27 years old, who was visiting Nigeria from Richmond, Virginia, USA, in the company of his caregiver, a Nigerian female, 31, of Ekiti origin.
Ekiti case: American, Nigerian stayed in Ibadan for two weeks
“The American male and his Nigerian female caregiver, arrived in Nigeria on 3rd March 2020 through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos. Preliminary investigations revealed that the pair were driven by our confirmed case to Ibadan, where they stayed for two weeks, and arrived Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, on 13th March, 2020.
“A day after their arrival, the American male fell ill and he was taken to a private hospital where he was referred to a tertiary hospital. Unfortunately, he died from complications of his illness.
“The hospital authorities alerted the State Taskforce and samples were taken from the American male as well as his two companions. The test for the male driver came back positive; the test for the female caregiver came back negative while the test for the American male was inconclusive.
“In line with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control protocols, the Ekiti State Taskforce on COVID-19 has already quarantined the confirmed case on admission in the State Isolation Centre, while the caregiver who tested negative, is presently under observation in self-isolation.
He said the state government had begun contact tracing, adding that the Oyo State Government had been contacted.
“It is important to state that this likely index case was on a short visit and had not been in Ekiti State for up to 72 hours before his death.
Govt faces tough task, traces 800 contacts
It was gathered that Lagos, Ekiti and Oyo states as well as the Federal Government were tracing no fewer than 800 people including those who boarded the same flights with the cases.
It was learnt that those being traced included people that came on the same flights with the cases on March 3 March 8, March 13
The planes include a Virgin Atlantic flight on March 3, another Virgin Atlantic flight on March 8 and the British Airway flight on March 13.
“We have a tough task ahead of us. We are tracing more than 800 people including those who boarded same flights and stayed in the same place with them. The figure may go up,”a top Federal Government official confided in The PUNCH.
Ogun bans gathering of 50 people at nightclubs, others
Also, the Ogun State government in a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the state Governor, Kunle Somorin, banned social clubs, halls, cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, and sport arenas described as high-density gatherings of people.
The government said any gathering of 50 or more people together had been banned henceforth for 30 days as part of precautions on the spread of coronavirus in the state.
It said that the ban would take effect for the next 30 days in the first instance. Abiodun maintained that the restriction was enforced without prejudice to people’s fundamental rights to association and movement.
The Christian Association of Nigeria says it is too early to suspend Christian Sunday services and Friday (Juma’at) because of covid-19 fears.
The Spokesman for the CAN President, Rev. Bayo Oladeji, said this during a chat with The PUNCH on Wednesday while reacting to calls by the Lagos State Government to suspend religious gatherings.
The cleric, while commending the government for its fight against covid-19, said if religious activities were to be suspended, then corporate activities must also be halted.
Address Nigerians, Senate tells Buhari
The Senate, on Wednesday, urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to address the nation on the situation of coronavirus.
The red chamber said if the President addressed Nigerians, citizens and government agencies would be more serious in adhering to the preventive measures. It also asked the Federal Government to take more drastic measures to contain the virus spread.
It also asked the government and Nigerians to keep abreast of development relating to the pandemic.
The Senate asked the government to close down all international airports in Nigeria except Abuja and Lagos, as well as suspend the issuance of visa on arrival.
Reps want churches, mosques to suspend group prayers
In the House of Representatives, members said uninvited guests should be barred from coming into the National Assembly Complex, while the management should test lawmakers and workers.
The House also asked that religious organisations should suspend “open worship” in churches, mosques and other centres.
Also, the House urged the Federal Government not to limit flight restrictions to 13 countries inflicted by coronavirus, asking that all international flights should be cancelled.
The House passed these resolutions at the plenary on Wednesday following unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Mr Mukhtar Chawai. It was the second day that the lawmakers were discussing coronavirus.
In his contribution, Mr Rotimi Agunsoye raised the alarm over Nigeria’s porous and unmanned borders. He faulted the limited attention paid to travellers going through the airports and seaports, while people cross the land borders unchecked.
N’West govs announce closure of schools for 30 days
In the North-West, governors announced the closure of all schools in their states for the next 30 days.
The governors, after a closed-door meeting held in Kaduna on Wednesday, said the closure of all schools became necessary in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the zone.
Chairman of the North-West governors and helmsman of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Masari, read the communique shortly after their closed-door meeting.
US cancels visa appointments in Nigeria
The United States Mission in Nigeria said it was cancelling routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments for the foreseeable future.
The development may not be unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a dramatic move by the Nigerian government to contain the outbreak within the country, where eight cases have been confirmed.
The US Mission in Nigeria, in a tweet on Wednesday, said, “As of March 18, US Embassy Abuja and Consulate Lagos were cancelling routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments.
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