There is growing panic among Nigerians over a possible outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country. This followed reports that Chinese nationals who travelled to China for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday will soon be returning to the country.
This is coming as the federal government also advised Nigerians intending to travel to China to delay the trips in view of the coronavirus outbreak in the country except it was extremely essential for them to do so.
Dr Ehanire, while giving a new travel advisory yesterday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, also advised all airlines to report any case of a passenger falling sick on-board before the plane landed.
The federal government is also putting measures in place to prevent an outbreak in the country. The Federal Ministry of Health through its Port Health Services department has commenced measures at international points of entry such as airports, seaports and land borders to forestall importation of the coronavirus to Nigeria.
The ministry has also set up a multi-sectoral committee to scale up surveillance and vigilance to detect suspicious cases and ensure containment at all points. "The committee shall comprise of critical stakeholders in the health, security, aviation and transport sectors and also include Development Partners. Bearing in mind that air travelers, rather than land border crossers, are more likely carriers of this type of virus, attention will focus largely on our five international airports," Dr Ehanire said.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are normally transmitted between animals and people. A novel Coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans. Some coronaviruses can be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, for example, in a household or health care setting.
As at yesterday a total of 6065 Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded in 16 countries with China having the highest of 5, 997 cases. The virus has also spread to the United Arab Emirates with four confirmed cases recorded. A suspected case of the virus is also being tested in Ivory Coast, the country's health ministry announced. There is no confirmed case of the novel coronavirus on the African continent yet.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said it was aware that many Chinese nationals were expected to return to Nigeria following the holiday, as well as Nigerian business travelers who travel to China regularly.
It however said safety measures have been put in place to protect the health of Nigerians. The centre said the Chinese Government has extended the Lunar New Year holiday and put in place other measures to dissuade their citizens from traveling out of China.
It said passengers traveling from Wuhan, China were screened on exit to prevent the exportation of the virus and that the centre was coordinating a multi-sectoral technical group that is assessing and managing the risk of importation to Nigeria, as well as making preparations for early detection and response.
NCDC also advised travelers from China who show no symptoms on arrival, but who have a fever and cough within 14 days of arrival in Nigeria, to report immediately to NCDC on 0800-970000-10.
The Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has also created various channels for reporting the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 n-CoV).
Dr Gozie Nwodo, the agency's head of Media, Communications and Strategies, said the organsiation was collaborating with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to ensure that there is no gap or breach on the veterinary quarantine front at the airports. "
Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has also advised Nigerians living in China to stay indoors to avoid contracting the disease. She said in a statement that the Nigerian mission in Beijing is in touch with Nigerians in Wuhan, adding that the warning became imperative as medical experts said there was no specific medication or vaccine so far for the coronavirus.
Daily Trust reports that heightened screening continued yesterday at the nation's international airports to prevent the outbreak of the virus in the country.
Since the outbreak of the virus, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had activated the screening facilities deployed to contain the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) three years ago.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika and senior officials in the ministry were at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), International arrivals yesterday evening where he directed that hand sanitizers should be increased in the airports and that all arriving passengers should clean up their hands.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila in a speech on Wednesday called on Nigerians to assist the efforts of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by taking basic sanitary precautions. "Avoid self-medication, avoid panic and report to the nearest medical facility if you or anyone you know has travelled to the affected regions within the last fourteen days," Gbajabiamila urged.
Asked about Chinese nationals returning to the country, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to screen those coming to Nigeria through airports and other points of entry.
He also said that it is very difficult to stop those with valid documents from coming into the country.
Also speaking, Sun Saixiong, Press Officer of the Chinese Embassy said they are working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) to screen those coming in to ensure nobody comes in with the virus.
FG quarantines section of Panda Supermarket over fear of spread
The Federal Government yesterday quarantined a section of Panda Supermarket located at Jabi, Abuja over alleged illegal import of products that may spread the Cononavirus in Nigeria.
"Seafood and animals imported illegally from China discovered. Store closed in abundance of caution considering Coronavirus," Barrister Irukera Director General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) who led the inspection said in a statement posted on its official twitter handle.
Panic among Nigerians
A Nurse, Mrs Racheal Sunday said she got scared when she heard how the coronavirus outbreak was spreading. She said medical officers were sometimes at the receiving end of the disease citing the case of Ebola outbreak. She advised the Federal Government to take serious preventive measures before it gets to the country.
A receptionist at a five star hotel in Abuja, Uchena Paul said "It's unfortunate we have not finished battling Lassa fever and this strange one has come in. It's scary how all these viruses just keep coming in. All hands need to be on deck and we must be careful so that these viruses will not keep coming in year in and out."
A health correspondent, Mrs Joyce Babayeju urged the federal government to fight it the way it fought Ebola.
A banker, who gave her name as Gimbiya said, the outbreak of the disease was a dangerous development for Nigerians if the Chinese were allowed to import the virus into the country. She said, her fear is that the Chinese have a very secluded lifestyle and hide a lot. "So, if they come back, the government needs to plant Nigerian health workers in their hospitals to monitor them. If not, they will wreck havoc. I panicked because our health system is not functioning properly and we lack facilities to handle emergencies."
A business man, Mallam Salihu said, since some countries have already suspended Chinese aircraft from entering their country, Nigerian government should take cue from them adding that the county's health officials need to be proactive.
Lagos to quarantine Chinese returning over coronavirus
The Lagos State Government said yesterday it had reached an agreement with the China Embassy in Nigeria to quarantine all Chinese travelling back to Lagos from their country to prevent the outbreak of deadly coronavirus in the State.
He disclosed that many people in China living in Lagos had travelled back to their country to celebrate the Chinese New Year and had not returned before the outbreak of coronavirus in their country.
Abayomi said the state government had met with the Chinese Embassy and that they agreed to send message to their people in China to stay back until the outbreak is curtailed before returning.
The commissioner said if some of them returned in the next few days, the state government had the instruction of the China Embassy to quarantine them for 14 days.