Nigeria: NEC Receives Updates On Nigeria's Handling of Coronavirus, Lassa Fever

(file photo).
28 February 2020

The members of the National Economic Council, NEC, comprising the 36 governors and some ministers, were on Thursday briefed on the rising Covid-19 (coronavirus) epidemic.

The council was also briefed on the current Lassa fever outbreak by the ministers of health: Osagie Ehanire and Olorunnimbe Mamora.

The deadly disease, which originated from China in December, has spread to about 30 countries across the world - claiming nearly 3,000 lives and affecting over 8,000 people.

Palpable fear of a major outbreak have become imminent in Africa as two countries in the northern part of the continent - Egypt and Algeria - confirmed their first cases of the rampaging virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency - largely because of fears that poorer countries may not be able to cope with an outbreak.

Nigeria in the early hours of Friday announced it had detected its first case of Covid-19.

The country's health system is already dealing with the existing workload of containing the Lassa fever and would further be stretched if hit by an outbreak of another highly infectious disease.

Earlier on Thursday, Nigerian lawmakers lamented the country's poor preventive measures towards coronavirus and Lassa fever.

"In Nigeria, the good news is, yes there have been a total of 11 suspected cases but all the 11 have turned out to be negative", Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State governor said before the confirmed case was announced.

"Nigeria still places itself on high risk, as also advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The federal and all the states governments are looking at all the international airports that we have as major entry points: Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Enugu and Port Harcourt.

"They continued to be a major source of external in-road to the country. The alertness in each of these airports is very high."

He said testing facilities across the country have been activated and "all state governments have been told to have a level of preparedness".

The governor said the minister explained to the council what they are also doing in terms of public sensitisation, and also ensuring that there is an enhanced screening especially at the ports of entry.

"We are strengthening the deployment of digital screening of incoming and outgoing travellers at the ports," he said.

Lassa fever

The NEC also received an update on the current Lassa fever outbreak.

The deaths recorded from the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has reached 118, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

From January 1 to February 23, 2633 suspected cases, with 689 confirmed cases and 118 deaths have been recorded in the country.

The recent Lassa epidemic has surpassed that of last year. The number of cases has significantly increased compared to what was reported for the same period in 2019.

In 2019, 1249 suspected cases were recorded with 381 confirmed and 83 deaths as of the same period.

But Mr Sanwo-Olu said the NEC was told that the outbreak is being well managed, and that there has been a drop of about 15 per cent year-on-year.

"It's a seasonal disease but year-on-year there is a national drop of about 15 per cent already.

"There is national multi-sectoral emergency operation centres being activated. They also said that all the state's health emergency operation centres have also been activated. Necessary response commodities like injections, drugs have all been deployed to all the states of the federation and intensive sensitisation is all going on as explained by the honourable minister."

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