Nigeria: Coronavirus - Govt Searching for Passengers On Aircraft With Italian Patient

(File photo) Covid 19, Coronavirus

The federal government is trying to trace most of the 155 passengers in the aircraft that brought to Nigeria the Italian confirmed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire made the disclosure yesterday while briefing newsmen in Abuja.

He said 156 passengers were on the manifest of the flight that brought the Italian.

Daily Trust reports that unlike what obtains in other countries, the name and other details of the Italian patient have not been made public yet.

The minister said some of the passengers on board the aircraft that brought the Italian were yet to be traced because of the ambiguity of the contact information they provided.

He said: "We cannot give a fixed figure on the contact tracing because it is a continuing process."

"But the only one we know for sure is the 156 passengers who were on the aircraft with him (the Italian) and those ones are being tracked and we have been talking to them and we are getting cooperation.

"There have been a few challenges. Some people gave telephone numbers that didn't work or (when called) said switched off. There are some who probably don't have telephones or some who are new arrivals in Nigeria.

"They are not yet registered with any telephone company, but there are ways in which they can be found out. Some have probably left the country if they were to be here for a day or two," he said.

Ehanire said that since the confirmation of the first case of the disease, the government had been focusing on containment including contact tracing to check further spread.

He said that as of yesterday, there was no new confirmed case recorded in Nigeria. "About 14 tests have been done and except that confirmed case, no other person has been confirmed with the disease," he said.

The minister said currently, the contacts of the index case traced were 19 in Lagos and 39 in Ogun State.

He said that workers in the hotel where the index case stayed had been interviewed and isolated and that the taxi driver who drove the suspect had been identified and was under supervision.

The minister added that the airline that brought the victim had been advised to also put their crew under observation. "The room he (the Italian) stayed in has been decontaminated, fumigated (and) even the taxi he used has also been treated," he said.

Lagos quarantines over 100 suspects

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said yesterday that over 100 people who had one sort of contact or the other with the Italian had been identified and quarantined.

Prof. Abayomi, who addressed newsmen shortly after a stakeholder's meeting on coronavirus, which held at Lagos House, Ikeja, said that the state was exercising extreme caution by finding where all his contacts were.

"We are still trying to find the remaining passengers in the aircraft. Our contact list is over 100 and it is increasing every day. We are quarantining them to check them for 14 days," he said.

We've found cure - Iwu

However, as countries around the world battle to unravel the mystery behind the novel coronavirus, a former National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Maurice Iwu, said yesterday that he and other experts have found a drug, which could be a potential treatment agent for the dreaded disease.

Iwu, who is the President of Bio-Resources Institute of Nigeria (BION), revealed this in Abuja when he led a team of scientists to present the discovery to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of State (Science and Technology), Mohammed Abdullahi and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Mamora.

Iwu told the ministers that the compounds that made up the drug had exhibited significant antiviral activity against deadly SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which is deadlier than COVID-19.

"Your Excellency will recall that when the Ebola virus infection broke out in 2014, many people were surprised that our research group had an experimental lead compound that was identified 15 years earlier in 1999.

"And now with the emergence of a novel coronavirus in 2019, we had identified and patented a possible treatment back in 2015. It is very important that we must remain ahead of these emergent infections through research," he said. Iwu said the drug discovery project was started at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was a Professor of Pharmacology and continued in the United States of America when he was a visiting scholar at the Division of Experimental Therapeutics of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Washington DC.

Responding, Onu said a committee would be set up to verify Iwu's discovery, saying the federal government was confident that Nigerian scientists could cure the dreaded coronavirus and Lassa fever.

Disease spreads across more countries

Daily Trust reports that two African countries have confirmed cases of Covid-19. This brings the total number of African countries affected to five.

Before yesterday, Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria had all confirmed the cases.

Senegal's health minister told newsmen yesterday that a French national who arrived in the country last week had tested positive to the virus, and was under observation at an institute in Dakar.

A Tunisian citizen who arrived in the country by boat from Italy also tested positive to the virus.

As at yesterday, a total of 87,137 confirmed cases of the disease have been recorded globally. Ninety-five per cent of the number was inside China; while 2, 977 deaths had been recorded across 59 countries that were affected.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) daily situation report said five countries including Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Ireland, Monaco and Qatar reported cases of COVID-19 between Sunday and Monday.

Meanwhile, an adviser of the Iranian Supreme leader died of COVID-19 while Italian regional minister had tested positive to the virus.

Manufacturers count losses

Stakeholders in the Nigerian economy have described the fast-spreading coronavirus scourge as "an ill-wind with far-reaching negative impacts" on the nation's socio-economic space.

Daily Trust investigations reveal that manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and automobiles, companies requiring spare parts and Information and Communication Technology ICT) dealers in Nigeria are now hurriedly exploring new destinations to meet their production and supply timelines. China had been Nigeria's biggest bilateral trade partner in recent years, with the total trade between the two countries rising to $8.6 billion in the first half of 2019.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that Nigerians spent N1.99 trillion on imports from China in the first half of the year, representing an increase of 88 per cent when compared with N1.06 trillion recorded in the same period in 2018.

The President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Engr. Mansur Ahmed, said: "We are beginning to see some impact on trading activities especially among members in pharmaceutical and automobile businesses.

"They are being forced to look for alternative sources and that would impact their bottom lines as we are used to sourcing these things cheaper from China," he said. The cancellation of flights is cutting jet fuel demand in China and around the world, while Chinese refiners are experiencing a sharp fall in demand for diesel and gasoline from industry and transport sectors as travel bans continue amid slow economic activity.

Analysts say all these have sent oil prices tumbling, despite heightened tensions in the Middle East, a tightly adhered-to OPEC-plus deal and the shut-in of about 1mn b/d of Libyan output due to civil unrest.

In the area of ICT, Ugo C. Ugo, a dealer in computer accessories at Computer Village in Lagos, said his colleagues had stopped travelling to China since the outbreak, saying "What we have been selling is old stock; once you run out of stock, you ask around the market for who has something in stock and you take it from him."

The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Oscar Onyeama, said the possibility of an impact on the market could only happen if oil prices took a deep hit.

An investment coach and financial literacy specialist, Dr. Timi Olubiyi, noted that "if the spread is not curtailed immediately, it might have a negative impact on bilateral relations, FDI inflows, imports and export trades, and it might also disrupt or crash the economic forecasts and revenue estimates of the nation."

Cargo handlers at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, said over 50 per cent decrease in cargo volume had been witnessed, the bulk of which came from China. They said since the coronavirus epidemic broke out, most traders who usually go to China to purchase goods could not travel.

Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO), Plc, Mr. Basil Agboarumi, confirmed the decline in cargo volume to Daily Trust. Also, handlers of railway projects say the spread of coronavirus may affect some of the on-going rail network expansion as critical items for use may not be delivered as earlier planned.

For instance, Daily Trust gathered that the impact of the coronavirus may affect the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project, which is slated for this year. The project is being handled by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC).

It was learnt that some of the construction workers handling the project went for the annual Chinese holiday and could not return because of the COVID- 19 outbreak.

However, a source in the company who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to journalist said the remaining workers in the country were doing a lot to reduce the impact of the coronavirus on the project completion.

Also, the Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, has raised an alarm that the fear over coronavirus and accompanying restrictions put Nigeria at grave danger of drugs shortage.

She said this is because 70 per cent of important drugs were being imported from other countries including China.

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