Nigeria: We Are Battling Coronavirus, Buhari Assures Health Workers

(File photo) Covid 19, Coronavirus
11 March 2020

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja appealed to workers in the health sector to bear with his administration on their demands, saying the government is currently battling the challenges posed by coronavirus to the economy.

The president, who made the appeal when he received workers in the health sector on the platforms of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professionals Associations (AHPA) in the State House, said the government was, however, looking into their agitations with a view to resolving them.

"Your case is certainly receiving attention, but you must bear in mind the condition that the country is in now. Coronavirus is not improving matters. It is affecting what we very much depend on, the petroleum industry, and, therefore, revenue," he said.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari also implored the teams to appeal to the senses of their members to demonstrate the spirit of patriotism in these trying times and continue to work for further development of the country.

"So, please try and help us with your people. Let us be patriotic, let us look at the ways and means of the government and appeal for restraint...

"We have to emphasise that it is very important we maintain cohesion together, because if we allow sentiments or popularity to overwhelm our reasoning faculties, we will be in trouble and it will be too late for us to adjust, so please bear with us," he was quoted as saying.

According to the statement, Buhari used the opportunity to inform his guests about his administration's successful drive for food sufficiency in the last four years, pointing out that such a move would pay off now with the drop in government revenue.

"We thank God. God is very sympathetic to us. The three previous rainy seasons were good. We had good foresight in getting fertiliser, making it available and we virtually achieved food security.

"We made good decisions, and we saved hundreds of millions of dollars on the importation of food. If not, we would have been in real trouble," he added.

Shehu, who described JOHESU as an amalgam of five registered trade unions and AHPA, under the leadership of Mr. Biobelemoye Josiah, explained that the group visited the president over some of the contentious issues in the health sector and also to thank him for some of the positive developments.

"Notably, they appreciated President Buhari's prompt release of funds for tackling Coronavirus; thanked him for assenting to the National Health Bill, which provides for a one percent consolidated fund for the health sector; and for rejecting the advice of stakeholders, who clamoured for the privatisation of the health sector, which would have deprived the masses access to affordable healthcare

"They also requested the president's intervention in the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS); the withheld April and May 2018 salaries of members; gazetting of the scheme of service for nurses; and restoration of teaching allowances among others," the statement added.

The statement listed government officials at the meeting to include: the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.

Second Coronavirus Patient Moved to Lagos, Says Health Commissioner

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has said the patient, who recently tested positive for Coronavirus, will be managed at the Biosecurity Facility of the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba.

Also, as a precautionary measure to check the spread of the virus, Turkish Airlines has announced the cancellation of all its flights to its destinations in Nigeria - Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt airports.

The airline has also cut back its operations to other international destinations.

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, in a statement yesterday, said 40 persons had been in isolation at Lafarge health facility in Ewekoro in Ogun State since the confirmation of the index case.

Abayomi added that the second confirmed case of COVID-19 indicated the first person-to-person transmission in Nigeria.

He noted that the Lagos State Government resolved to take responsibility for the management of the secondary case.

The commissioner said: "The resolve to take responsibility for the management of the patient is because Lagos State is not ready to take chances with the spread of the disease, especially when the proximity of both states is taken into consideration.

"What transpired is that the secondary case is one of the 40 suspected cases, who came in close contact with the index case and had previously been in isolation at Lafarge Health Facility in Ewekoro.

"We felt that it is in the interest of all that the patient be managed at the Mainland Hospital Yaba. This is why the patient is being moved from Ogun State to Lagos."

Turkish Airlines Suspends Operations to Nigeria, Others

Also, as a precautionary measure to check the spread of Coronavirus, Turkish Airlines has announced the cancellation of all its flights to its destinations in Nigeria - Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.

The airline has also cut back its operations to other international destinations.

The airline, which brought in the index case, the Italian to Nigeria, in a statement, said the cancelation of flights to its three destinations in Nigeria was due to the Coronavirus situation all over the world.

The statement said the cancellations would start for flights originally scheduled to arrive Lagos on March 17, 23 and 29 as well as flights for Abuja scheduled for March 13, 16, 20, 25, 27 and April 1, 2020.

Flights to Port Harcourt would not operate on March 11, 13, 18, and 25.

The statement, however, did not say when the airline would resume flights into the country, although it is projected that virus devastation would begin to diminish by the end of April.

However, reports indicate that many international carriers are operating a number of ghost flights as they fly back to their operational hub without passengers due to fear of the virus.

It was reported that certain airlines are wasting vast quantities of fuel by flying empty aircraft to various destinations in order to maintain rights to their slots.

These flights, nicknamed 'ghost flights,' are being carried out due to rules around airport slots - something that is especially important at busy airports where a slot at an ideal time of day may be hard to come by.

It was reported that these ghost flights have been taking place because of European rules, which state that operators can lose their airport slots if they aren't being used.

The rule is that airlines operating out of the continent need to run 80 per cent of their slot allocations.

According to the policy, if this isn't done then the airline can risk losing its slots to a competitor.

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