The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, and National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, yesterday rejected plans by the Federal Government to invite Chinese doctors into the country, describing it as an embarrassment to their members and health workers in the country.
This came as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, yesterday, announced 10 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 224.
This is even as Lagos State Government also yesterday confirmed second death from coronavirus in a private hospital in the state and discharged five more patients from Yaba isolation centre.
The two doctors bodies reacted in separate statements, voicing their oppositions to the federal government's move.
Making its known in a press statement, President of the NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, who expressed dismay over government's decision at this time of a global pandemic, said the lack of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, grossly inadequate test kits and test centres across the country and the absolute lack of any form of insurance for the workforce were important issues begging for attention at this time.
He said: "It is a thing of embarrassment to the membership of the Association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions, and a fragile health system to be subjected to the ignominy of not being carried along in arriving at such a decision.
"It is a great disservice to the morale of the long-suffering frontline health workforce if the Government goes ahead to invite these Chinese doctors. The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic.
"We are therefore profoundly dismayed to learn that the Federal Government is instead inviting the Chinese who are not out of the woods themselves. The spike in cases and the death toll from COVID-19 in Italy coincided with the arrival of the Chinese in the guise of offering assistance. Even the United Nations has only just recently commended the efforts of Nigeria so far."
Faduyile also expressed grave concern that the government did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act.
"This is one such circumstance where the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should be consulted to grant necessary approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.
"We expect the Government to show appreciation by channelling the available resources and donations to improving testing facilities to detect more cases and ramp up capacity to train more workers," he said.
He said NMA was aware of a large pool of general medical and specialist practitioners who were either unemployed or underemployed that could be engaged, instead of bringing foreigners who, aside from national security concerns, might not be conversant with Nigeria's culture, terrain and peculiar challenges.
"NMA believes that this invitation is ill-timed and of no overbearing significance considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have can be shared by digital technology through conferencing, bearing in mind that Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu had only just returned from China.
"We are not averse to the donation of equipment and supplies because we can always do with such support as even the developed countries receive support," he stated.
The NMA urged the Federal Government to review and approve better welfare incentives to the frontline medical personnel.
On its part, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, warned of the consequences of extending invitation to Chinese nationals by the Federal Government following the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
The association, which claimed that throwing the country's international borders to the Chinese was suicidal, accused the government of championing illegality by its intention.
"We find it rather curious that our government would contemplate to throw open her international borders to Chinese nationals having watched how similar action in Italy proved socio-economically suicidal," NARD president, Sokomba Aliyu,said in a statement, Sunday.
"The crafty Chinese scientists should be the last group of friends to trust at this time, given how unreliably and covertly they have managed the information around the pandemic beginning from the data around its origin, characteristics, and other virulence features to help the nations yet to experience the surge to be better prepared.
"We should not lose sight of the fact that conspiracy theories have it that COVID-19 is a possible tool for both sociopolitical and economic manipulation and domination.
"Nigeria is too important on the African continent to act any carelessly in the face of this emerging but portent threat to human existence.
"The attempt to import human resources for health (purposes) from China into Nigeria where many qualified medical doctors and other cadres of health workers are yet to be gainfully employed is the height of insensitivity and disservice on the part of the Federal Government and their advisers.
"The challenge at hand would have been sufficient marker to agitate the FG in the direction and timing for massive employment of medical and other health care workers to provide enough hands in the industry to battle the COVID-19 as other nations are doing. Some countries even went ahead to accelerate the graduation of their final year medical students.
"They did not turn to China. If the FG had completely employed the available qualified doctors and other healthcare workers before turning to China for medical manpower to fill any persisting gap; it would have being less suspicious," it said in the statement.
Reiterating that it condemns "the planned importation of Chinese doctors into Nigeria by the Federal Ministry of Health to fight COVID-19", NARD said it wished "to holistically cross-examine the intent and purpose of the importation of 18-man Chinese team of medical experts including doctors, nurses and those with sundry expertise to assist Nigeria in the fight against COVID-19."
"The association is indeed puzzled that the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health would be contemplating such an adventure without firstly discussing it with the key and relevant stakeholders like the Nigerian Medical Association; our parent body; and all her relevant affiliates that parade some of the world's best hands in all fields of endeavour," it said in the statement.
According to NARD, "the Federal Government cannot be championing illegality. All doctors coming into Nigeria are supposed to be licensed by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. I'm sure these ones are not."
"Nigeria is about one fifth of the population of the African continent and currently the world has watched with awe, the very slow rate of case fatality arising from COVID-19 in Africa and is yet to understand, explain, covet or undermine that possible genetic advantage," it noted.
The statement read further:
"The Nigerian medical experts are currently winning the COVID-19 battle and should be encouraged and motivated and supported to win the war instead of distracting them with this unfortunate plan.
"The news making rounds in some quarters have it that the Chinese experts are only coming to Nigeria to play only some advisory roles and not to directly intervene in the day-to-day handling of Nigerian patients do not appear believable because telemedicine should have been more cost-effective, faster and easier to harness over a large number of uses than to fly them into Nigeria and move them from place to place at a huge cost to our national budget."
NARD advised the Federal Government to stop implementation of the plan and rather, immediately engage all key relevant Nigerian medical experts including NARD and present the full intents and purpose of the planned importation of Chinese experts for full evaluation, cost-benefit analysis and consensus on the best option."
Also yesterday, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, announced 10 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 224.
Giving details of the 10 confirmed new cases, NCDC explained that six were recorded in Lagos, two in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, and two in Edo State.
The agency stated that as at 11:15 am yesterday, 224 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Nigeria, while 27 who had recovered were discharged, with five recorded deaths.
The NCDC stated: "For a breakdown of cases by states- Lagos - 115, FCT- 45, Osun- 20, Oyo- 9, Akwa Ibom- 5, Ogun- 4, Edo- 9, Kaduna- 4, Bauchi- 6, Enugu- 2, Ekiti- 2, Rivers-1, Benue- 1, and Ondo- 1.
Lagos records another COVID-19 death
Meanwhile, Lagos State government has confirmed the death of a 36-year- old patient of COVID-19 in a private hospital in Lagos, even as it discharged five more patients from the Yaba isolation centre, bringing the number of discharged patients to 29 in Lagos.
Confirming the death while giving an update on the pandemic on his twitter handle-@Prof Akin Abayomi, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, said the death of the patient now brings the number of death recorded so far to two in Lagos.
The Commissioner also added that the state now had a total of 115 confirmed cases of coronavirus, while 24 had fully recovered and discharged as at April 4, 2020.
"We lost a #COVID19 patient; a 36-year-old Nigerian, male, who died in a private facility on April 4, 2020. Total numbers of #COVID19 patients who have died are now 2. One case was evacuated bringing total evacuated to 2," he stated.
Abayomi further disclosed that to make response more effective in the state, the state government was putting out forms to widen its response coverage, with a view to tracking down COVID-19 patients in the community.
He urged Lagosians to provide accurate information as required in the form.
Similarly, announcing the discharge of five more COVID-19 patients from isolation centre, the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-olu, on his twitter handle- @jidesanwoolu, said five more patients, comprising two males and three females, including a 10-year-old girl tested negative twice to #COVID19 and had been discharged to reunite with their families.
"Dear Lagosians, yesterday (Saturday), I announced the discharge of one more patient from our Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba. Today (yesterday), I am happy to inform you that five more patients have been discharged to reunite with their families.
"This brings to a total of 29, the number of patients who have fully recovered and have been discharged from our facility at Yaba.
"Although, there is a strong indication that the state is winning the battle against #COVID19, it is imperative that we remain steadfast to curtail the spread. I strongly advise that we continue to observe #Social_Distancing. Let us #StayHomeStaySafe to #SaveLives."
He advised Lagosians against stigmatizing the discharged patients, adding that the society needed to do all it could to support them to get over the experience as soon as possible.
"Once again, I wish to thank our frontline health workers, members of the Lagos State Health Family and the Emergency Operation Centre for all their hardwork. You all have been nothing short of amazing. Together, we will beat #COVID19."
Four inmates die in Kaduna Prison
In a related development, days after the Federal Government warned that prevalence of fake news in the country was distracting it from the fight against the coronavirus, four inmates in the Kaduna Prison, have lost their lives, following injuries sustained last week in an attempted jail break.
The inmates at the condemned convicts section of the prison, had reportedly gone on rampage when rumours filtered into their cell that the Federal Government had granted them pardon as part of measures to decongest the facility and prevent possible outbreak of COVID-19 among inmates.
Angered that they were still being kept behind bars, in spite of the fake news announcing their release, the inmates went violent in an attempt to force their way out.
"Let me throw some light on developments at the Custodial Centre in Kaduna. The inmates at the condemned section of Kaduna Custodial Centre, on the misinformation circulated on the social media on the false amnesty granted to some sets of prisoners began a mutiny, which I will call a riot.
"I want to assure Nigerians that we have put it under control. We have sent circulars round the custodial centres in Nigeria to tell the managers and the inmates that the information is fake and false and that we are working on appropriate measures to decongest the Custodial Centres," Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola had told reporters shortly after the rioting.
He was, however, silent on the number of casualties but the Kaduna State Command of the Nigeria Prisons service in a statement yesterday, announced the death of four of inmates.
Command Controller of Corrections, Sanusi Mu'azu Danmusa, said the clarification became necessary, following misrepresentations in a section of the media with regards to the March 31 incident.
"This press release is necessary to assure the public that the command and, indeed, the Service is not trying to hide any fact as purported by a section of the press, especially when life is involved.
"Four inmates later died in the hospital from the injuries sustained in the melee that ensued while being restrained by the Custodial officers from breaking jail.
"For the avoidance of doubt, all the deceased inmates were from the condemned section of the Custodial Centre where the jail-break occurred.
"A comprehensive investigation has commenced on the directive of the Controller General of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Alhaji Jafaru Ahmed," he added.
Three Nigerians die of coronavirus in US
Meanwhile, the Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, has confirmed the death of three Nigerians from Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the United States.
Okoyen disclosed this in a statement sent to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York at the weekend.
He said one of them, a doctor from Abia, contracted the virus while on duty in New York, the epicentre of the pandemic in the U.S.
The envoy identified the second person as 25-year-old Bassey Offiong, a final year Chemical Engineering student of Western Michigan University whose case has been reported by the Nigerian media.
Okoyen said: "It is regrettable to announce that three Nigerians have died of COVID-19 in the United States of America.
"The first case was a 60-year-old lady, Hajia Laila Abubakar Ali of Kano descent, who died on March 25, while receiving treatment at the Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, New York.
"Secondly, 25-year-old Bassey Offiong from Calabar, a final year Chemical Engineering student of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, died on Saturday, March 28, at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
"Unfortunately, the last case was a medical practitioner, Dr Caleb Anya, from Ohafia in Abia State.
"He died while rendering service to humanity on the frontline of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in New York on April 1.
"On behalf of the Consulate-General of Nigeria in New York, I wish to extend our condolences to the families of the deceased Nigerians in this tragic circumstance."
The consul general saluted the sacrifice of medical personnel and other essential workers risking their lives on the frontline to save others.
"We are particularly very proud of Nigerian medical professionals in the USA who form part of the incredible workforce in the service of humanity at this time," he added.