By AHURAKA ISAH And SUNDAY ISUWA, Salifu Usman Abuja GEORGE OKOJIE AND ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH Lagos
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – Lagos state Ministry of Health has confirmed its first case of COVID-19 and reported it to the Federal Ministry of Health.
The case, according to the ministry, which was confirmed yesterday, is the first case to be reported in Nigeria since the outbreak in China in January this.
The statement asserted that, ’’The case is an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on the 25th of February from Milan, Italy for a brief business visit.
‘’He fell ill on the 26th February and was transferred to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing. COVID-19 infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos. The Government of Lagos State, under the Governor as the COVID-19 Incident Commander, through the Lagos State Ministry of Health, has been strengthening measures to ensure that any outbreak in Lagos is controlled and contained quickly in collaboration with the multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“We have immediately activated the State Emergency Operations Centre to respond to this case and implement firm control measures. I wish to assure all Lagosians and Nigerians that we have been strengthening our preparedness since the first confirmation of cases in China.
‘’We will use all the resources made available by the State and the Federal Government to respond to this case. We are working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he arrived in Nigeria. Please, be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only a mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses.
“All Lagosians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following the precautions below: 1. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 2. Maintain at least 1 & half metres (5 feet) distance between you and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
“3. People coughing persistently or sneezing should stay indoors or keep a social distance, but not mix with a crowd.
“4. Ensure that you and people around you follow good respiratory hygiene by covering mouths and noses with a handkerchief or tissue while sneezing or coughing. You can also sneeze or cough into your sleeve at the bent elbow.
‘”Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.5. Stay indoors if you feel unwell with symptoms, such as fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call Lagos State Emergency hotlines 08023169485 or 08033565529 or 08052817243 which are available day and night.
“6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, the Social Media, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health. Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic.’’
The statement added that Lagos State Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Lagos.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia yesterday suspended arrivals by foreigners for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourists from countries where the new coronavirus has spread.
However, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has said that the temporary action was a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19 and would therefore not stop its ongoing preparations for the 2020 pilgrimage.
The holy fasting month of Ramadan begins in late April, when visits by Muslim pilgrims accelerate for Umrah. More than 7.5 million people performed the minor pilgrimage – as opposed to the hajj – in the birthplace of Islam in 2019, according to official figures.
“It all depends on the duration of the ban. If it’s a long one, it can have more of an impact as Ramadan is two months away,” said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Gulf Research Centre.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe. Entry is also suspended for visits to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
“Protecting the pilgrims and the sacred sites from the arrival of this disease is very important,” Health Ministry spokesman, Mohammed Abdelali said after government officials met to discuss preventative measures.
“Saudi Arabia feels a sense of responsibility, therefore, we took these temporary decisions which will constantly be reviewed,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not reported any coronavirus cases, but the other four Gulf Arab states have.
In the hours after the announcement, there was confusion at airports abroad with flights to Saudi Arabia about who was eligible to travel. In Beirut, passengers without Saudi residency were barred from boarding.
UAE-based Emirates and Flydubai, citing Saudi directives, said they would no longer carry passengers with tourist visas from China, Japan, Italy, Iran, India, Pakistan and a number of other countries.
Qatar postponed the Doha Interfaith Dialogue Conference due on March 3-4, without giving a reason.
Saudi Action Won’t Stop Preparation For 2020 Hajj – NAHCON
Meanwhile, NAHCON has declared the temporary suspension of the lesser hajj (Umrah) by the Saudi Arabian authorities would not stop its ongoing preparations for 2020 pilgrimage.
Head of public affairs of NAHCON, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, stated this when she reacted to the suspension of Umrah by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, yesterday.
Usara said that the commission would continue with its preparations for this year’s pilgrimage while awaiting further directives from the Saudi Arabia on their position for 2020 hajj in view of the coronavirus infection that has spread to about 48 countries globally with a record of over 82,164 confirmed cases as at yesterday.
She, however, appealed to intending pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah or visit to Prophet’s mosque in Medina to suspend the arrangement until further notice.
Usara affirmed NAHCON’s commitment and cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the interest of world Muslims and humanity in general, saying that the measure taken in suspending the lesser hajj or visiting of prophet’s Mosque in Medina was in accordance with approved international standards towards curtailing the spread of the disease.
Iran’s Vice President Tests Positive For Coronavirus
Iranian vice president, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has been infected with the coronavirus, state news revealed in Tehran yesterday, adding to the already mounting concern in the country as the virus continues to spread.
Ebtekhar, who advises President Hassan Rouhani on family and women’s matters, was placed under quarantine. Iran has struggled to contain the spread of the virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, and also confirmed yesterday that 26 people in Iran had died from the virus. More than 400 are suspected of carrying it, and Iran has confirmed 245 cases.
In a message to medical staff, yesterday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described the efforts to contain the virus and treat the victims as a “difficult and momentous task.”
Senate Wants Travellers From China Quarantined
To stem the scourge of coronavirus spread into Nigeria, the Senate yesterday, directed that all travellers from China to Nigeria either through the air or seaports must henceforth be quarantined.
The Senate also insisted that all travellers from other parts of the world into the country must be thoroughly screened to prevent any carrier of the disease from entering the country.
Senate’s resolution followed a warning by the deputy Senate leader, Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice (APC Ondo North) that there’s open chance for carriers of the virus to enter Nigeria.
Boroffice said that there was lack of preventive measures against the virus in Nigeria at all stages.
Senator Boroffice, who rose through Order 43 of the Senate’s Standing Rules to call the attention of the Red Chamber to the looming danger of the virus entering Nigeria if required measures were not put in place, cited the examples of thorough screening he was subjected to in South Africa and the make-belief ones he experienced in Nigeria a few days back.
He said: “I was in South Africa on Friday last week. I came back on Wednesday this week. Because of the issue of coronavirus, every country in the world is taking preventive measures because the wisdom is that prevention is better than cure.
“In South Africa, we were not allowed to leave the aircraft for good 30 minutes. Officers of the medical corps came into the aircraft and screened everybody before we were allowed out but when I arrived on Wednesday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, there was no screening.
“All we were given was a sheet of paper to indicate whether we were sick and whether we have been to one country or the other and how we will be contacted if there is an emergency.
“This to me is no screening and baffling because how will they trail me? How we they know if I have fallen sick or not. This is very frightening. Something has to be done to ensure that we do not give way to a situation which we will not be able to control.
“Countries that have adequate medical facilities are working hard to ensure that they contain the spread of coronavirus. From what I saw on arrival on Wednesday, nothing is being put on ground here to contain anything,” he said.
Consequently, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks, said: “We must be prepared. We must take all the necessary measures at our ports – airports, seaports. If someone is coming from China, he should be quarantined, not self-isolation.
“While the Federal Ministry of Health and the associated agencies may be doing their best, with this explanation, this best is not good enough and we should not take anything for granted.
“I want to urge the Senate Committees on Primary Healthcare and Health to engage with the Federal Ministry of Health once again, We want to see every possible effort done in our airports or seaports,” he said. (Leadership).