The COVID-19 epidemic has just entered Nigeria barely a week ago even as Senegal, Egypt, Algeria and Morroco have recorded their first cases bringing the total cases to 12 in Africa. Nigeria happened to be the first country in Africa to record the novel Coronavirus case.
With the discovery of the first case, the Federal Government swung into action to check the further spread of the disease, as any lapses might pose an unimaginable danger to not only Nigeria but the entire African continent.
The Chinese government too, through its embassy in Nigeria, has praised Nigeria for its solidarity and cooperation with the People’s Republic of China towards the fight against the disease.
The Federal Government through the Ministry of Health and The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has acted fast after the Italian Engineer tested positive in Lagos and was quarantined.
The Ministry of Health held a series of press conferences where they briefed the public on efforts and strategies put in place to control and prevent the further spread of the disease.
According to the Minister of Health, Osaze Ehanire, “The collaboration between the federal, states and local government is excellent”.
Also, while speaking on national TV recently, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, informed the public on what the government did and is doing following the first confirmed Coronavirus case in Nigeria. He also stated that Nigeria was not used to dealing with respiratory illnesses but that it was adopting measures to deal with the novel virus. The DG however advised Nigerians to cooperate with the health authorities in order for the goal to be achieved.
“Right now like most Nigerians know, we have a single case in Lagos. He is doing well; care is being provided in a Lagos facility. We have established a number of contacts; people he has been in contact with, from the date of arrival to the day he entered the car, all of them are being monitored every day. We are working with the government of Lagos and Ogun States to develop architecture, to monitor this consistently for 14 days. We have sent Rapid Response Teams to support all the States in their response. At the same time, we are providing continued preparedness across the country because, while there is a case in Lagos, the risk of reintroduction in Nigeria continues. We are also developing guidelines for schools, for businesses and advising them on what to do on business continuity. The virus has the potential to disrupt business so we really want the country to be prepared and respond.
“The key thing is that this is a new virus; there are no measures that are globally effective for all types of infectious diseases. So we have to adapt slightly for every new virus and respiratory virus. We haven’t dealt with much respiratory viruses in Nigeria. So it leads to certain threads that have to be made to our existing protocols and procedures which we are now doing and rapidly disseminating across the country. So while the response is going on in Lagos and Ogun, the whole group of scientists is working very hard in all aspects of diagnoses, infection prevention and control, and case management.
“We have intensified the screening of returning passengers, the use of pulse. In terms of the visible measures, we have gone over above what is being done in countries across the world. Yes we have had complaints from members of the public and from these complaints, we keep improving every day. Our key plea also is to Nigerians. Some of those that go through these are actually Nigerians. Some of us have refused to feel the pulse and are hostile to the people working at the airport. So we appeal to all of us to cooperate. If there was a case incident at the airport, where do we take him to?; do we have the ambulance to evacuate you?; do we have the personal protective equipment for the staff of the airport to manage the case? All these are being put in place and are in place already at the major airports in Nigeria”, he stated.
Ihekweazu also talked about the success story of Lagos state, how other states could emulate Lagos and the economic implication of the disease on Nigeria if precautions are not taken.
“The measures we introduced are proportionate at the moment to our risk assessment of the condition and the situation. We are doing much more than many other countries are doing. In our estimation, it is more effective to screen people at the covers of the aircraft considering that there are no direct flights from any of the five countries. There is no direct flight from Nigeria to China, Iran, South Korea and Japan. With this case that came from Italy, he didn’t have a fever when he came. So we relied on our own astute decision that made a link between his travel history and the symptoms we have. Without that doctor, this man might have transmitted it to many others. This is something of national health security importance. We can’t do this on our own; we really need the support of all Nigerians”, he added.
He also reported that the Lagos success is an example for all states. The best time to prepare for war is not when the war has started. We are challenging all the State governors…and they have started doing this, to invest in health security. We have been supporting every State to set up Emergency Response Centres. The five states where it is most important are Lagos, Kaduna, Rivers, Enugu and Kano States. These are the states with international airports.
“The media has actually been very cooperative, sharing very important messages. Why Coronavirus is important is because of its epidemic potential. Any one that is following the global economy will understand what has happened to the economy of China in the last month and will also agree on why it is important to strengthen our preparedness. The economy of China has really been affected, businesses have been shut, supply chains have been disrupted and this is what we want to prevent in Nigeria because with the State of our economy, we can’t afford that level of destruction to our way of life. We have to focus on the key issues that are present to us: Lassa, Malaria and Tuberculosis but at the same time because of the public nature of epidemics, we also have to focus on the prevention of Coronavirus because we can’t afford the destruction of the Nigerian economy. That is why corporate Nigeria is coming together to invest in health security”, he maintained.
Meanwhile, China has revealed the strategy it has put in place and how solidarity and cooperation between nations can help in dealing with the disease.
In a document titled News Digest on China Vol. 3 dated March 3, 2020, stated that, “despite some promising signs, the epidemic situation remains grim and complicated, with great uncertainty and pressure. While the rise of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has been halted, the overall battle is not over”.
It added that “solidarity and cooperation is the most powerful weapon, with people united around the same purpose of prevailing over a disease that threatens all”.
It expressed its fear for a pandemic and that Nigeria was a window to the further spread of the virus across the region.
“since the novel coronavirus has spread to 44 countries on all continents except Antarctic, the world Health Organization warned for the first time on Friday that the virus could soon reach most ‘if not all’ countries around the world…that alarming message came shortly after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa’s first case of infection with the novel Coronavirus, which might raise the curtain for the virus’ fast spread among countries in the region, some of which are among the least developed”.