FG searches for 4,370 contacts as coronavirus cases hit 65

…says COVID-19 cases explosion, community transmission imminent

NMA attacks govt, asks President to issue executive order on lockdown

Six of Lagos 12 new cases arrive Nigeria by sea, Abuja, Bauchi add two

Akeredolu, Diri, Sule, deputy test negative, Fayemi awaits result

The Federal Government on Thursday said it was tracing 4,370 persons, who came into contact with people that were suffering from COVID-19.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja, said the country was on the verge of community transmission of the disease.

Mohammed said this just as coronavirus cases in the country increased to 65 on Thursday.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said as of 7:35pm on Thursday, 12 additional cases had been recorded in Lagos State, one in Bauchi State and one in the Federal Capital Territory.

The NCDC via its Twitter handle, said, “14 new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria; one in Bauchi State, one in the FCT and 12 in Lagos. Of the 14, six were detected on a vessel, three are returning travellers into Nigeria and two are close contacts of confirmed cases. As of 7:35pm 26th March, there are 65 confirmed cases, three discharged and one dead.”

The NCDC had on Thursday said cases of the virus in the country increased to 51 from 46 on Wednesday.

Currently, the majority of cases were imported to the country from high-risk nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and other European countries.

Among those who have tested positive are the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed.

The disease has spread to eight states and the Federal Capital Territory. There are 44 cases in Lagos; 12 in the Federal Capital Territory; Ogun State, three; Ekiti State, one; Bauchi State, two; Oyo State, one; Edo State, one; Osun State, one and Rivers State, one.

The minister of information, at the press conference on Thursday, said unless those who had contact with confirmed cases came forward, in few days ahead, Nigeria would record a rapid increase in the number of cases.

He stated, “We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support the authorities in this regard.

“We are on the verge of reaching the level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to say this.”

The minister said the Federal Government was considering a ban on non-essential inter-state travels, closure of motor parks as well as fumigation of some designated areas, as part of additional measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also expressed delight that measures so far taken by the federal and some state governments to contain the virus were yielding the desired results.

Mohammed said, “We are considering tougher measures to enforce compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to states that do not have it and minimise spread. Possible measures include stopping inter-state/inter-town travels, except for essential services; closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations. Already, all train movements nationwide have been stopped.

“Our strategy at containing this pandemic is working, but we still have a long way to go. We know our priorities and we know our challenges.”

According to him, government has taken very bold measures by stopping international flights into the country.

He also commended state governments that had closed markets and prohibited large congregations.

The minister maintained that, “We are determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, contact tracing, testing, isolation of suspected cases and ensuring that our messaging gets down to the grassroots.

Explosion in COVID-19 cases imminent, says FG

“I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic. But the truth is that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.”

He also said that the Federal Government had received donated safety and test kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China. The supplies are 100,000 face masks, 1,000 pieces of personal protective equipment and 20,000 test kits.

Mohammed explained that the face masks and the PPE would be distributed to the front-line health workers while the test kits would be shared among the five test laboratories.

FG tests ministers for COVID-19

The minister, while answering a question as to whether he and his colleagues were tested for the virus, said, “We were tested yesterday but I am not at liberty to talk about my colleagues, my result was negative.”

Increase in number of isolation centres

The minister also said government at the federal level had taken additional measures to increase the number of bed spaces for the isolation of patients.

He said government had, in addition to the facility in the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, set up 40, 60, and 160-bed medical facilities in three locations across the FCT.

The minister noted that some Nigerians, who flew into the country from overseas filled wrong addresses and phone numbers in their forms, making it difficult to trace them when the need arose.

“Some Nigerians defied orders to stay away from large gatherings while some religious leaders willfully flouted the directives to ensure social distancing. The government is doing its best but we need the citizens to do their best too. We have now gone past the stage of persuasion. It’s time for strong enforcement,” he added.

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The minister also decried the spread of fake news on social and traditional media.

He faulted speculations that there were only two ventilators in Abuja, out of which one had been commandeered for a top government official and that a British Airways flight was due to land in Nigeria on Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports.

He also denied a report that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had been coughing and was on ventilator.

Bauchi gov’s 62-year-old friend tests positive

In Bauchi State, the confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus increased to two on Thursday. He is said to be a friend to the Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, at a press conference in Bauchi, said the second case was a 62 -year-old friend of the governor.

He said, “We have taken 48 samples of high risk patients to Abuja. Out of the results, as of today, there are two confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Bauchi State.”

“The first index case (Governor Mohammed) is recovering fast and is doing extremely fine and up to this moment, there is no sign or symptoms of COVID-19 except the confirmatory result. He is still in isolation and we are following the case management of this patient.

“The second case, who is 62-year-old, is a friend to the first victim (Governor Mohammed). He is also being isolated. He has already started receiving treatment as well as any other supportive case management. Apart from that, we are continuing with our other activities of surveillance and contact tracing.

“We’re are tracing the primary contacts of the first case and we have taken their samples to Abuja to know their situation. We have started contacting the contacts of this second case and we are also going to take their samples based on the criteria for analysis.”

Also the Executive Chairman of the state Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Rilwan Mohammed, said the second case had secondary cases stating that “we don’t know how many people he has come in contact with.”

NMA hits FG, states, over coronavirus spread

…Asks Buhari to issue executive order on lockdown

The Nigerian Medical Association lashed out at the federal and state governments for failing to contain the spread of the disease.

The NMA, in a statement by its President, Dr Francis Faduyile, raised the alarm over the absence of respirators and other equipment at some of the designated coronavirus isolation centres across the country.

The NMA said efforts to contain COVID-19 in Nigeria would only have impact if states and the Federal Government arrived at a compromise to work in the same direction. Faduyile said that so far, both levels of government had been working at cross purposes.

It said, “(We) note that certain key strategies have been largely absent or sub-optimally implemented. The most important of this being effective coordination between the federal and state governments, as well as other stakeholders which will ensure that efforts are not wasted, knowledge and health intelligence are shared for better results.

The association lamented the absence of purpose-built isolation centres in the country. It stated, “To make matters worse, in most of our hospitals, there is severe inadequacy of critical care facilities like purpose-built intensive care units. These ICUs with ventilators/artificial respirators make the difference between life and death in complications from COVID-19. It is scary that the dearth of these facilities is the same in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.”

The NMA stated that states and the federal governments should be comparing notes and sharing intelligence on issues such as modalities for effective implementation of social distancing and case detection.

It called on government to ensure strict compliance with self-isolation policy for those returning to the country from countries with high prevalence of coronavirus.

The association noted that some states had closed schools and called for compliance with lockdown orders by states.

“The NMA demands uniformity in implementing the lock-down orders on non-essential services. We, therefore, call on President Buhari to issue an Executive Order to enforce compliance,” it added.

The association stated, “Given these defaults/inadequacies, NMA, therefore, calls for immediate commencement of supervised self-isolation in any manner that will protect public health. This would ensure that returnees from the countries with high prevalence would adhere to instructions and confine themselves to a location in order to protect members of the public.

“Physical visits by the designated officials to the returnees to track their locations, taking their vital signs and those of each of their contacts rather than voluntary reports of failing health and serial testing of their samples will deliver better results.”

The NMA, however, said it acknowledged efforts put in place so far by the FG and some other states, especially Lagos State, as well as the philanthropic gestures of Aliko Dangote and Mrs Folorunsho Alakija towards the fight against COVID-19 in the country.

It called on its state chapters to mobilise volunteers (doctors who are active as well as those in the private sector) to assist in the area of service delivery at health facilities, contact tracing and wholesome information/public health education campaigns in collaboration with the public authorities.

Ogun doctors raise the alarm, want lockdown

In Ogun State, the branch of the association raised the alarm over the possible spread of COVID-19 in the state.

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It, therefore, asked the state Governor, Dapo Abiodun, to lock down the state for at least two weeks in view of the increasing cases of COVID – 19 across the country.

The State Chairman of the association, Dr Ismail Lawal, said this while addressing journalists at the NMA House in Abeokuta.

Lawal said the lockdown would allow the government and health officials to track down some undetected cases in the state.

He further said shutting down of all the activities in the state would prevent the state from getting more cases in the coming weeks.

The NMA chairman warned that the number of coronavirus patients and the contacts so far identified in the state “are just infraction of cases” that were looming in the state.

He maintained that the situation on the ground had shown that the state was not prepared to manage multiple cases of COVID-19.

He stressed that the total lockdown would be for the benefit of everybody in the state at the end of the day.

He described the situation as an emergency which he said must be tackled with seriousness to safe people from contracting the virus.

He said, “This is the time for emergency, whatever resources anywhere should be put together to curb the menace.

“It is only when we manage our people that we can work and government can get money in the long run or in weeks to come.

No reason for lockdown yet, says Ogun

But the state government said there had not been any reason for lockdown of the state, though it was an option.

The Special Adviser to the state Governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, said this on Thursday.

Hazzan said the government was taking steps as the events were unfolding.

The government spokesperson said the essence of the government actions was to avoid pressing a panic button.

Hazzan, however, said the government would not hesitate to lock down the state any moment it saw the reason to do so.

The state had on Tuesday recorded another case of COVID-19 in Sagamu through a returnee from the United Kingdom with 32 contacts.

Hazzan said despite the new case the situation had not warranted imposing a lockdown on the people.

Presidency attacks Buhari’s critics

The Presidency made angry reactions on Thursday to the critics of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), even as it insisted that he was on top of ensuring that the coronavirus pandemic was tackled in Nigeria.

It accused the President’s critics of having “diseased” minds full of evil and good only for peddling lies against him and his regime.

Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, tweeted on Thursday that there were people who were simply evil when they “concoct” lies against his principal.

Aside from the audio, several commentators in the past days did not spare Buhari when they accused him of being taciturn in the face of the pandemic and doing little to reassure Nigerians.

But, checks on Thursday, indicated that the President was at his residence, as his office was evacuated for fumigation by experts.

The PUNCH exclusively gathered that intensive fumigation of the State House started on Thursday when the experts arrived at the Villa about 9.30am.

The exercise was planned to cover all the offices and environment of the Presidential Villa. All occupants in designated offices were asked to vacate them, including cleaners attached to the Council Chambers and the press gallery.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday, said a presidential aide who tested positive for coronavirus was not in a critical condition.

He said the aide was at an isolation centre where people with mild symptoms of coronavirus were being treated.

While giving an update on the situation in Abuja, the minister said he had no authority to mention the name of the aide, but stated that he was not admitted into the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Centre isolation centre in Gwagwalada.

The minister said that all those who had been in contact with the aide had been tested, saying all the tests came out negative.

He said, “An aide to the President that tested positive for coronavirus is in a secure place somewhere. Those with severe symptoms of the virus are taken to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (isolation facility). Others will be taken to a facility where they can be taken care of.

“The (Presidential) aide who tested positive is receiving treatment in a secure facility in Nigeria. He requires only a general medical treatment.”

Lagos gets lion’s share of equipment

The minister stated that Lagos State would get the biggest share of the Jac Ma Foundation coronavirus responsive kits donated to Nigeria. The kits were brought to Abuja on Wednesday via an Air Force plane after they were deposited in Lagos.

We have enough respirators

While responding to NMA’s allegation that there were no adequate ventilators at the nation’s designated isolation centres, Ehanire said there were enough ventilators in hospitals and that they were not always required for use except in severe cases.

Delta closes borders, shuts down malls, others

The Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has announced the lockdown of all activities in the state and closure of all borders as the state government intensified efforts to make the state safe from the coronavirus pandemic.

In his third broadcast on Thursday in Asaba, the governor, who is the Chairman of the Central Committee on Managing and Containing the Coronavirus Pandemic in Delta, stated that the lockdown would be effective from Wednesday, while the closure of borders and other entry points into the state would commence at 6 am on Sunday.

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Gov Sule, deputy test negative

Meanwhile, the Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule; his deputy, Dr Emmanuel Akabe, and a man in isolation have tested negative for coronavirus.

The deputy governor, who is the Chairman of the state Quick Response Committee, said, “Governor Abdullahi Sule, I and the man in isolation at Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, in Lafia, have all been given our samples in Lafia, The samples were taken for test at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, and the results for all the three of us are negative.”

Fayemi awaits result, wife in isolation

But Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, said the result of the test conducted on the state Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, had not been released.

Fayemi had on Wednesday tweeted, “I just took the COVID-19 test having gone into self-isolation since yesterday (Tuesday) evening. I’m asymptomatic and feel well, but I was in meetings with two people who had since tested positive. I look forward to an all clear.”

The commissioner, who spoke in Ado Ekiti while giving update on the COVID-19 situation in the state, said, “The only patient, who tested positive for coronavirus in the state last week, is in a stable condition at the state isolation centre where he is undergoing treatment.”

Yaya-Kolade said that the contacts had been identified and put under isolation with thorough monitoring and all of them were stable with no signs.”

The commissioner advised all residents of the state to live by a sense of social responsibility to fight the scourge of coronavirus by maintaining social distancing order of the state.

The wife of the governor, Bisi, said that she had been in self-isolation since she arrived in Nigeria from the United Kingdom on March 19.

The governor’s wife, who made the disclosure in her write-up titled ‘Self Isolation’ in her Above Whispers series, stated, “I have been in self-isolation since I got back.

“In the over 30 years we have been married, my husband and I have never slept in separate beds if we are home together. The fear of coronavirus has changed that for now,” she said.

Giving details of what happened on arrival at the airport, she said, “My temperature was taken, as well as my photograph. My passport was stamped and I was free to go. I was not given any direct advice on self-isolating for 14 days since I had just returned from a high-risk country or a number to call should I develop symptoms.

Ekiti to screen travellers at borders

Also, the state Commissioner for Environment, Gbenga Agbeyo, said measures had been put in place to ensure that all travellers coming into the state were checked at entry points to reduce the possibility of transmitting the disease.

Agbeyo, who is also the Chairman, Ekiti State Environmental Task Force on COVID-19, said the state government would ensure that commercial vehicles and motorcycles carried required numbers of passengers.

The commissioner said, “To decongest the Atikankan area population, the government is planning to stop all business activities in the area, work on how to ensure voluntary evacuation to Shasha Market or forcible ejection if resisted and eventually bring down the shanties as well station security agents there,” he said.

Six Lagos patients recover, may be discharged soon –Gov aide

The Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Health, Dr Tunde Ajayi, has disclosed that six of the patients at the Infectious Disease Hospital have recovered.

Ajayi via his twitter handle, @thetundeajai, said the patients would be discharged soon.

He wrote, “Six of our #COVID19 inpatients have recovered and will be discharged soon. There is something Lagos is doing right. Lagos takes the lead,” he wrote.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, 32 confirmed cases have been confirmed in Lagos State since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Market closure: We are satisfied with level of compliance on ban, says CP

The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu has expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance with the government directive on closure markets and stores to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Clubs, event centres and places of worship, where more than 25 people had gathered, were sealed off by agencies of the state.

The police command had also said it would extend enforcement to markets and stores, except those where food and medicinal items were being sold.

After the enforcement on Thursday, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said in a statement that Odumosu, while monitoring compliance to the directives, visited various eateries, markets, financial and telecommunication institutions, among others, and observed that the compliance was encouraging.

LASG to converts Onikan stadium, others to isolation centres

The state government has commenced plans to establish an isolation centre at the Onikan Stadium and some other locations in the state.

This followed the announcement of more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state with fears that the figures might go up in the coming days.

A source in the state ministry of health said makeshift isolation centre would also be established at the General Hospital, Gbagada and the Landmark event cent.

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