Ebola fear: Nigeria tightens surveillance at airports, borders

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Ebola virus isolated from a blood sample taken in Mali in late 2014 © National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH $322m Value of a pandemic insurance bond sold by the World Bank recently. The outbreak of Ebola in west Africa ended up costing £1bn, but the UK’s Department for International Development estimates it might have cost only $5m if it had been tackled at the start of the outbreak. More than 11,000 people died —

In an attempt to keep Nigerians safe from Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday directed the Federal Ministry of Health to step up surveillance activities in the country.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, stated this when he briefed State House correspondents at the end of the council’s meeting chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The minister said the council’s directive followed the reported reemergence of the disease in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He said that the council had ordered that steps must be taken to keep the Ebola outbreak away from Nigeria, saying that part of the new measures to be taken would include screening of passengers coming into the country.

“Of course of great concern to the Federal Executive Council is the outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo.

“As you might be aware, over the last one month, DRC recorded 19 suspected cases of viral hemorrhagic fever and lost 16 of the cases.

“But what is also particularly important was that on Monday, blood samples from five patients in the DRC, particularly in a particular district in DRC, two of the five cases, Ebola was actually confirmed.

“And, FEC has now directed the federal ministry of health to step up emergency surveillance activities at all land and airport borders, so that we can actually keep Nigerians safe.

“What we will do is to set up an emergency operation centre which will be chaired by Dr. Babasanya, who actually led our efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Guinea during the outbreak in 2014.

“Not only that, we will be screening incoming passengers, particularly passengers from DRC and neigbouring countries.

“We will also ensure we step up all activities, screening people coming in so that we will not be caught unawares,’’ he said

According to him, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will also consider sending some team to DRC as part of building capacity for managing the outbreak.

Adewole reassured Nigerians that the Federal Government was concerned about the outbreak and would continue to do everything possible to keep the country safe from the outbreak.

The minister also said that the ministry presented an update on the state of public health in Nigeria at the FEC meeting.

He said: “We reported on the situation with Lassa fever and declared that we are declaring the emergency phase of Lassa fever outbreak over.

“Essentially, that implies that the emergency operating center would be stood down but that instead of meeting everyday throughout the country, they will now meet once a week.

“They will still continue surveillance so that if there are cases anywhere in the country we can quickly dictate it and then treat it appropriately.’’

On the ongoing industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), Adewole stated that negotiations were on over the strike in the health sector.

“Negotiations are still on with JOHESU and the Minister of Labour is leading the negotiation and we expect that we will conclude on all issues very soon,’’ he added.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama who also spoke on the outcome of the meeting, outlined the benefits of the recent visit of President Buhari to the United States.

According to him, President Buhari is one of the strongest brand Nigeria has, going by the level of invitations he has been receiving from world leaders.

“One of the strongest brands that this country has is Mr President. By the level of invitations he has been receiving.

“All the major Heads of States want to meet with him. I think this is recognition of the weight of his person, his integrity and the leadership qualities.

“This is something we as a country have to be extremely proud of and we saw that when he went to the United States and the respect Mr. Trump has for him.

“He was extremely focused during that visit on Nigeria’s interest. He wanted the U.S. to help him and this country achieve those priority areas – security, corruption and revamping the economy.

“U.S. is on our side on the fight against insecurity, training and sharing of information.

“We secure the commitment of U.S. to repatriate large sum of looted money in the country,’’ he said.

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Samson Gbenga Salau [Editorial Board Adviser] Gbenga Samuel Salau is a professional journalist with over 17 years experience in journalism, he is a graduate of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan. On completion of his youth service, he joined The Guardian as a freelance journalist and was later absorbed as a staff. While in the University, he was a campus journalist reporting for the Independence Hall and Faculty of Arts Press Clubs. As a campus journalist, he won the following awards; Independence Hall Press Best News writer; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best News Reporter/Writer; First Runner-up, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism; Association of Faculty of Arts Students’ Press Best Reporter; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Political Writer; Winner, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism, and University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Interviewer. He served the Association of Communication and Language Arts Students, as the Public Relation Officer, the same year he was appointed the News Editor of the Association of Faculty of Arts Students Press. The following session, he was made the General Editor, and a member of the 13-man University of Ibadan Students’ Union Transition Committee. As a reporter in The Guardian, in 2014, he won the Promasidor Quill Award Best Report on Nutrition and DAME Business Reporting category. In the 2015 edition of the Promasidor Quill Award, he won the best Report on Nutrition and Brand Advocate Categories, while in 2016, he won the NMMA Print Journalist of the Year, first runner-up Golden Pen Reporter of the Year and SERAs CSR Awards. Gbenga Salau loves traveling, reading, and listening to songs with good lyrics no matter the genre.

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