Nigeria Government has again assured the world that there was no need to panic over the confirmation of the 2019 novel coronavirus(COVID-19) in the country, adding that there was no blanket ban on nationals from high risk countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday declared the virus a pandemic, following the speed with which it has affected nearly 170 countries and still threatening others. The virus has killed over 3,000 people since it broke out in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China.
The Federal Government gave the assurance while briefing all ambassadors/heads of missions accredited to Nigeria at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja on Thursday.
The meeting was called by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who noted in his remarks that Nigeria has taken steps in line with International standard to tame the menace. The meeting was centred on measures taken by the Nigerian Government in tackling the Coronavirus (COVID 19) and clarification on Nigeria’s ‘Visa Policy 2020.’
In attendance were the Minister of State, Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mustapha Suleiman, the Director-General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, amongst others.
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who gave Nigeria’s position and efforts to curb the scourge so far, said since the outbreak of the virus, the Federal Ministry of Health, has been strengthening Nigeria’s response, capacity for public health challenges.
“It is important to emphasise that this is a time for facts and not fear or panic. We are in solidarity with all countries across the world to control this pandemic,” Ehanire said.
He pointed out that as of March 11, 2020, there were two confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease in Nigeria, adding that there had been no death and no serious illness.
Nigeria confirmed and reported the first case in Nigeria on February 27, 2020, when an an Italian consultant arrived from Milan via Turkish airline to Lagos. He later traveled to Ogun State and reportedly fell sick just under 48 hours later.
Ehanire disclosed that Italian is being taken care of at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Lagos and his viral load had continued to be placed under test.
“He is doing very well and we are ready to discharge him as soon as the viral load is within acceptable limit,” Ehanire also said.
The Health Minister said further that the second confirmed case was a direct contact of the index case in Ogun State who prior to the confirmation of COVID-19, had been under quarantine as a contact.
“He had no significant clinical symptom and was identified, following routine screening. He is also receiving care at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Lagos,” Ehanire added.
The minister also said efforts have been made to reach all other contacts, even as he said few were still being traced and were all being monitored as due.
He disclosed that the Government’s preparedness and response have been focussed broadly on surveillance, especially at the point of entry; infection prevention and control, risk communication, laboratory diagnosis, case management and coordination.
“In this respect, we work closely with border control agencies like Immigration and Customs.
We are leveraging on our public health security infrastructure which has been strengthened in the past four years through the upgrade of laboratory diagnostic capacity. This upgrade is still ongoing and for which we shall always welcome support,” Ehanire said.
He said Ministry of Health has intensified screening of all incoming international travellers with the use of thermal scanners adding that it has obtained travel history, using passenger self-reporting screening forms provided to all airlines.
“Nigeria has not yet placed any travel restriction or ban, but are strongly advised against non-essential travel to countries with high level of transmission which we define now as China, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran,” Ehanire stated.
The minister explained that travellers from the affected countries should be in isolation for 14 days after entering Nigeria, while also saying that travellers from other countries were not required to undertake special measures, but to report immediately to NCDC if they have symptom.
He stated that though all, except the index case have proved negative so far, they unnecessarily weigh on the nation’s resources which are scarce.
In her remarks, Assistant Comptroller General of Immigration in charge of Visa and Residency Directorate, Victoria Isangedighi, told the diplomatic corps that the Nigerian Visa Policy 2020 was aimed realligning the visa policy to meet the reality of the ever-changing, socio-economic and political globalised world.
She said the policy has “evolved from a restrictive and complicated entry formalities, to a liberalized and more investment friendly policy, tailored towards being one of the most developed nations in Africa and the world at large.”
In a presentation on the Nigeria Visa Policy 2020, Kunle Osisanya, Comptroller, Visa Policy, Nigeria Immigration Service, listed different categories of visas available in the new regime, even as the service disclosed that visa on arrival available to non Africans visiting Nigeria was only for tourism purpose.
Innocent Odoh, Abuja