The Federal Government, yesterday, restated that there were no cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who stated this in Abuja, explained that two cases that met the case definition for the virus were tested and found negative, while two others were currently undergoing series of tests.
“At least, we have had 30 investigations of people that have called us for one reason or the other. Out of that, two of them have met the case definition, that is, the person who to returned in the last 14 days. The two cases were tested and were found negative.
“Last night, we had another two and tests are going on at the moment. As soon as they are completed, it will be announced. If a person returns to the country, say within 20 or 30 days, there is no point wasting reagents to test such a person.”
Chikwe assured that once there is a confirmed case of Coronavirus, the centre would inform the minister of Health, who in turn would announce it to Nigerians.
“Be rest assured that if there is a positive case, we will be the first to announce it. So, if you see something on social media saying a number of people have died of the virus in Nigeria, it is simply a rumor. It is not possible that it will happen, because there are only three labs in Nigeria that run these tests.
“For other diseases, we usually advise people to go to the hospitals to get tested, but for suspected cases of Coronavirus, patients are advised to simply put a call through to us and we will come to the patient because going to the hospital can amplify the disease if it is found to be positive,” he added.
He said Nigeria had been asked to lead on the training on infection prevention and control for the continent and the training would happen in Abuja from February 20 to standardise our approach to infection prevention and control.”
In his remarks, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, also stressed that the country now has the capacity to test for the COVID-19 in Abuja, Lagos, and Irrua.
Ehanire argued that Nigeria’s level of preparedness was very high, despite reports that the CVID-19 has a fatality rate of about two per cent, which is not too high but spreads very rapidly.
“The frontline for our defence against viruses is the port health services in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, and Enugu, with Lagos having the highest traffic volume.
“Our national risk assessment is that the route for the importation is by air through the international borders. It is less likely by sea and over land because of the distance between Nigeria and China.
“Also, the fact that there is no direct airline connection gives us hope that if there are any cases possibly in transit, they would probably have been detected at the transit points of changing planes before they get here.
“We are also relieved that the Chinese government now conducts exit screening so that anybody who looks unwell will not be allowed to board the plane.”
The minister added: “I have met twice with the Chines Ambassador and he has told us that there are about 60 Nigerians in Wuhan and no Nigerian is sick or has anything that is near this virus infection. The Chinese government is providing them with food and supplies like its own citizens.
“The protocol is that anyone coming into the country is screened with a thermal camera and can be captured immediately. We are going to also supply the port health services with rapid diagnostic tools for malaria so that they can try to rule out malaria on the spot.
“Immigration and Customs, who see passengers, are also working with us to help identify anyone who looks sick and then refer them to port health.
“People who have returned from China are advised to self-isolate for their good and loved ones. They are also given a number to call if they notice any change in their health. In case they don’t call, we also have their numbers in their form to check up on them.
“The second line of defence is for the NCDC to look at suspected cases and do a test, if need be, for Coronavirus. We have the capacity now to test for Coronavirus in the three places named.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said that the Lassa Fever vaccine being developed in the country was in its first stage of trial.
Ehanire observed that top Nigerian scientists at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital were working on a vaccine for Lassa Fever in collaboration with German experts, adding that it might take a couple of years to completely develop the vaccine due to various processes it must undergo.
Ehanire explained that after testing if it works and is safe, it requires some time, as it has to go through several stages of quality control before it can be deployed. There is a lot of progress at the moment.