Following the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan city of China, the Federal Government on Tuesday said there are no reasons to repatriate Nigerians living in China as a public health intervention.
Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chike Ihekwazu, stated this in Abuja while addressing newsmen after meeting with the leadership of the House led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila where he gave an update on the level of Nigeria’s preparedness to contain the eventual outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
Dr Ihekwazu who dismissed reports on coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria assured Nigerian citizens that necessary facilities and measures are being put in place to contain, respond and contain the deadly disease.
According to him, “when there’s a new virus, everybody is working very hard to learn as quickly as possible on the characteristics of the virus.
“The proportion of deaths to cases is still below two per cent. There are key new characteristics of every new virus. This virus is not as bad as SARS, Ebola etc. that we have been dealing with. So, this isn’t as bad as painted by the media.”
While stressing that coronavirus outbreak presented unique challenges for Nigeria to respond and protect Nigerians in different types of ways, the NCDC boss assured that efforts were being stepped up to ensure continuous monitoring developments in China where 99 per cent of the cases occur, adding that relevant agencies have stepped up monitoring at various airports and seaports.
While giving update on the successes recorded in containing the scourge of Lassa fever in the country, Dr Ihekwazu disclosed that Nigeria has recorded 364 confirmed cases and 47 death of Lassa fever, which he described as good news to reduce it from 24 per cent death rate of those infected to between 13 per cent to 14 per cent rate.
According to him, the scourge of Lassa fever is currently prevalent in Edo and Ebonyi States.
He acknowledged the resolve of the House to provide adequate funding in the bid to stem the menace.
He, however, noted that coronavirus does not require a visa to enter into the borders of any country, hence the resolve to work with World Health Organisation (WHO) and other development partners as well as Nigerian parliament.
He disclosed that there is no case of infection in Nigeria, adding that WHO recommendation is not to restrict trade or travels to China, adding that every precautionary measure is being put in place by Nigerian authorities.
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He explained that Nigeria acquired the equipment to test Lassa fever, as the government has established testing lab for Lassa fever from 2 to 5 across the country, and come up with travel system of samples put in place.
While acknowledging that the land borders are currently challenged, he assured that relevant security agencies are stepping up actions toward monitoring immigration into the country.
Speaking earlier at the meeting with the NCDC Director-General, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who expressed grave concern over the serious panic among Nigerians with regards to coronavirus called for clarification on the agency’s position that the coronavirus is not as deadly as reported by the media that only about two per cent deaths are recorded among those infected, unlike other viruses such as Ebola, SARS and Lassa fever.
“Some things are alarming to me. You seem to make light the severity of coronavirus to the extent of saying it’s not as bad as Ebola. I’m not a doctor, but what I do know is that if there’s panic out there, something needs to be done. Though Lassa is very serious, I don’t think it should take the seriousness of coronavirus.
“I want us to treat this virus with all seriousness. Let’s assume that this is the worst virus that has hit the world. If China is building a hospital in a week for this, that means it takes it seriously,” the speaker noted.
While responding to questions on the Lassa fever outbreak in the country, Dr Ihekwazu explained that most of the cases of Lassa fever came from the hot-bed states and that the centre has deployed teams across the states to respond accordingly.
He said so far, there are two centres, one at the Abuja University Teaching Hospital and the other at the Mainland Hospital, Lagos, created to address the issues of Lassa fever, saying they need such centres in all the 36 states.
“Our response so far is that we prepared for this period. Every case of Lassa fever requires about half a million naira to treat.
“We’re working with our partners to develop a vaccine. So, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve already tested the vaccine, and maybe later this year, it may come to use.”
Earlier, at the plenary, the House rejected the motion sponsored by Hon. Benjamin Kalu which seeks to evacuate stranded Nigerians in China, following the coronavirus outbreak.