UPDATE: FG considers N620m health intervention to manage coronavirus

•Senate fears poor surveillance measure my demands details of proposals •Insists chartered, private flights by passengers must be screened •Gives port health services 24hrs to deploy officials to private terminal •Tasks port health services to acquire functional ambulance for emergency evacuation

The Senate on Thursday expressed dismay over the non-screening of passengers on arrival on private jets of the local flight wing at the airports fearing it may be a loose end to import the coronavirus.

Chairman Senate Committee on Health Ibrahim Oloriegbe said the absence of health services at the private terminal could make for easy movement of infected bodies into the country.

The Senate, therefore, ordered the Minister to deploy health officials to the private tarmac within 24hrs and conduct screening of VIPs on chartered flights stressing coronavirus was both a national and global health emergency.

It also charged the Ministry of Health and the Director of Port Services, Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh to ensure that ambulances are provided for the Port Harcourt and Kano international airports for evacuation when needed as emergency gives no prior notice.

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It subsequently charged the ministry to furnish the Senate with the details of her budget to show how it has complied with provisions of all equipment to be ready to contain the virus.

This is as the federal government is considering N620 million special intervention funds by the ministry of health to monitor, detect if possible and contain the dreaded coronavirus.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire revealed this while interfacing with the Senate committee on health on the level of national preparedness to manage coronavirus break out in the country.

He said the ministry, on Thursday, submitted a memo proposing for the release of the sum of N620m to take proactive measures to contain the virus.

He said Nigeria was prepared to ensure its health security which could disrupt economic stability if left unchecked.

The Minister who appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, in the company of Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, director port health services and the Director-General National Centre for Disease Control said already, the sum of N71 million was released to the port health services for her operations.

Allaying the fears of Senators, Dr Ehanire said the ministry had a multi-stakeholder meeting to deploy port health services there to screen all passengers.

Ehanire said the national intervention on containing the Lassa fever breakout enjoyed the timely release of N313 million intervention fund from the federal government to manage the outbreak.

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Earlier in her submission, Alex-Okoh in her submission to the Senate said the port health services was restricted from operating in the chartered flight area thus excluding her passengers from being screened.

She said the airports are fitted with thermal scanners with the gun scanners as back ups for temperature screening at the airport.

“At the airport, we have on-going screening to determine whether the people coming in have symptoms and signs of communicable diseases, by carrying out temperature detection and visual observation.

“Visual observations for these signs that I mentioned we have taken it a step further, we have health screening forms that have been deployed. On that screening form, if there is any indication in their travel history or in their health responses that indicate that they may have something of suspicion, we ask them to step aside and we proceed to secondary screening to further assess and determine whether they are a public health risk or not.

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“The fill the form onboard the aircraft before they arrive. The airlines are given the forms to share in board their flight from international destinations.

“We have a challenge with the VIP who fly in aboard chartered flight at the private terminal, we are making arrangement to move in there by this weekend. We were not there before now, we were not allowed by the terminal operators to being there,” Alex-Okoh stated.

Senator Solomon Olamilekan (Lagos West said “This is a national emergency, a global emergency for that matter. Nobody should be an impediment to national safety. You should move in immediately!”

This the Minister said will be addressed.

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