The Federal Government, Friday, disclosed that 93 persons that boarded the same Turkish Airline with an Italian, the country’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) index case, were at large.
The government said out of the 148 passengers that boarded the Turkish airline with the Italian to Lagos on 24 February 2020, only 55 of them had been tracked so far.
To this end, it appealed to the elusive persons to isolate themselves wherever they are and called the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, for a possible response.
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, addressing the media in Abuja as a follow-up to the country’s response to the dreaded scourge, expressed frustration of government in tracking all the contacts of the index case even as he consoled himself that government anywhere in the world had not been able to successfully track contacts in similar situation.
“The contacts of the index case are currently under supervised self-isolation and the states have provided them with temperature monitoring tools.
“Of the l48 passengers on the manifest of the index case flight, 55 are actively being followed up.
“The NCDC and Port Health Services are in touch with them to know their temperatures and the possible appearance of COVlD-l 9 symptoms.
“We are reaching out to others. I urge any passenger of the Turkish Airlines Flight to Lagos on February 24 listening to me to contact us on 080097000Ol-l0,” he said.
The minister noted that “Nobody is ever completely able to track all passengers because passengers are mobile.”
“Don’t assume that all the passengers are Nigerians; there are many who have moved on to their countries, moved on to countries in Africa or they were here to do something briefly and have gone back to their country.
“Those we can track, we use all methods and that is why we have specialists, epidemiologists who do the tracking, looking for them, asking neighbours and that is where the general public can also help.
“We are directly appealing, maybe some of them has not even heard that there was a problem onboard their aircraft, they may not even have heard at all if they are busy with other things.
“That is why I made a public appeal that if you arrived on Turkish airline on the 24th in Lagos and you have not heard please isolate yourself and get in touch with the number which I gave and if anybody knows a neighbour or a friend who was on that flight, self- isolate and report. That is what we can do for those who are within the country,” he added.
According to Ehanire, “For those who have left, there is almost nothing we can do, we have tried also to continue looking at the addresses they gave.”
He added: “In one case, we saw that the person was not on that address that was given so we had to move to another address he was not there we moved to another address until he was finally tracked and we found out that he was okay, so we do very conscientious tracking of passengers just to be sure but if after 15 days, we do not see any case then, we can begin to forget about that manifest because that is the incubation period and if we don’t see any sign, it means nobody got infected, they were all lucky.”
While assuring that the” index case is clinically stable with mild symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” the minister said: “We are following up with 61 contacts of the index case. 21 contacts in Lagos State and 40 contacts in Ogun State.”
Ehanire appealed to intending travellers to countries with high fish of COVID-19 to suspend their journeys until the disease was contained in such countries.
He said, “Between the 7th of January and yesterday, 5th of March 2020, a total of 21 suspected cases have been identified across four states in Nigeria.”
“The states are Lagos, Ogun, FCT and Kano. There is still only one confirmed case of COVlD- 9 in Nigeria, which is the index case and no death,” he explained.
He spoke further: “There were three new suspected cases between the 4th of March when I last provided an update and today. Two cases were negative while one result is pending.
“Therefore, as of today, the 6th of March 2020. I repeat that there is only one confirmed case of COVlD-l9 in Nigeria.”
He said, “Let me assure you that there is no other confirmed case in Nigeria today. If there is a new case in Nigeria, this will be announced immediately. Please, disregard all rumours of new cases in Nigeria.”
Verified news, he said, “will come from the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.”
“The multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by NCDC continues to coordinate national response activities.
“The NCDC National Rapid Response Teams continue to support both Lagos and Ogun states with contact tracing and other response activities,” he said.
The minister, while saying, “NCDC released new guidance for schools in Nigeria”, noted that, “is important to focus on ensuring personal and respiratory hygiene in schools.”
“At the moment, there is no reason to shut down schools in Nigeria,” he explained.
Disclosing that “NCDC has also escalated risk communications activities”, he said the agency has in collaboration with Dettol Nigeria, published a video on COVID-19 preventive measures shot with Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele.
Explaining that there were laboratories with the capacity for in-country for COVID-19, he listed them as the” NCDC National Reference Laboratory-Abujo, NIMR-Lagos, LUTH-Lagos, lSTH-Edo and African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease (ACEGID) in Osun.”
“Health care workers are regularly sensitised to have a high index of suspicion for COVID-19. Working in collaboration with the Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), NCDC conducted training on infection prevention and control for representatives of private health facilities,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Dr Priscilla Ibekwe, Deputy Director Special Duties at NCDC, said for the first 28 days, “we have a budget of about N1.67 billion to handle this COVID-19 response.”
She, however, was evasive in providing details on the budget.
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