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FG Begins Secondary Screening of Travellers from 8 COVID-19 Endemic Nations

The Nigerian Federal Government on Monday announced that it is to commence secondary screening at points of entry for travellers from eight high risk countries with widespread community transmission to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, told journalists in Abuja that the eight countries are China, Japan, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea, France, Germany and Spain.

Dr. Mamora said that the new review of case definition followed the declaration of COVID-19 as pandemic and increasing spread in countries.

According to Mamora, “we have added three new countries to the existing list of five countries that have high-risk, with widespread community transmission. Travellers from these eight countries would undertake secondary screening at points of entry and self-isolate for 14 days.”

Reviewing the state of the pandemic so far in Nigeria, the Minister said that “between Jan. 7 and March 15, a total of 48 people who met our case definition have been screened for COVID-19 in seven states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The States are Edo, Lagos, Ogun, Yobe, Rivers, Kano and Enugu and the FCT.

“The index case (Italian) is clinically stable and has improved greatly. We look forward to progress early this week to guide medical team in discharging him. In Enugu, a woman in her 70s returned from UK (United Kingdom) and had symptoms of fever and mild respiratory illness. Her sample was collected for laboratory diagnosis and tested negative for COVID-19.

“Therefore, as at March 15, 2020, Nigeria recorded two confirmed cases of COVID-19, but one case is now negative and has been discharged from hospital.”

Mamora, therefore, advised Nigerians to imbibe good hygiene by washing their hands and wipe their phones as often as possible.

He said they should also embrace cashless policy as the virus could be contracted through money or phones.

The minister cautioned against complacency, misinformation and disinformation, saying “it is not true that COVID-19 is resistant to African blood. A Nigerian doctor based in Italy has just died of the virus in Canada. So, we should not be ignorant of the fact that there are lots of known and unknown facts about the virus. Prevention is better than cure and obedience is better than sacrifice.”

Responding to a question, Mamora explained that Nigeria would not place travel restriction on any country in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

According to him, countries are at liberty to decide whether to place ban or not based on their experiences and reality on ground.

In his remarks, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), urged journalists to report COVID-19 responsibly.

Ihekweazu said that the media had the responsibility to balance their reports, emphasising on the need to focus on facts rather than fallacy.

He added that “we are working across the board from port surveillance to testing in our laboratories and we are improving on our testing capacity daily. New guidelines are being developed and updated; so, we need the media to be part of the response because it is a collective responsibility.”

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