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Nigeria to deploy Soldiers, Police to trace contact cases of Coronavirus

As the total number of Nigerians with confirmed cases of Coronavirus rise to 40 including the two discharged and one dead, the Federal Government says it may deploy troops of the Nigerian military and the Police for contact tracing in cases where persons suspected to have contracted the virus did not voluntarily show up for testing.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire warned that Nigeria could be heading the way of China and Italy, which had recorded high number of Coronavirus cases and deaths due to the speed and spread of the disease.

At 11pm on Monday night, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), on its Twitter handle, stated that “four new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria. Three are in Lagos State and one in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory). Two of these cases are returning travelers. As of 11:00pm on March 23, there are 40 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death recorded.”

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Monday in Abuja appealed to Nigerians and those resident in the country who recently returned to Nigeria to “give themselves up”, noting that if contact tracing was not properly done, the number of people who had been infected would multiply every five days.

According to the Minister, “We should be ready for tougher measures. The forms they will take will be out from the end of today or tomorrow. But Nigerians should be ready for tougher measures. If we don’t do proper contact tracing, the figure will multiply every five days. Nigerians must take ownership of this initiative.

“If the situation warrants, we may be forced to use the police and the military for contact tracing. The police are already working on that. We don’t want the figure we have now to multiply. We should work towards containment which is cheaper.”

Meanwhile, as a way of tanking the spread of the disease, the Federal Government has ordered “complete closure of land borders,” to human traffic. It has also postponed the weekly Wednesday Federal Executive Council meeting and the Council of State meetings “indefinitely.”

The Federal Government also advised residents of Lagos and Abuja to remain indoors in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

Giving an update on COVID-19 cases, Dr Ehanire said that the Federal Government would publish names of people who refused to go into self-isolation after returning to Nigeria from countries with high burden of coronavirus., lamenting that some people who had been infected were hiding.

“We have not come to forced isolation. But we have had occasion to go after those who came from abroad and have not registered their presence and have not gone into self-isolation. We will publish their names until they volunteer themselves and be put under investigation,” he said.

The Minister also announced that the federal government is recalling all retired medical doctors and nurses to help in the fight against the virus, saying that all the State governments have been notified of the step.

He regretted that most of the 40 infected persons in Nigeria had history of travelling out of the country while the rest had contacts with the returnee infected persons. He noted that four of the infected persons had no travel history or known contact with a confirmed case.

The Minister said the five laboratories being used for testing of samples were adequate, noting that more would be added if the need arose.

He noted, “A ban was placed on all international flights effective from March 23, 2020 with the exception of emergency and essential flights. These were not easy decisions to make but they became necessary in view of the changing development in our country as we witness more and more confirmed cases coming from outside the country.

“I urge all Nigerian residents to take self-isolation and social distancing seriously in order to prevent the spread of this disease in our country. Social distancing reduces the risk of someone who you do not that may have been infected from infecting someone else. Ensure you maintain five feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.”

He said however that nations with sophisticated medical system were finding it difficult to contain the virus.

“The behaviour and pattern of the illness are becoming clearer and countries are adjusting to what the disease looks like. The government hopes that the disease would not get to the grassroots. But if it does, we are prepared for that eventuality. We have received money and placed orders. We are expecting some deliveries. We have countries that have offered to support us. We are talking to private facilities to know the number they have in their stores. Those that are not functioning are being repaired. We have an offer for a new machine that will be placed in a strategic location.”

Lamenting the speed of the spread through index case, the Minister stated that “in less than 48 hours, the Italian who came to Nigeria (index case) was identified. The contacts we found for him were 179. They were all traced and monitored. Out of the 179, one was positive and put in isolation with the Italian. Both were cured and discharged. If other cases had not come to Nigeria, that would have been the end of COVID-19 in Nigeria. But other cases came that were not part of the first one. That is why we are saying that you do not compare what we have now with what they have in China or Italy. If we do not act fast, we could be heading in something dangerous like that (in China and Italy). They now transmit, among themselves.

“We have to get those who have been infected now. If we don’t, it may be a serious burden in the system. I am sure some are hiding, they will not report for whatever reason. Nobody will be arrested or asked to pay anything. Those who are returning now are Nigerians. With the closure of our airports, we will reduce inflow of new cases and deal with the ones we already have.”

As of Sunday, China had recorded 81,093 cases and 3,270 deaths, while 63,927 people had been infected in Italy, which had recorded 6,077 deaths.

In order to protect federal civil and public servants, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha said a circular would be issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, to direct on actions to be taken immediately, adding that “all Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home, avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings, until further advice is given.”

Meanwhile, the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, on Monday called for a total lockdown of activities across the federation in response to coronavirus.

Mrs Buhari specifically cited the case of state governors shutting down schools but allowing their parents to continue going to work.

She noted that much as the move by the governors was commendable, it could be counterproductive if the parents continued to report for work.

Taking to her twitter handle, @aishambuhari, she tweeted, “It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work.

“We should not isolate students and expose their parents.Let us remember that they will meet at home.”#TotalLockDown #StayAtHome.”

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