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Nigeria selects two airlines for phased repatriation of Nigerians stranded abroad because of COVID-19

Nigeria on Thursday said it has selected two airlines that will repatriate Nigerians who are stranded in various countries around the world as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, who announced the selection in Abuja however said that the evacuation would be carried out in batches because of the number of Nigerians who have signified intention to return home.

According to Onyeama, “because of the high numbers, and limited mandatory-isolation spaces in Nigeria, the evacuations will be done in batches. We have received all the numbers from our various embassies around the world.

“We have selected two airlines that will be responsible for fetching them. Numbers are high and we don’t have isolation spaces for everyone at same time. So we will have to stagger the repatriation.”

Meanwhile, the federal government also said Thursday that it will enforce wearing of face masks in markets as it is clear that physical distancing is quite difficult to enforce.

Director General of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated at the briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) that “where physical distancing is quite difficult, like in markets, we will be firmer about prescribing the use of masks.”

Dr Ihekweazu again called on Nigerians to stop stigmatization of discharged patients as doing so will prevent people from coming out willingly to test. 

The NCDC boss, who announced that every Friday by 6pm, the number of tests done by the centre will be made public, stated: “We should stop stigmatising COVID-19 patients. If we stigmatise patients, people will choose not to be tested and the virus might go unchecked and this lockdown will continue. In these times, what unites us is more than what divides us.”

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, hinted on the need for people to willingly come for testing, warning that patients with mild symptoms are still very highly infectious as mild symptoms in one person could be deadly infection in another. 

Said the Minister, “that is why we recommend the suspension of close contact between grandchildren and grandparents, at this time. Our valuable health workers are urged to adhere to all government instructions and regulations; always utilise personal protective equipment (PPE); maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19; and protect yourselves, your loved ones and your colleagues.”

Ehanire also warned private health facilities treating COVID-19 cases without accreditation that they stand the risk of being sanctioned. 

The Minister stated: “I shall use this opportunity to again strongly advise health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities. We cannot afford avoidable morbidity and mortality. 

“Private facilities must obtain accreditation to treat this highly infectious disease. Practitioners engaging in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19, run the risk of being shut down for decontamination.

“This next phase of our strategy, due to the available evidence of community transmission in Nigeria, now focuses on the community. There will be more community testing and social mobilisation at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarves over the mouth and nose, to reduce risk of transmission.

“Again, the revised case definition for testing includes: All patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome; Contacts of people confirmed to have COVID-19, with fever and respiratory tract symptoms; Persons with fever and respiratory tract symptoms of unknown cause.”

He reiterated that one of the purposes of the lockdown is to prevent people from moving around and carrying the virus to other places. We need people to stay where they are.”

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