Coronavirus: Governors In Panic Mode As FG Closes Land Borders

  • Cases rise to 40

  • We may be heading the way of China, Italy –FG

Many Nigerian state governors, especially  those who had recently met and exchanged banters with the Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed, are scared stiff over the coronavirus pandemic. Mohammed is currently on self-isolation having shaken hands with Atiku Abubakar’s son who tested positive to the virus.

This is coming on the heels of the announcement by the Federal Government that Nigeria has 40 coronavirus cases and one death caused by the disease.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire,  had earlier at a press conference in Abuja on Monday said the country had 36.

But at 11pm on Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on its twitter handle said the cases had increased to 40.

The centre stated, “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 travellers

“As of 11:00pm on March 23, there are 40 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death recorded.”

The NCDC announced the new cases just as the Federal Government ordered complete closure of land borders to human traffic and postponed the Federal Executive Council and the Council of State meetings indefinitely.

The Federal Government also advised  Lagos and Abuja residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease.

Giving an update on COVID-19 cases, Ehinare said 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.

He said Nigeria could be heading the way of China and Italy, which had recorded high number of coronavirus cases and deaths. The health minister said some people who had been infected were hiding.

Nigeria recorded its first coronavirus case on February 27 when an Italian was diagnosed with the disease, but the Federal Government then rejected advice that it should ban flights from high-risk countries.

The government on Thursday banned flights from 13 high-risk countries when the cases increased to 18.

The cases rose to 31 on Sunday with the disease spreading to Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti states, as well the Federal Capital Territory.

FG to publish names of returnees who ignore self-isolation

On Monday,  Ehanire said although the country had not enforced isolation, it would take any step to ensure that those who were returning to Nigeria from high risk nations did not infect others.

Some returnees hiding –Minister

He said some of the returnees had been hiding while also pleading with them to take the right approach.

He said, “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.

FG to recall retired doctors, nurses

According to the minister, part of the measures being considered is to recall retired medical doctors and nurses to help in the fight against the virus, saying that state governments have been notified of the step.

He said that 26 out of the 36 infected persons had history of travelling out of the country, while six had contacts with 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,” he stated.

The minister said government hoped that the disease would not get to the grassroots, adding,  “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.”

He added that government was taking an inventory of respirators in public hospitals.  “We are talking to private facilities to know the number they have in their stores. Those that are not functioning are being repaired,” the minister stated.

He said five laboratories in Nigeria could test for coronavirus. “We have an offer for a new machine that will be placed in a strategic location,” he added.

We may be heading the way of China, Italy, FG warns

Ehanire said that 179 persons had contact with the Italian who brought the first case of coronavirus to Nigeria.

The minister said although new cases being recorded were Nigerians who were returning from countries with high burden of the virus, Nigeria could head the way of China and Italy if those who had contracted the virus already were not fished out and treated.

He said, “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.

FG closes land borders for four weeks, suspends FEC meeting indefinitely

The  Presidential Task Force for the Control of COVID-19  at a press conference on Monday evening, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.),  had ordered the immediate closure of all land borders for the next four weeks with immediate effect.

The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said  Buhari  after a further review of the coronavirus situation, also approved the “suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings until further notice.”

He said the President also approved the “postponement of the meeting of the Council of State scheduled for Thursday March 26, 2020.”

“All land borders that have been hitherto under partial closure shall now be closed to human traffic for four weeks effective, 23rd March, 2020.

In order to protect federal civil and public servants, 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.

Lagos, Abuja residents asked to stay at home

He added,  “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.”

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said only cargo aircraft, or those on essential duties, emergency, in distress or stopping for refuelling would be allowed to land in Nigeria at the international airports.

The Minister of Health, at the press conference, said further investigations had been launched into the index case in Ekiti State where an American reportedly died of suspected case of coronavirus.

He said results confirmed that the American tested negative with his female caregiver while the driver that conveyed them to Ekiti was positive. “The driver could have contracted it from another place but investigation is ongoing,” he said.

Bauchi  Gov goes into isolation after contact with Atiku’s son

There was fear in Bauchi State as the governor, Bala Mohammed, went into self-isolation following contact with a son of former Vice-President  Atiku Abubakar.

The governor, who returned to the state on Friday evening after an official visit to Lagos, , laid the foundation of  2,500 housing units on Saturday at Dungal Village, along the Bauchi-Jos Road.

The Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media, Mukhtar Gidado, in a statement on Monday,  said  Mohammed who recently returned from an official trip to Lagos met with Atiku’s son in the Aero Contractors aircraft where they shook hands.

Atiku, had on Sunday night said his son had tested positive for the virus.

Bauchi’s gov’s family, 10 aides in self-isolation

Also, the Commissioner of Health, Dr Aliyu Maigoro, at a press conference on Monday evening said members of the family of the governor had gone into self-isolation.

He also said no fewer than 10 people including commissioners who travelled with the governor on a flight from Lagos to Bauchi had also gone into self-isolation.

Bauchi gov’s self-isolation jolts colleagues, NEC members

But the decision of  Mohammed to isolate himself jolted his colleagues on Monday. The development reportedly forced some of the state governors into a panic mode.

Mohammed, at the NEC meeting in Abuja on Thursday, exchanged pleasantries with colleagues, including shaking hands, with them.

The NEC meeting was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who also exchanged banter with some of the governors.

A source on Monday said, “We hear that some of the governors and other NEC participants, who directly interacted with Mohammed, are jolted. They are panicking.

“They are hoping that his test result doesn’t come out positive, else they too will have to go on self-quarantine immediately.

Osinbajo was billed to inaugurate the National Traffic Radio of the Federal Road Safety Commission on Monday morning. The event was cancelled abruptly, owing to COVID-19 scare.

Aisha Buhari calls for total lockdown

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.”

Presidency accuses senators, reps of avoiding coronavirus screening

Also on Monday, the Presidency accused some members of the National Assembly who recently returned from foreign trips of flouting coronavirus screening at the nation’s airports.

The Presidency in a letter addressed to the President of the Senate,  Ahmad Lawan,  and the Speaker,  House of Representatives dated March 21, alleged that the actions of the federal lawmakers posed a serious threat to the health of other Nigerians.

The Presidency, in the letter signed by the Chief of Staff,  Abba Kyari,  said it was written based on the report from the Minister of Health on the refusal of some federal lawmakers to subject themselves to screening at the airport as directed by health officials.

The Punch

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