No fewer than 10 Nigerians, out of the 40 persons subjected to the mandatory COVID-19 test for those who registered in the United Kingdom to return home, have tested positive.
The results of the tests, which were released on Monday in London, indicated that the 10 individuals were asymptomatic, raising fears that they might have infected other people.
This was said to have sparked panic among the staff of the Nigerian High Commission in London and other Nigerians who heard about the development.
Saturday PUNCH had exclusively reported on April 11 that 2,000 Nigerians, mostly in the United States, the United Kingdom, China and the United Arab Emirates, had registered and indicated their intention to come home.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which compiled a list of such stranded Nigerians, gave some conditions.
The ministry said the intending returnees would pay for their journey back home. Also, it stated that they would be compulsorily tested for COVID-19 before coming back to Nigeria.
One of our correspondents gathered on Monday that many of the stranded Nigerians were students and businessmen, who travelled to the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
It was learnt that many of those who tested positive were not resident in the UK, but went to the European country for business and educational purposes.
A source in the high commission explained that Nigerians, who registered for the evacuation, were being tested in a batch of 40. The source added that another batch would soon undergo the COVID-19 test.
He stated, “We have just received the results of the first batch of 40 Nigerians who registered for evacuation to Nigeria. The results show that about 10 persons tested positive for COVID-19 and they have commenced treatment in isolation centres.
“What is generating consternation is the fear that they might have infected many other people since they were not showing symptoms of the deadly disease.”
The PUNCH learnt that efforts were going on to begin contact-tracing.
The spokesman for Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, Abdul-Rahman Balogun, confirmed the development, stating that those who tested positive had commenced treatment.
He said, “Yes, I can confirm that the results of the first cluster of 40 persons revealed that between eight and 10 Nigerians tested positive for coronavirus. They have since commenced treatment in the UK.”
FG exploring all options for evacuation –Minister
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, told The PUNCH on Monday that the Federal Government was exploring all options for the evacuation of the stranded Nigerians.
When asked if the government would charter an aircraft for the evacuation of the over 2,000 individuals, Onyeama simply said, “We are exploring all options.”
Many Nigerians have been clamouring to return home following the increase in cases of COVID-19 across the world.
A viral video showed about 100 Nigerians being evicted from their homes and hotels in Guangzhou by the Chinese authorities last week, while their passports were reportedly seized.
The minister subsequently summoned the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, last Thursday, over the harassment and stigmatisation of Nigerians in the Asian country.
57,000 new cases imminent in Kaduna – Govt
In Kaduna State, the state government expressed concern that coronavirus cases in the state could rise to 57,000, if residents continued to violate its lockdown order.
The state Task Force on COVID-19, which expressed the fear on Monday, said the risk assessment of the pandemic was troubling and could be up to 57,000 new cases, if there was no effective enforcement and implementation of the lockdown order.
The task force was reacting to the sixth confirmed COVID-19 case, a security guard, who returned to the state from Lagos by bus.
The Task Force Leader and Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, in an interview with journalists, said it was important for people to observe the lockdown.
He said, “With the pandemic gradually spreading to neighbouring states coupled with the sixth imported case from far away Lagos into Kaduna, we are not happy that the safe corridor provided for travellers has been serially abused since the lockdown was imposed, as people from elsewhere have been coming into Kaduna in droves in violation of the quarantine order.”
Lagos discharges six more COVID-19 patients
The Lagos State Government on Monday said it had discharged six more COVID-19 patients, bringing the total number of patients discharged in the state to 61.
The state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, disclosed this via his twitter handle, @jidesanwoolu.
He said, “Today, six more persons; one female and five males have been discharged from the IDH, Yaba, after their full recovery and testing negative twice to #COVID19.”
We have low demand for testing, says FG
Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday said the low number of tests for the coronavirus in Nigeria was as a result of a low demand for testing across the country.
According to Worldometer, as of 10pm on Sunday, Nigeria had tested 5,000 people, while 37,954 persons were tested in Ghana. On the other hand, South Africa had tested 80,085 of its citizens.
The PUNCH had reported that the Nigerian Medical Association, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria and the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, had on Sunday said Nigeria must step up its testing capacity to successfully battle the spread of COVID-19.
The National Coordinator in the fight against COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, who spoke during the briefing of the PTF in Abuja on Monday, said Nigeria had activated laboratories across the country, but the demand for testing had not increased.
He, however, ruled out massive testing, saying it would not increase the number of positive cases.
Aliyu said, “Part of the reason we have not proceeded as fast as we can is because of the demand. We don’t have many demands for testing in those labs that we have activated.
“I am asking those labs, particularly the labs that have been activated in the last few days to, please, put forward processes that would allow them to key in, particularly in the areas where there is suspicion of people having COVID.”
He stated that not only people who have had contact or have travelled abroad should be tested.
While responding to questions from journalists, Aliyu said preventive measures should be observed during the forthcoming Ramadan.
5,000 health workers to get life insurance – PTF
Also at the PTF’s briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that there was an offer of free health insurance for 5000 health workers by a private insurance company.
He said, “The PTF is working on compensation packages to recognise the sacrifices and to further motivate the brave healthcare workers, who directly take on the coronavirus challenge. It goes beyond the well-known the group life insurance for public servants, the routine workmen’s compensation and health workers hazard allowance.
“Details of the new package will be made available later, but we must laud the offer of free life insurance for 5,000 health workers by a private insurance company.”
Ehanire said that the newly formed accreditation team for COVID-19 had finalised protocols for use in accrediting public and private isolation and treatment centres to ensure standards.
Treating COVID-19 patients at home risky – Minister
The minister advised doctors and other Nigerians against treating COVID-19 patients at home.
He added, “The case management team has concluded training of healthcare workers in Abuja. They will be attending to patients in these isolation and treatment centres. I enjoin states to adhere to the standards advised by the accreditation team and also again advise my professional colleagues that it is very risky to be treating coronavirus patients in private homes or in their hospital establishments without training and accreditation.”
We recommend face mask, but it’s not compulsory – FG
The minister said compared to what was happening in other countries, Nigeria had not done badly in the management of coronavirus. He called on Nigerians to imbibe the attitude of special public hygiene.
He noted, “A layered cotton fabric over the mouth and nose guards against particle emission during laughter, exclamation or loud talk and may offer mutual protection to wearers, especially where social distancing may not be achieved, or where close contact may not be avoided with certainty, such as markets.
“This is particularly recommended for sellers, especially of food. There are various models for constructing homemade masks, which should be washed every evening in warm water and dried or ironed.
“We are recommending mask use, but we are not saying that it is compulsory. It does not have to be hospital or surgical grade mask. It can be one that can be washed and re-used.”
New testing regime coming
On the low confirmed cases in Nigeria, Ehanire said the number of cases would fluctuate. He said a new testing regime would soon be introduced.
He said, “We are making testing more efficient. We are increasing the volume of testing so we expect to have more cases.
“The NCDC is preparing to have an agreement with the private sector for collection points in various areas, which will be made public so that you can go for sample-taking. You will be interviewed to know if you are eligible. A vehicle will go round and collect the samples and do a central testing. That will reduce NCDC work and bring in more efficiency and get more people to be tested.
Home remedy not coronavirus cure
“On home remedy, there are theories and postulations about certain things that boost your immune response. It is said that if you take ginger, vitamin C or whatever, it will boost your immunity.
“Response to viral diseases as a whole is connected to your immune response because eventually, it is your antibody that will tackle the virus. People now speculate that if you take something that boosts your immunity, it will help to tackle the virus. That is hypothetical. It is a theory that is propounded. If it helps, fine, but nobody will tell you that that is the cure.”
According to the minister, the country has taken delivery of equipment donated by European Union.
“For donors, who still want to support, we are open. The European Union has promised to give us donation which is appreciated.
“The United Nations promised us pieces of equipment and they arrived this morning (Monday). The three tranches include 50 ventilators which we are going to apply to our ICU (intensive care unit) centres,” said Ehanire.
Meanwhile, President, Muhammadu Buhari has extended the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states by an additional 14 days to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Buhari had, on March 29, ordered the lockdown for an initial period of 14 days, while several states had also introduced similar restrictions.
The President, who made the announcement in a televised speech on Monday evening, maintained that the Federal Government had a two-step approach to tackling the virus.
According to him, the approach is, first, to protect the lives of Nigerians and residents living in the country and, second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
He said, “With this in mind, and having carefully considered the briefings and report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the FCT for another 14 days, effective from 11.59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020.
COVID-19, is a matter of life and death, not a joke – President
“I am, therefore, once again, asking you all to work with government in this fight. This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square.
“The famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.”
3.6m households to receive palliatives
Buhari said he had directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks, adding that a technical committee, which was working on the programme, would submit a report to him by the end of the week.
NCDC confirms 20 new COVID-19 cases
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Monday announced 20 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 343.
The NCDC via its twitter handle, @NCDCgov, said, “Twenty new cases of COVID19 have been reported as follows: 13 in Lagos, two in Edo, two in Kano, two in Ogun and one in Ondo.
“As of 09:50 pm 13th April, there are 343 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Nigeria. 91 have been discharged with 10 deaths.”
The NCDC added that the disease has spread to 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory.