With the deadly coronavirus (2019-nCoV) spreading rapidly across the globe and forcing the WHO to declare “a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak”, national governments are taking various steps to check the spread of the virus into their countries.
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, has also expressed worry over the possibility of the virus spreading to a country with a weak health system.
“We don’t know what sort of damage this #2019CoV virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility,” he tweeted on Thursday.
CNN reported on Thursday that a 34-year-old female student became the first person to be tested for the virus in Africa. The traveller, whose identity has been withheld, disembarked a flight from China, at Felix-Houphouet-Boigny International Airport, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Saturday.
But Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has assured that the country was ready to protect itself against the virus.
The minister spoke at a programme organised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in Abuja to launch the Nursing Now campaign.
His words: “Nigeria is ready (for coronavirus). Among the countries of the world where we had Ebola, Nigeria was one of the countries that handled it well. We have competent and astute manpower; yes our health system may be fragile but when we come together as Nigerians, we are able overcome any challenge.”
The Lagos State Government has also disclosed that it had reached an agreement with the China Embassy in Nigeria to quarantine all Chinese returning to Lagos from their country.
The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said at a press conference: “We are very happy with the cooperation we are receiving from the Chinese government. We’ve had a very serious and high-level discussion with the Chinese government through their embassy in Lagos. Our primary concern has been the return of their citizens to Lagos in a few days and we are happy to inform you that the Embassy of China is also concerned about this, and they have sent out information through notifications to their citizens and companies located in Lagos that their citizens should try and remain in China until there is clarity about how this infection is going.
“However, if some of them choose to return, and we cannot restrict people, if they do return to Lagos, the instruction from the Chinese Embassy is that they should be quarantined for a period of 10 to 14 days in their houses, hostels and accommodations.”
In a related development, the Senate on Thursday asked Chinese citizens in Nigeria, who travelled to China to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year, to isolate themselves on return to the country.
The Upper Chamber also extended the call for self-isolation to travellers from other countries affected by the outbreak of the deadly disease.
The directives were part of resolutions made during the consideration of a motion titled, ‘Coronavirus outbreak and preventive response towards stemming its spread in Nigeria.’
Senator Chukwuka Utazi, who sponsored the motion, said, “Health officials fear the number of infected people will rise rapidly as hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel within China and abroad for the week-long Lunar New Year.”
According to the WHO, a coronavirus is a family of viruses that include the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Symptoms of the virus may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14, during which the virus is contagious but the patient does not display any symptom.
As at Friday morning, total confirmed cases of corona virus worldwide stands at 9,835 while 213 deaths have occurred. All the deaths recorded are in China.
Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the United States have reported cases in patients who didn’t personally visit China, but contracted the virus from someone else who had visited Wuhan, China, where the virus originated.