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Nigeria starts tracing contacts of first coronavirus victim

Friday February 28 2020

Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos

Travellers queue in front of a thermal scanner upon their arrival at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, on January 27, 2019. The Nigeria Immigration Service and Port Health Services have expressed fears over the outbreak of Coronavirus in China. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP 

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Nigerian authorities said on Friday that they had started tracking down people who came into contact with the first confirmed case of the coronavirus (Covid-19) to monitor their health and prevent spread of the deadly disease.

Federal Minister for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who confirmed the case oon Thursday night, reported that more measures had been put in place to prevent the spread.

Ehanire reported that an Italian citizen, who works in Nigeria and travelled from Milan, Italy, to Lagos, on Tuesday tested positive for the virus but assured Nigerians that the government was working hard to contain it.

“I am assuring Nigerians that all measures have been taken to contain and control the spread of the virus. It happened in Lagos. The state commissioner was the first person we were in touch with," he said.

“I know the capability of Lagos State. The state has a lot of experience on Ebola so they will be able to handle the case. Also, we have sent a team from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to support the state.



The minister said the reported case was not the result of failure to screen passengers at airports but the nature of the virus, which may not present symptoms at that time of screening.

He said the Federal Government had released $2 million to the NCDC for containing the virus.

“The relief is that the patient is not showing very serious symptoms and that as far as statistics are concerned, 97 per cent of the cases that have Covid-19 do recover," he said.

“The terrible thing about [the virus] is that it spreads easily and people can get it without knowing."

He added, "The government will follow the WHO guidelines of screening at the airport, isolation and questioning those with travel history to countries with the outbreak."


Meanwhile, Dr Solomon Chollom, a virologist and medical laboratory scientist with the National Veterinary Research Institute Vom, Plateau State, has called on the Federal Government to identify and quarantine other passengers who had contact with the Italian in the plane or at the airport.

Chollom said that the passengers must be quarantined for 21 days because the symptoms start showing after three days.

“This is not the time to be frivolous with Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) strategies, especially use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and alcohol-based solutions for disinfection of surfaces," he said.

“Patients presenting with respiratory symptoms should be treated as category A risk individuals. With confirmation of the first case in Nigeria, it is now clear that the virus is here in the country.

“This calls for a national health emergency, first in all hospitals in Nigeria. The second emergency should be in public places such as schools, markets, worship centres and motor parks."

He said health awareness should immediately be carried out to limit handshakes and undue contact with surfaces and individuals.

“People should be informed to cough into tissue papers and disposed them into alcohol-based solutions,” he said.