The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has assured that Nigeria has the capacity to detect and respond to the coronavirus if it is imported into the country.
The coronavirus, a deadly new virus which originated in Wuhan, China, has killed more than 170 people and spread to several provinces in the country as well as other countries. Thousands of people have been infected.
The origin is suspected to be a food market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals” in Wuhan.
Speaking during the weekend at the inauguration of the inter-ministerial and multi-sectoral committee on the novel coronavirus in Abuja, he said: “While the risk of importation exists, we can assure Nigerians of the nation’s capacity to detect, assess and respond to this and other public health threats at the point of entry.”
The minister said as at yesterday morning, 9,700 confirmed cases of the virus had been reported mostly in mainland China and about 100 cases in other parts of the world.
While maintaining that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern, he said two case alerts were received in Africa but the Ivory Coast case tested negative while the Kenya case was not clear yet.
“There have been no confirmed cases in Africa but the potential has been clearly demonstrated,” he added.
Ehanire said the meeting was convened to discuss strategies for the prevention and importation of the coronavirus into Nigeria and the joint response in the event its identification in the country to ensure its containment.
He said the regime had approved N71 million to increase services of the Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health , adding that the unit was currently implementing measures at all legal borders to prevent importation of the virus.
He said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had activated a “Corona virus preparedness group,” and would activate its incidence command systems for the virus once a suspected case was recorded in the country.
He said the NCDC was also working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners to establish testing capacity at its reference laboratory in Abuja or abroad if need be.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the regime would not ban Nigerians from travelling to China because of the outbreak.
“Right now we are working together at an Inter-ministerial level to be able to contain the epidemic. What will do is to give travel advisories, that if it is not very essential to travel to South East China, do not make such trips. But you know it is very difficult to ban people from traveling,” he said.
He said the Nigerian Embassy in China had confirmed that there were 16 Nigerians in Wuhan and that it was in touch with them, saying that none of them had indicated any intention to come home yet.