NIGERIA’s health minister Dr Osagie Ehanire has warned the country to brace itself for an increasing number of coronavirus cases saying the situation may eventually get as bad as the scenarios in China and Italy because affected people are not isolating themselves
At the moment, the pandemic has not been particularly vicious in Nigeria with only about 40 cases, of which there has only been one fatality. However, the number of people growing as those who brought it into the country interact and the failure of members of the public to observe health warnings, the prospects of the virus spreading are huge.
Last Sunday for instance, several churches still held mass services and many of those who were on flights with afflicted persons are not isolating themselves. Today, the number of affected persons rose to 40, with Mallam Abba Kyari, the chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari becoming the most high profile victim.
Warning that worse is still to come, Dr Ehanire said that 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. He said some of the returnees had been hiding and pleaded with them to take the right approach and report to the nearest Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) test centre.
Dr Ehanire 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.
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. According to the minister, the five laboratories being used for the testing of samples were adequate but he noted that more would be added if the need arose.
He added that the federal government would publish names of people who refused to go into self-isolation after returning to Nigeria from countries severely affected. According to the minister, Nigeria could be heading the way of China and Italy, which recorded high number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Dr Ehanire added: “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.”
The minister said government hoped that the disease would not get to the grassroots, adding that government was taking an inventory of respirators in public hospitals. He added that 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.