Despite the claims of its readiness and preparedness to prevent the import and spread of Coronavirus in the past few weeks; the Federal Government admitted on Friday that Nigeria is experiencing an influx of imported Coronavirus cases into the country by travelers, including returning Nigerians.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who made this known at his regular updates on the disease in Abuja, however, warned private hospitals not to treat cases of Coronavirus, because it is highly contagious and very risky to their medical personnel and other patients.
Rather, the minister advised private hospitals to refer any suspected case of COVID-19 to the designated centers for diagnosis and treatment.
Specifically, he warned that being a highly contagious disease, private hospital do not have the required facilities and laboratory to handle it, and if they don’t have the protocol for treatment, they could easily infect their staff and other patients.
Dr. Ehanire said: “Private hospital, yes, we know that private hospitals offer 50 to 60 percent consultation to Nigerians which is a very powerful factor and very powerful partners in the healthcare system. We know that a good number of patients first of all report to the private centers.
“Most of the private centers don’t have the facilities to treat a highly infectious disease like that and they will definitely not have a laboratory for it. But in that case, we urge private hospitals if they have suspected cases, to refer them for diagnosis. If you can hold him in isolation while getting your result, fine otherwise you can refer them right away to the center for isolation of suspected cases; get the test done and let the patient be treated in a designated Centre.”
He added: “This is a highly and contagious disease which if you don’t have the protocol for treatment, you can infect your staff in the hospital, you can infect other patients and that will not be good. So, it is better to go to designated centres instead of running the risk of having local transmission within your own private facility.
“So, we don’t advise. Yes if you are a private practitioner and you get a patient who is suspicious or suspected of infection, send for testing and send to a designated treatment center.”
He stated further: “If we have any private hospital who wish to set up a facility for treatment, they would be inspected by relevant authorities to see if it’s good for safety and need to be accredited to handle disease as dangerous as this because this is one of national security concern.”
The minister, though admitted that there has been an influx of Coronavirus cases to Nigeria by travelers, he insisted that the country would not depart from its strategy of “self-isolation,” rather than considered “compulsory isolation,” of those coming into the country from the high-risk countries, and other infected countries.
Giving the update, he said: “On the 19th of March 2020, four additional cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were confirmed in Lagos State. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to 12. Of the 12 confirmed cases in the country, nine were reported in Lagos, two in Ogun and one in Ekiti.
“Nigeria is, therefore, experiencing an influx of imported Coronavirus cases by travelers, including returning Nigerians. This emphasizes the importance of self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days, even if you feel well.”
Eight of the 12 cases, according to him, are travelers from Italy, United Kingdom, United States of America and France; adding that three cases are contacts of imported cases, while one case confirmed on Friday has no travel history in the last one month, but may have met with foreign visitors.
The minister said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was working closely with Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti State governments to carry out contact tracing, adding, “l emphasise that this is an extremely important, but also an arduous task, and I urge all state, local government, law enforcement authorities, and community leaders to give full cooperation to investigators.”
Following the declaration of a pandemic by WHO and increasing spread of Coronavirus, he said the strategy was to detect and isolate new cases as early as possible to interrupt or reduce transmission of infections.
To this end, he pointed out that the response efforts have been scaled up, and in an efforts to reduce the risk of new cases entering Nigeria, the Government, through the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus (COVlD-l9), announced a ban on entry for travellers from 13 known high-risk countries.
He revealed that two other countries, Austria and Sweden, had been added to the list, adding, “according to our notional case definition, we have identified two more high-risk countries, Austria and Sweden, who were added in the last 24 hours.”
The minister said: “For better control of new arrivals, international travel to Nigeria has been temporarily limited to only two international airports: Muritala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Port Health Services will be strengthened at these airports. Other airports shall be closed to international traffic. These decisions will be reviewed as the situation demands.
“Travelers from all countries shall be required to self-isolate for 14 days after entry, along with the guidelines provided to them. Non-compliance puts your family, friends, and the public at risk, even if you feel well. As for arrivals from the high-risk countries named, their self-isolation shall be supervised in the form of follow up to be conducted by Port Health Services and NCDC with the option of testing, as the need arises.”