Global concern over Coronavirus (COVID-19) heightened on Monday.
The Lagos State Government said it was yet to trace the 158 passengers aboard the Turkish airliner that flew in the Italian who is Nigeria’s index case of the virus.
It restated that while some of the passengers had travelled to other states in Nigeria, others had gone back to Europe.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu stated this during a meeting with chairmen of Local Government Councils, Local Council Development Areas, Community Development Associations and All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwarts on how to effectively prevent the spread of the virus.
He added that some of the passengers who were contacted on the telephone, gave “false information.”
“There were 25 people who came in contact with him at the factory (in Ogun State); there were two drivers and an ambulance driver. We have quarantined those identified so far at our medical facilities and some of them at home.
“We are calling them twice a day to check if they are okay. If they develop symptoms, we will bring them to our bio-security facility for test.
“We have identified all of these people except some of the people, on the aircraft who have either gone back to Europe or travelled to other states.
“Some of them gave us false information on the telephone. We are still trying to find the remaining passengers on that aircraft every day. Our contact list is over 100 persons and this number is increasing every day.”
Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said two more foreign nationals suspected to have been infected in Asia tested negative.
He explained that 34 Nigerians the Italian had contact with in Lagos and Ogun States had been reached with some quarantined and others in close observation.
The governor said: ”There were 159 passengers in the aircraft and six people that came in contact with him at the airport.
The governor said a series of medical examinations at the State’s bio-security facility conducted on the two foreign patients that were brought from Ogun State over the weekend, did not show any sign of COVID-19 infection.
Sanwo-Olu told the gathering that the Italian was improving.
He said: “We have called for this meeting as part of proactive measures we are taking to prevent the spread of Coronavirus to our local communities. It is no more news that we are managing a case in Lagos, but the situation does not call for panic.
“We don’t want to record any loss of life to this virus. My administration places premium value on human life, which is the reason we have upgraded facilities at our bio-security centre and Infectious Disease Hospital.
“But, we believe we will achieve better results in this effort if people at the grassroots are properly sensitised on how to protect their communities from the virus and other contagious diseases.
“Government is doing its best to stop coronavirus, but Government cannot do it alone. It requires collective responsible of everybody living in Lagos to stop the virus.
He said the government would maintain open line of communication with the public on the progress being made in containing the virus.
The state government has directed schools to make water and sanitizers available for pupils to guard against COVID-19 infection.
Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, who gave the directive, also advised pupils and teachers to avoid using dirty hands to touch their noses, eyes and mouths .
Adefisayo, according to a statement by the Public Affairs Unit of the ministry, said same habits should be practiced at home.
A visit by our correspondents to some schools in the state showed that they were already taking precautions. Many had organised sensitisation programmes for their pupils and parents about Coronavirus.
Nearly all the schools visited had provided sanitizers and hand washing facilities.
In Abuja, Minister of State for Health Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora cautioned Nigerians against indiscriminate wearing of facemasks in their bid to prevent COVID-19.
Mamora, at a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja yesterday, said facemask was not meant for healthy people, but for those manifesting symptoms.
He said: “As far as I am concerned, facemask is not meant for people without symptoms. People who need facemask are those already manifesting symptoms.
”If you are coughing or you are sneezing and you cannot stay at home to get over that period or maybe, you have to go to work, then, you also have a duty, apart from wanting to protect yourself in that circumstance, the greater duty is for you to protect the person around you.
”That is why the facemask may be necessary if you are having symptoms but without symptoms, it is just an unnecessary hype and being overzealous.”
Mamora expressed dissatisfaction over the information that some schools were asking students to wear face mask.
According to him, a particular school in Abuja insisted that pupils must wear face mask, which is wrong.
”There is no basis for that, unless you can establish that the particular child is coughing or sneezing. That is when that will be necessary.’’
The minister, who advised Nigerians not to panic but remain calm, cautioned against hugging and handshaking.
He said: “This is not the time for handshaking; you might have sanitised your hands, how about the hand you are shaking?
”As much as possible, this is the time to cut down handshakes; these are critical things that are very important at this point in time.
“Avoid self-medication, maintain good hygiene, always wash your hands with soap and water, stay informed on latest developments about Covid-19 through official channels on television and radio, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Federal Ministry of Health.
Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, has said his ministry would give all the support it could to Prof. Maurice Iwu and his team on their drug discovery project for Corona virus.
Onu gave the assurance on Monday when Iwu, a former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman and Chairman of Bioresources Development Group, paid him a visit in Abuja.
The minister recalled that some time ago, the ministry charged Nigerian scientists to find solutions to virus.
Onu added that the ministry was happy that Iwu had come to it with the “compound he isolated about five years ago.”
He further said that he was happy that Iwu had already entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States on this project as regards his patents.
He expressed optimism that the “compound’’ would be readily available for certification.
Iwu told the minister that the purpose of his visit was to brief him on his team’s efforts toward finding a treatment for Coronavirus.
He said the lead drug discovery project included the chemical isolation and characterisation of naturally occurring compounds and subjecting them to a bioassays for the identification of potentially useful-drug-led molecules.
He said the approach was the use of a network of eminent scientists and leading laboratories to target particular disease, especially neglected tropical, emergent and orphan diseases.
He also said those included leishmaniasis, Ebola virus, dengue fever virus, chikungunya virus, corona virus and tacaribe virus among others.
United States President Donald Trump said yesterday that he had asked pharmaceutical companies to speed up work on producing a vaccine to combat the virus.
“We have asked them to accelerate whatever they are doing in terms of a vaccine,” Trump said at the White House.
Trump also said he would meet with the pharmaceutical companies’ executives to discuss how to address the disease.
The president noted that the coronavirus outbreak had become a very big subject, but added that the U.S. was doing “very well.”
“We are working very hard with the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and with everybody,” Trump said.
“We are also working with other countries to help them because they really have a fear of the unknown.”
On Monday, authorities in Washington confirmed that a second person infected with coronavirus in the U.S. had died.
Saudi Arabia also recorded its first coronavirus infection.
The patient is a Saudi national who arrived from Iran through Bahrain, the Saudi Health Ministry said on Monday.
The patient is currently quarantined at the hospital, it said, adding that samples were taken from all those who were in contact with him for tests.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also said yesterday that one of its members of staff in Iran had tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said the epidemics in the Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were WHO’s greatest concern.
“Outside China, a total of 8,739 cases have been reported from 61 countries with 127 deaths.
“In the last 24 hours, there were almost nine times more COVID-19 cases reported outside China than inside China,” he said.