By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
When Coronavirus reared its ugly head in far away Wuhan- China, and gradually spread to some parts of the world including North Africa; Egypt and Algeria, the federal government boasted that it was prepared to tackle the virus should it find its way in to the most populous black nation on earth.
To match action with words, the Federal Government went ahead to release N386million to two health agencies to strengthen Coronavirus (COVID19) preparedness in Nigeria.
Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Abdulaziz Mashi said the amount was released by the government in two batches.
“While the first batch of N71 million was released at the end of January to facilitate activities of the Port Health Services department of the ministry, the second was released after the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the government had budgeted N620 million to curtail the virus from entering Nigeria when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Health.
“It is true that intervention was sought from the presidency and the Ministry of Finance and Budget Planning. This is because of the level of the emergency. I can confirm to you that N71million was released to the Port Health Services division of the (health) ministry.
“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control was also given N315m directly. Other requests are in the pipeline and yet to be released,” he said.
Also speaking, Minister of State for Health, Mamora added that the Ministry has inaugurated an inter-ministerial committee to provide oversight leadership.
He said the committee was being coordinated by the NCDC and that it meets twice in a week.
He said, “Nigeria is receiving technical support from the World Health Organisation, Africa Centre for Disease Control and West African Health Organisation.”
He added that the Port Health Services had intensified screening of passengers coming from China and other countries of high risk.
Screening forms have been provided to all airlines.
“As at now, there is no report of any confirmed case in Nigeria. Clinicians are being trained on the management of cases at the moment.
”We are developing a stockpile of medical supplies to be used in the event of any outbreak.
”Our capacity for testing has been enhanced because we have three laboratories in Edo, Lagos states as well as in Abuja,” he said.
But shortly after reeling out the country’s readiness to tackle the virus, an Italian man came in to the country and left the airport without the authorities carrying the functions of screening.
In fact, our investigation revealed that the Italian who arrived from Milan was in the country for almost two full days before being isolated, travelling through Lagos and visiting another state.
Also, there were reports of substandard equipment and mosquitoes at the centre where the Italian man was quarantined.
Our investigation also revealed that there is no known centre in Abuja, the country’s capital to address any emergency of coronavirus.
But while the ministry of health is trying to justify the money budgeted to combat the virus, enough is not being done to reach out to many Nigerians.
Both the health Ministry and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) are not doing anything at the grassroots to sensitize Nigerians.
Infact, the NOA boss, is either sleeping or unaware of his duties as regards sensitization of the populace on critical issues.
This lack is sensitization has given the public free will to determine solutions to the corona virus. For instance, in Kaduna State, there is a misconception that ginger and garlic could help prevent the virus. To this end, those selling these substances are making huge sales, following rumours that they protect users against the virus.
Our investigation revealed that the rumour was a product of an online letter, purportedly from China and had gone viral, indicating that a mixture of ginger, garlic and some herbs was excellent prevention and cure of COVID-19 when taken as a tea.
Also, some owners of pharmaceutical stores and supermarkets are beginning to exploit the situation, as they increase the prices of face masks, infrared thermometer and hand sanitizers between 150% and 300%.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak which started from China is now in 50 countries and things seem to be getting worse.
So far, the number of people killed worldwide by the coronavirus has exceeded 3,000, with the biggest casualty being the Adviser to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Mohammad Mirmohammadi on Monday.
He is among the 66 people among 1,501 confirmed cases in the country.
As of Monday, almost 90,000 confirmed cases have been reported globally, with the numbers outside China growing faster than inside China.
The disease had spread across China with the Asian country reporting the highest number of cases from the outbreak.
However, things began to change in the last two weeks as cases slowed down in China and started rising in other parts of the world.
China on Monday reported 42 more deaths. Currently, more than 90 per cent of the total deaths are in Hubei, the Chinese province where the virus emerged late last year.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation on Sunday said that the death rate appears to be between 2 per cent and 5 per cent. In comparison, the seasonal flu has an average mortality rate of about 0.1 per cent.
The UN health agency said most Covid-19 patients have only mild symptoms.
It said the seasonal flu is highly infectious – with up to 400,000 people dying from it each year.
“Other strains of coronavirus, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), have much higher death rates than Covid-19,” it said.
While the world health body is yet to declare the disease a pandemic, the WHO chief on Thursday said the Covid-19 outbreak has reached a “decisive point” and has “pandemic potential”.
Tedros Ghebreyesus said no country should assume it won’t get case.
“This virus does not respect borders. It does not distinguish between races or ethnicities. It has no regard for a country’s GDP or level of development.
“It is what is happening around the world that is now our greatest concern.We are at a decisive point,” he said.
He advised countries with new and lesser cases to act aggressively so that they can contain the virus.
“You can prevent people getting sick. You can save lives. So my advice to these countries is to move swiftly,” he said.
Based on the WHO submissions, pundits called on the Nigerian government to stop playing politics and blame game, but should as a matter of urgency revamp and established new centers to handle emergencies.