Posted by News Express | 30 January 2020 | 350 times
Drastic measures were taken by the federal government yesterday to insulate Nigerians from the raving deadly coronavirus, which first broke out in China.
Among several other steps, the government placed strict surveillance on vessels coming from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and other Asian countries and shut down a Chinese supermarket in Abuja linked with sale of illegally-imported food from its home country .
Since its outbreak, coronavirus has claimed several lives in some of these Asian countries.
To check the spread of the disease to Nigeria through her seaports and land borders, the government, which had earlier adopted similar measures at the country’s international airports, directed that all vessels coming to Nigeria from China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and any other affected countries must notify the Port Health Services, a unit of the Federal Ministry of Health stationed at the seaports and land borders.
It warned that failure to do so would lead to the vessel not being allowed into Nigeria’s territory.
The director of the Port Health Services at the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa, Olokodana Abisola, who confirmed the development yesterday, explained that relevant agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC), the Nigeria Plant Quarantine Services and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), among others, had been put on red alert.
Abisola said that the unit hadalso sensitised other port stakeholders on the outbreak of the deadly virus and on the need to take precautionary measures to ensure that disease does not creep into Nigeria through the seaports or land entry points.
He said that all crew members of vessels from the affected countries would be subjected to various health screening exercises including taking their temperatures to ascertain their health status before they are allowed into the nation’s territory, which also informed the need for them to notify the Port Health Services office 48 hours before their arrival.
A statement by the unit to stakeholders on the outbreak of the virus reads in part: “Port Health Services wishes to notify all port users, agencies and stakeholders of the outbreak of coronavirus in China, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
“That any vessel coming to Nigeria through the above named countries must notify the Port Health Services 48 hours before arrival to forestall any outbreak of this virus in Nigeria.”
When contacted, the general manager, corporate and strategic cmmunications of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Adam Jatto, he said that the organisation had put machinery in place to sensitise dockworkers, who are the first contact when ships berth at the port.
Jatto said that officials of the port health unit are monitoring those coming and going out of the port. But, when asked that the dockworkers had complained lack of sensitisation, he said: „Before the end of today (Wednesday), things will take shape,“ he told LEADERSHIP.
The coronavirus was confirmed in the Chinese city of Wuhan on January 7, 2020 and with a considerable community of African students in China and a number of them have expressed their desire to return home as authorities struggle to contain the virus.
For instance, Ethiopia’s state-affiliated FANA broadcasting corporate, FBC, reported that four Ethiopians suspected of being infected by coronavirus have been placed in isolation. The Ministry of Health said that “the students arrived in Ethiopia from a university in Wuhan, China‘s worst-affected city by the disease.”
Kenya Airways on Tuesday also confirmed that one of its passengers who had travelled from the Chinese city of Wuhan to Nairobi had presented coronavirus-like symptoms and was rushed to hospital on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Cote d’Ivoire on Monday became the first African country to test a suspected coronavirus case, when a female student arrived at an airport in the capital with suspicious symptoms.
There are no temperature screening machine at entry points of both the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports.
Also, ferry terminals at Marina, CMS area also vulnerable as there are no sensitisation or temperature check from boat operators to passengers plying Apapa, Ikorodu and Victoria Island.
A dockworker at one of the bulk terminals at Lagos port complex, Apapa who simply identified himself as Collins said that they have been sensitised on the virus but not by any government agencies operating at the ports.
The president-general, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju charged the regulatory agencies at the ports on the need to sensitise Nigerian dockworkers and seafarers. He also advised the NIS and the Port Health Service to be on their toes and approach vessels with utmost caution.
…Shuts down Chinese Supermarket in Abuja
Also yesterday, the federal government through Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) closed down Panda Supermarket, located in Jabi District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to avoid the outbreak of the disease.
The commission said that the supermarket had in its store seafood and other animals illegally imported from China, as well as expired products on its shelves.
The FCCPC carried out an unscheduled spot check on a concealed food store within Panda Supermarket, while items so far discovered included products with 2089, 2037, 2018, 2019 expiry dates.
The commission in its official Twitter handle, said that “FCCPC inspected Panda Supermarket; Jabi on credible reports that it discriminated and had a concealed area for Asian nationals. Allegation confirmed, seafood and animals imported illegally from China discovered.
“Store closed in abundance of caution considering coronavirus. Products with expired and irregular shelf life were also discovered at Panda Supermarket, Jabi-Abuja. Regulatory activities to remove all offensive products from the supermarket continue,” it said.
The supermarket also has in its stocks products like wines, pastries, baby products, drinks, seafood among others.
The coronavirus has killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000 others in China so far, with more cases confirmed in places such as the United States, Japan, Germany, and France.
Lagos quarantines Chinese entering state
Meanwhile, the Lagos State government has reached an agreement with the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria to quarantine all Chinese returning to Lagos from their country in order to avert outbreak of deadly coronavirus in the state.
This was disclosed at a news conference at the Lagos State Government Secretariat, Alausa, by the commissioner for heath, Prof. Akin Abayomi. He said that the state was putting adequate measures in place to combat the possible outbreak of the disease in the state.
Abayomi said that many Chinese living in Lagos had travelled to their country to celebrate the Chinese New Year and had not returned before the outbreak of coronavirus in their country.
He said that anytime from now, many of them might be thinking of returning to Lagos for their businesses, which he said portended great risk of possible outbreak in the state.
Abayomi stated that the state government had met with the Chinese Embassy and that they agreed to send message to their people in China to stay back until the outbreak was curtailed before returning.
Russia, Germany, France, others evacuate Nationals
In the same vein, countries around the world are planning to evacuate diplomatic staff and citizens from Chinese areas hit by the new coronavirus, which is spreading quickly.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million in the province of Hubei and the epicenter of the outbreak, is in virtual lockdown and much of Hubei, home to nearly 60 million people, is under some kind of travel curb.
The following are some countries’ evacuation plans, and how they are planning to manage the health risk from those who are returning.
– France’s first plane to repatriate nationals from Wuhan left Paris yesterday and will return the today. The flight will carry people with no symptoms, junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri told television channel CNews. “These people will be put under quarantine. And then there will be a second flight, at a yet undefined date, with people showing symptoms … who will be cared for in Paris,” he said.
– South Korea plans to send charter flights this week to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Tuesday. The planes will arrive as early as today, he told a ministerial meeting aimed at discussing efforts to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The first chartered flight carrying 206 Japanese nationals evacuated from Wuhan arrived in Tokyo – four of them showing symptoms of fever or coughing.
– Kazakhstan has asked Beijing to allow 98 Kazakh students to leave the city of Wuhan, deputy foreign minister Shukhrat Nuryshev said.
– Germany will evacuate 90 citizens living in China’s Wuhan region while Morocco will evacuate 100 citizens, mostly students, from the Wuhan area.
– Spain’s government is also working with China and the European Union to repatriate Spanish nationals from the Wuhan area, foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said.
– The United States evacuated 220 citizens from Wuhan including 50 diplomats and contractors, a diplomatic source said.
– Britain is talking to international partners to find solutions to help British and other foreign nationals leave Wuhan, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
– Canada has about 167 nationals in the Wuhan area, foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said, and eight people have sought consular assistance, which is being provided. While the minister did not rule out evacuations, he did not indicate there were any planned, adding that each consular request would be evaluated on a case by case basis.
– Russia has been in talks with China about evacuating its nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province, Russia’s embassy said.
British Airways Suspends all flights to China
Already, British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China after Britain warned against all but essential travel to the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.
BA.com, the airline’s website, shows no direct flights to China are available in January and February.
“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority,” BA said in an emailed statement yesterday.
Reps call for testing, screening centres
On the home front, the House of Representatives has urged the Federal Ministry of Health, NIS, the Agricultural Quarantine Services and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other relevant agencies to set up screening centres at all points of entry into the country.
The House also urged the ministry to collaborate with other relevant agencies to set up testing and isolation centres at points of entry for purposes of detecting symptoms of the coronavirus and where necessary isolate concerns, with particular emphasis on travellers from countries that have already had cases of the virus.
The deputy chief whip of the House, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, in a motion of urgent national importance, noted that there was a new strain of a novel coronavirus (nCoV) that has not been previously identified in humans.
While adopting the motion, the House enjoined all health institutions within the country to be on high alert for the signs of the virus with a view of curbing the virus in its bud in the hopefully unlikely event that the virus is transmitted into the country. (Leadership)
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