Posted by News Express | 28 February 2020 | 347 times
THE National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has suspended all arrangements by intending pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia for Umrah.
The development, according to NAHCON, became necessary following the temporary suspension of Umrah by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
As of yesterday, 48 countries had recorded 2,800 deaths from 82,164 confirmed cases. China, where the pandemic broke out lost 2,750 people.
Nigeria has had no confirmed case. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said 11 suspected cases tested were negative.
Head Public Affairs , NAHCON Fatima Usara, advised all stakeholders and people who already have visas for the pilgrimage “to comply with the directive and await further instructions” from the Saudi authorities.
The statement said: “NAHCON hereby draws attention of intending pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia for Umrah or to visit the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah to suspend the arrangement until further notice.
“The COVID-19 has recorded many fatalities that have forced some countries with confirmed cases to close down schools and other social gatherings.
“NAHCON identifies with this courageous step by Saudi Arabia and affirms its commitment and cooperation in the interest of world Muslims and humanity in general. This measure was taken in accordance with approved international standards towards curtailing spread of the disease.
“Consequently, NAHCON cautions Nigerian pilgrims for Umrah to note that this suspension is effective on those who have already been issued travel visas and about to embark on the journey as well as for those planning to do so in the nearest future.
“NAHCON urges all stakeholders to comply with the directive and await further instructions from the Kingdom’s authorities.”
NCDC said results of the 11 suspected cases of COVID-19 tested in Lagos were negative.
The centre reassured Nigerians of their safety against the virus, following report of a case in Lagos. The state government said yesterday that the case was negative
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the tests were conducted by the centre’s National Reference Laboratory and Virology Laboratory at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Idi-Araba.
He said: “Four laboratories in Nigeria have the capacity to test for the coronavirus. These laboratories are within the NCDC laboratory network and are in contact 24/7. If a new case is confirmed, it will be reported accordingly.
“We are in close communication with the Lagos State Ministry of Health and other states, and will inform the public once there’s a confirmed case in Nigeria.
“We urge Nigerians to disregard rumours and discourage further spread. NCDC will inform the public if a case is reported in Nigeria.”
He added that with the support of World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDC would carry out a two-day simulation exercise to assess its capacity to respond in the event of an outbreak.
“This process will allow for a review of existing gaps and rapid implementation of interventions to fill these gaps,” he explained.
Speaking after the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said: “In Nigeria, the good news is, yes, there have been a total of 11 suspected cases, but all the 11 have turned out to be negative. In fact, there was a scare in Lagos yesterday, about two cases but all have been confirmed negative as we speak. But Nigeria still places itself on high risk, as also advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The alertness in each of these airports is very high. But we also have court testing facilities and are ready at the NCDC lab in Abuja, Luth in Lagos, in Edo State and also the University of Osun, all have been activated and all state governments have been told to have a level of preparedness.”
Lagos suspected case negative
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, explained that the outcome of investigation and laboratory test conducted on the suspected COVID-19 patient showed negative.
“I will like to reassure Lagosians that our vigilance levels are very high and we are putting more measures in place to safeguard the state,” he said.
Abayomi explained that the ministry’s attention was drawn to a suspected case of Coronavirus at Reddington Hospital, Ikeja.
He added: “We gathered that a Chinese citizen, who arrived Nigeria from China seven weeks ago, presented at Reddington Hospital on Wednesday, complaining about fever.
“The hospital in keeping with the advisory we earlier issued, correctly maintained a high index of suspicion, isolated the patient and reported the case to the ministry.
“We took up the case, transferred the patient to the state isolation unit at the Mainland Hospital which is our specialised infectious disease hospital.
“His blood samples were taken to the Virology laboratory for analysis and it came out negative.” he said.
The Group Medical Director of Reddington, Dr Olutunde Lalude , also reassured Nigerians that no case of the virus had been confirmed.
Olatunde, who urged vigilance by Nigerians because the virus, “is a serious issue globally.”
“It is important that we remain internally vigilant, we need to stick to the internationally acceptable standard which we (Reddignton Hospital) endeavor to do. We also collaborate closely with the government is agency who are tasked with keeping us safe and for public health surveillance,” he added.
Senate faults measures at ports
The Senate yesterday faulted the measures put in place by the Federal Ministry of Health at the nation’s ports to prevent the pandemic disease from spreading to Nigeria.
It had after listening to a point of personal observation by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Ajayi Borofice, also advocated quarantine of anyone suspected to be a carrier of COVID-19 and not self-isolation.
Borofice informed his colleagues that the response to the virus by the South African Government contrasts sharply with what obtains in Nigeria’s ports.
He said while passengers are properly screened inside the aircraft before being allowed to set their feet on the South Africa soil, the reverse is the case in Nigeria.
The senator lamented that health officials in the nation’s international airports only hand out sheet of papers to passengers to indicate how they can be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Borofice lamented that there was no screening for international passengers coming into the country.
He said: “When we got to South Africa, we were not allowed to leave the aircraft for over 30 minutes.
“Officers of the medical corps of the South African army came into the aircraft and screened everybody before we were allowed out .
“But when I arrived yesterday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, there was no screening.
“All we were given was a sheet of paper to indicate whether were are sick, whether we are going to one country or the other, and how we will be contacted in case of emergency.
“How do you know whether I fell sick after I left the airport? This is very frightening and I think something has to be done to ensure that we do not give way to a situation which we will not be able to control.
“Countries that have adequate medical facilities are working hard to ensure that they contain the spread of Coronavirus and yet, from what I saw yesterday, I am afraid.”
Senate President Ahmad Lawan said even though the Federal Ministry of Health and its associated institutions are doing their best to prevent COVID-19 from getting into Nigeria, their “best is not good enough.”
He said those visiting Nigeria from China should be quarantined for between two to four weeks, rather than being asked to self-isolate.
Lawan mandated the relevant committees of the Senate to engage the Ministry of Health to ensure that, the right efforts are made to prevent the virus from spreading to Nigeria.
Lawan said: “Today, every country in the world tries to ensure that if it has Coronavirus, it limits it to those that are affected and that it does not go beyond those that are affected.
“And if it doesn’t, every country tries to ensure that it doesn’t cross to its borders.
“While the Federal Ministry of Health and the associated agencies may be doing their best, I think at the moment with this kind of explanation this best is not good enough. And we should not take anything for granted.
“We are a prayerful nation but when we pray we should work the prayers. We are not hoping but we must be prepared.
“We must take all the necessary measures at our ports – airports, sea ports. People who are coming back to Nigeria especially from areas that have been identified to have this in fact should be screened.” (The Nation)
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