The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) on Saturday confirmed 10 new cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria, less than 24 hours after the discharge from hospital of the COVID-19 index case.
Government immediately placed a ban on international flights in and out of the country.
The Lagos State Government pegged attendance at social, religious and other gatherings at 20 people as against the 50 announced earlier in the week.
The new rule sparked confusion especially in churches which had re-ordered their services to accommodate not more than 50 at a time.
The police said they had deployed adequate resources across the state to ensure enforcement of restriction on social and religious gatherings.
Seven of the new coronavirus cases are in Lagos State, and three in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to bring the total number in the country to 22.
Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in Abuja that all 10 new cases are Nigerians.
Of the total of 22 cases Lagos has 16; FCT, three; Ekiti, one ; and Ogun, two.
Nine of the 10 new cases, according to the minister, “have travel history to Canada, France, Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom,” and returned home over the last one week.
He said the 10th case, who is in his 50s is a close contact of a previously confirmed case.
His words: “The three cases in the FCT are being treated at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada while the seven new cases in Lagos are being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Yaba. All 10 new cases have mild to moderate symptoms and are currently receiving treatment.
“As of March 21, 2020, 22 cases have been confirmed, two cases have been discharged and there has been no death from COVID-19 in Nigeria. The Federal Government of Nigeria remains committed to working with states to provide optimal care for all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.”
He said contact tracing was ongoing to “identify all persons who have been in contact with the new confirmed cases. The Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health has heightened screening at all air, land and sea points of entry into Nigeria and adapted the protocols to reflect the travel guidance issued by the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) supported by partners continues to coordinate response activities and strengthen preparedness capacity across states nationwide.”
He added: “An intensive national risk communications campaign is ongoing to inform Nigerians about COVID-19. The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) working closely with states and the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to review response activities and institute measures to protect the health of Nigerians.
“It is important that Nigerians strictly adhere to social distancing and other necessary precautions in place. These measures include taking the following precautions below to protect yourself and your family.”
Dr. Ehanire advised people to wash hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if no water and soap is available, maintain social distancing as it is crucial to reducing the spread of COVID-19 through; use of no-touch greetings, maintaining at least 2 metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
He also advised people to stay home if they feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Immediately call NCDC’s 24/7 toll-free number 0800 9700 0010.
“Do not self-medicate, and avoid or postpone events with large gatherings of people including schools, workplaces, places of worship, crowded supermarkets and pharmacies, social and sporting events
“Persons with a persistent cough or sneezing, should stay at home until they recover. Make sure you and people around you observe hand and respiratory hygiene by: Covering your nose with tissue when sneezing or coughing.
“Immediately dispose of tissue in a covered bin and wash your hands with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based sanitiser if no water and soap is available. Cough or sneeze into the sleeve of your bent elbow if no tissue is available, and avoid all non-essential travel to all countries.
“The Federal Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control will maintain a real-time update on new cases through the website: covid19.ncdc.gov.ng. We will continue to provide updates as and when they become available. The Federal Ministry of Health reiterates its commitment to ensure the control of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria,” he said.
Federal government bans international flights
With effect from tomorrow, there will be no international flights into or out of the country after the federal government ordered the shutdown of the Murtala Muhammed and Nnamdi Azikiwe Airports in Ikeja and Abuja.
The closure will last one month for both airports and the others which were ordered closed earlier.
The Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu said in a statement on Saturday that “effective Monday, March 23, 2020 to 23rd of April 2020, the two aerodromes will be close to international flights.”
According to him, the new measure is in addition to the closure of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and the Port-Harcourt International Airport.
He stated that henceforth, all airports in Nigeria are closed to all incoming international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights, adding that domestic flights will continue normal operations at all airports.
The NCAA chief directed all airlines to ensure they submit passenger manifest to Port Health authorities prior to the arrival of flights into Nigeria.
However, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in a guidance last night explained that some categories of international flights would be allowed during the period.
These are state aircraft, emergency aircraft and any other aircraft approved by the appropriate authority.
It said such approved flights will be required to submit manifest of passengers to port health officials prior to arrival in the country.
The guidance was signed by NAMA’s Director of Operations, Pwajok M.L. on behalf of the Managing Director/CEO.
Lagos pegs attendance at social, religious gatherings at 20
The Lagos State Government yesterday reviewed downward its ceiling on the number of people that may gather in the state for religious, social and other functions as it sought ways of combatting the coronavirus.
“The Lagos State Government has banned all religious or social gathering of over 20 people within the state,” it said on its Facebook account.
“It is important we all adhere to this directive,” it warned.
The development sparked confusion in churches which had, all through the week, worked out ways of holding services without violating the government rules on gathering.
Clergies immediately returned to the drawing board to re-plan their programmes.
Apart from the index case, Lagos has the highest number –seven – of the new 10 cases in the country confirmed on Saturday by the Federal Ministry of Health.
Police deploy personnel, resources to enforce restrictions on gatherings
The police in Lagos said yesterday that they had deployed adequate resources across the state to ensure enforcement of restriction on social and religious gatherings.
The Police Command, in a statement by its spokesman, Bala Elkana, particularly warned commercial bus operators and club houses to ensure compliance with the regulation.
He declared that no gathering in excess of the number specified by the government would be tolerated.
The command, according to him,” has deployed adequate resources across the state to ensure that the orders are fully obeyed.
“Commercial vehicles carrying passengers above capacity (overloading) are also part of this order. Members of the public are encouraged to avoid overcrowding themselves at bus stops, market places, business places and the scene of incidents.”
He urged Lagosians to obey the order because they were put in place for everyone’s safety and benefit.
“We must be alive and healthy before socioeconomic activities will be effective. The command has rolled out its medical team to market places for awareness creation and police detention facilities for the safety of suspects.”
He also said Police Commissioner Hakeem Odumosu had ordered the “immediate release of suspects arrested for minor offences as part of preventive measures. “
Five suspected COVID-19 cases in Nasarawa test negative
Five suspected coronavirus cases in Nasarawa State have tested negative and will soon be discharged from the hospital.
Health Commissioner Yahaya Ahmed told reporters in Lafia, the state capital that “the family of five that were earlier on suspected to be carriers of the COVID 19 have been tested and found to be negative of the pandemic. At the moment, they are undergoing clinical procedures that will lead to their discharge.”
He said a committee has been set up in the state to educate the people of the state on ways of containing the pandemic.
A task force was also set up to oversee Local Governments’ implementation of the sensitization campaign to contain the coronavirus across the state.
He said : “ the state is working out modalities to restrict gathering of people beyond 50 in an environment.
“Also consultations are underway with the National Union of Road Transport Workers on how to work out modalities for the testing of passengers in motor parks.”