The World Health Organisation has identified Nigeria and 12 others as high-risk African countries for the deadly coronavirus disease.
The other countries are Algeria, Angola, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
A statement by the body said the identified African nations have direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
The statement read in part, “WHO has identified 13 top priority countries (Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
“To ensure rapid detection of the novel coronavirus, it is important to have laboratories which can test samples and WHO is supporting countries to improve their testing capacity. Since this is a new virus, there are currently only two referral laboratories in the African region which have the reagents needed to conduct such tests.
“However, reagent kits are being shipped to more than 20 other countries in the region, so diagnostic capacity is expected to increase over the coming days. Active screening at airports has been established in a majority of these countries and while they will be WHO first areas of focus, the organization will support all countries in the region in their preparation efforts,”
WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said it was critical that countries stepped up their readiness and “in particular put in place effective screening mechanisms at airports and other major points of entry to ensure that the first cases are detected quickly”.
Moeti added, “The quicker countries can detect cases, the faster they will be able to contain an outbreak and ensure the novel coronavirus does not overwhelm health systems.”
FG releases N71m for surveillance, screening
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has approved N71m to ensure that Coronavirus does not spread to the country.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, told reporters after the Coronavirus Inter-Ministerial Multisectoral Preparedness and Response meeting in Abuja on Friday that a team had been set up to develop action plan for government on the next plan.
At the meeting was the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, while the ministers of Interior, Police Affairs, FCT, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation, Aviation and Finance were represented on the occasion.
The World Health Organisation and United States Agency for International Development, as well as government health agencies were also represented at the meeting.
Ehanire said, “We had a good and successful meeting with health commissioners from Lagos, Kano, Enugu and Rivers states as well as the FCT. We have addressed all the strengths and weaknesses in the system. We have set up a team to develop action plan for government.
“An advisory from the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday directed Nigerians to halt travel plan to China while also directing all returnees to Nigeria from China to be indoors within a period of two weeks to fully monitor possible symptoms.”
When asked how the FG intended to monitor the returnees to ensure total compliance, the minister said, “We are going to monitor all people entering Nigeria without looking at individual nationalities. People enter Nigeria on their own individual merit.
“We are increasing and improving surveillance and better collaboration among those who work at our ports of entry. We are looking at the airport largely, but also the seaports and the land ports. We are going to do some training for the officials.”
He added, “The President approved additional funds for the Port Health Services on Thursday. The resources are being provided for surveillance and screening activities that will be done (at the ports of entry).
“The amount approved is N71m for Port Health Services to scale up what they are doing. Every penny that was requested was approved.”