By Adekunle Yusuf, Lagos, Tony Akowe and Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
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Nigeria has intensified efforts to trace all persons that had contact with the Italian whose Coronavirus infection is the country’s index case.
Specifically, it has enlisted the World Health Organisation (WHO) support to reach 103 out of the 158 passengers that flew into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos with the Italian on Feb 25.
Also yesterday, the House of Representatives members sought two weeks break to enable the management of the National Assembly put measures in place to safeguard them against the virus.
The Lagos State Government on Monday raised the alarm that it was finding it difficult tracing the passengers aboard the Turkish airliner that flew the index case into the country.
It said some of passengers had either travelled to other states in Nigeria or gone back to Europe. The government added that those contacted through the telephone.
But on Tuesday, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, and Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said Nigeria was working with WHO to track the uncooperative passengers.
Mamora, who featured on the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja, said 100 people, including 54 co-passengers of the infected Italian, had been traced.
He said: “The contact tracing is going on well. It started from the manifest of the airline that came with the Italian, and I think about 157 or thereabout were on that flight.
“We got the manifest and 54 on the manifest have been traced. Then, moving from there to the hotel where the man (Italian) went, I think we have about six identified as contacts with him, then to the company he went to in Ogun State.
“We have about 30 to 35 identified contacts that are being followed up; then, there are other members of staff like the ambulance and taxi driver; all in all, about 100 contacts have been established.
“It is also important to say that some of these contacts, those on the aircraft that arrived the country with the index case have left the country, but the fact still remains that there was documentation.
“I am aware that WHO has been contacted so that those contacts that left can be traced to wherever they left to. So they have been notified and will get in touch with these contacts, no matter the country that they have gone to.’’
Sanwo-Olu, at a Stakeholders’ Forum on the Management and Control of Coronavirus in Lagos yesterday, also said the state government was working with WHO to identify the uncooperative passengers of Turkish airline flight.
The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said: “So far, we have been able to identify 100 persons and we are following them up on a daily basis. But we have not been able to identify everybody on that flight. We are however working with WHO to try and identify everybody that flew into Nigeria with the Italian.”
However, Lagos State Government in a statement by its Health Ministry gave a figure that differed from that of Mamora. It said out of 66 passengers of the Turkish Airline that alighted in Lagos, 41 were traced. Twenty five of others, it said, had yet to be reached.
The minister assured that the ministry would continue to monitor identified contacts in Lagos and Ogun.
He explained that the identified contacts have been placed on supervised self-isolation by asking them to stay at home and monitor themselves.
“It is supervised because we are also reaching out to them through health officials in the states, we make calls to them and visit them to make sure they do not go out to do business.
“We also told them that if they develop fever, headache, lethargy, body aches, sneezing or cough; they should reach the numbers given to them.”
On the suspected cases reported in Plateau State, the minister said they all tested negative; adding that every state was supposed to have emergency operation centres.
He added: “We have centres in all the states and a national centre activated at the highest level because it is the coordinating body.
“So, we monitor and we collaborate, we share information and then we follow up on whatever we need to follow up on.”
The minister noted that it is in the interest of the contacts to stay away, self-isolate from the public and loved ones, saying “it is important not to just protect yourself but to protect members of the public and your family because they are the first contact.”
Mamora also cautioned Nigerians on the use of herbal products to protect themselves from coronavirus.
His words: “There have been so many claims by some Nigerians that bitter kola can be used to cure coronavirus.
“It is true that bitter kola has anti-viral properties, but I am not sure how the anti-viral properties affect coronavirus.
“I have also heard of garlic, lemon, palm wine and even chloroquine
“We caution against the use of so many herbal drugs because Science has a basis and there is a procedural process to laying claims to whatever .’’
Mamora advised Nigerians not to panic but allow themselves to be “ruled by facts, not fears.”
On Lassa fever, the minister said that the disease had reduced in the country.
“There are three functional control centres in Edo, Ebonyi and Ondo states. The country has the capacity to manage Lassa fever; more people are recovering from it,” he said.