There are subtle fears in some quarters that Nigeria may be at a higher risk of recording another case of the coronavirus disease following new cases recorded in neighbouring Cameroun and Togo, Sunday PUNCH can report.
Both countries confirmed their first cases on Friday. Cameroon shares boundary Nigeria while Togo shares boundary the Republic of Benin, which shares boundary with Nigeria. The new cases recorded by the two countries bring the number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa hit by the epidemic to five.
An official of the Nigeria Customs Service told Sunday PUNCH that as of Saturday the surveillance at the borders was very low unlike in 2014 when the Ebola Virus Disease hit Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Port health officials are stationed at the borders but as of now, they are not active,” he added.
The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, had last month raised concerns over the porous nature of Nigeria’s land borders. He said the land borders were a challenge and health officials should be mobilised to prevent the virus from entering through them.
Responding to a question about Federal Government’s plan to monitor the borders, he said, “We do have a challenge at our land borders.”
He however said his agency’s current risk assessment for the virus was that most people coming from China would most likely be coming through the airports.
With the new cases recorded in neighbouring Cameroon and Togo, however, the risk assessments seem to have changed.
Speaking with our correspondent, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said indeed the new cases in Togo and Cameroon would require a reshaping of the response to the disease in Nigeria.
Mamora said surveillance would be increased at the eastern borders especially.
The minister said there were already port health officials at the land borders but that surveillance would be intensified.
He added, “Initially, we said the focus would be more on the airports because we believed that those coming from affected areas would come by air. But that doesn’t mean we abandoned land borders. With these new cases in West Africa, coupled with the proximity; Cameroon is our neighbour, we will pay greater attention to the eastern borders.”
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, the NCDC boss said indeed the risk assessment had changed and new measures would be put in place, noting that they continuously carry out risk assessment to redefine their strategy.
When asked if a new response had been put in place due to the new development, he said, “Responses are shaped every day.”