From Yusuf Alli, Moses Emorinken, Gbade Ogunwale, Abuja and Nwanosike Onu, Awka
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Amid a wave of opposition, 15 Chinese medical experts arrived in Nigeria on Wednesday, to join the battle against COVID-19.
The Federal Government received some medical equipment and supplies brought by medical team which arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in a chartered Air Peace flight.
China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the sponsor of the trip, said they brought about 16-tons of test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, N95 masks, medications, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, infra-red thermometers and others.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who was at the airport to receive the Chinese and their supplies, said the team will be quarantined for two weeks.
“They knew that before they came and have undergone tests before they left their country.
“Nevertheless, they will be in quarantine for 14 days. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has gone to see where they will be quarantined.”
Ehanire added: “The equipment (they brought) will assist a lot to fill some existing gaps.
“We now have 50 more ventilators.”
Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, said the equipment and medical supplies are valued at about $1.5million. Added to the cost of the flight, everything is worth about $2MILLION.
Our reporter learnt that 12 of the 15-man team are doctors. The rest are specialists in infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery and anesthesiology.
CCECC Nigeria Managing Director, Michael Jiang, said in a statement: “The primary purpose of the working team is to escort the medical supply and provide guidance for their usage and distribution.
“They will also provide CCECC employees with critical and necessary healthcare assistance where necessary. They are also coming with adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and medical items for the employees.
“In addition, under the directive of the Chinese Embassy and in response to the Nigeria Government’s request, the working team may also share with Nigerian medical teams effective methods on how to contain the COVID-19 and provide advice on the use of relevant medical equipment.
“The team is not coming to treat COVID-19 patients in Nigeria.
“In keeping with its corporate value, ‘Stride with Nigeria’, CCECC is participating in the construction of two COVID-19 response facilities in the FCT for free as part of its Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR).
“The facilities are a 196-bed at ‘ThisDay Dome Treatment Centre,’ in collaboration with Sahara Group and Arise News; and the 150-bed ‘Idu Depot Treatment Centre’.”
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) re-iterated that the Chinese experts must not directly treat any Nigerian patient.
They described any attempt by the Chinese medical team to manage any Nigerian patient as unethical and illegal.
NMA President Dr Francis Faduyile told our reporter: “Our stand has not changed and we still insist that there is nothing that they (Chinese) want to offer that can improve what we have on the ground.
“There are so many things that we need to put into consideration because it is a war affecting ordinary Nigerians, and sometimes, you look at the risk and benefits.
“Our members will look at what is on the ground; if we are doing what we are doing and they (Chinese) do not interfere with us, we will continue doing what we are doing for Nigerians.
“We cannot now precipitously make a decision. We are an association that is bounded by ethics, and rules. In a very short while, you will hear our decision”
NARD President, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, said while the association was not against donations, the experts cannot attend to any Nigerian patient because they do not have the license to practice in Nigeria.
“We do not need their hands as we are not overwhelmed and can take care of our patients.
“So far, they have also stated that they are not coming to attend to patients, so we cannot say categorically if their words are anything to go by.
“While they (officials) have gone ahead to welcome the Chinese, we are hopeful that the Chinese will have nothing to do with our patients because if they proceed to involve the Chinese in the management of our patients, we will just leave the patients for the Chinese to continue.
“As it is now, we are going to be watchful and wait for them to see how far they are engaging the Chinese, and to what extent they are going to be managing our patients,” Aliyu said.
Also yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked Nigerians to hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible should there be an upsurge in the rate of COVID-19 infection and death following the arrival of the Chinese.
The party said it was alarmed that the President ignored the protests by Nigerians and professional bodies, including the NMA and allowed the Chinese doctors to be brought in “from the hotbed of the plague”.
PDP, through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, questioned the safety of kits and equipment from China, adding that it was concerned about “scary reports of escalation of the scourge in certain countries reportedly after the arrival of Chinese medical personnel”.
“Our doctors and nurses have been on top of the situation with records of recoveries and fewer casualties, thus raising questions about the real intentions of bringing in doctors from China.
”Nigerians are aware that since the index case was reported till date, our nation’s COVID-19 data stands at 254 confirmed cases, out of which 44 have been successfully treated by our doctors with six deaths, which reportedly had other underlining ailments”, the party noted.
The figure rose to 276 last night.
The party charged Nigerians to be extra vigilant and asked the Presidential Task Force to outline the states and local government areas the Chinese doctors are expected to operate in for monitoring .
Also, the United Labour Congress (ULC) said while there is nothing wrong with seeking help, stakeholders should have been carried along.
Its President Comrade Joe Ajaero said in a statement: “We are surprised that the decision to bring in the Chinese medical experts was not fully discussed and agreed among the top medical practitioners and stakeholders in the nation… This is worrying.
“Why would such a crucial decision be taken in secret without coordinate input from the critical stakeholders in the nation?
“This sector is a highly specialised area which requires that at all times the input of the professionals in this sector to process the offer and agree on its mechanics and modalities.
“As we battle against COVID-19, we strongly believe that the nation’s medical experts must be involved if not allowed to be at the forefront of taking such crucial decisions.”
ULC urged the Federal Government to address Nigerians’ fears, especially as it relates coronavirus.
The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) said it would resist any move to deploy Chinese medical team in Southeast and Southsouth.
Its leader Uchenna Madu said in a statement: “We shall resist any medical assistance from China…Medical doctors and other health workers in Southeast and Southsouth are capable and trained to handle every medical challenge professionally in those areas.”