IS NIGERIA READY TO COMBAT CORONAVIRUS, if it breaks out? Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, said his ministry, in collaboration with Lagos State government is prepared and ready to contain the novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, infectious disease. China, where the disease first broke out, and other countries where it has spread, are counting human and economic costs, as a result of the effects of the disease.
Chinese population in Nigeria is large. Made up of Chinese expatriates and business vendors. Chinese population was reported to have peaked 100,000 in 2007, according to Demography Researcher, Y.J. Park. However, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, in 2017, put the embassy’s estimate of Chinese in the country at 40,000. The decline, he said, was due to those returning back to China. Lagos could be hosting huge Chinese population, being the country’s commercial nerve centre.
Being proactive against the Coronavirus by Lagos state government, south-west Nigeria, is a necessity. The government has designated its Mainland Hospital, Yaba, for Emergency Response Readiness for Coronavirus victims. After inspecting the facilities at the centre, on Sunday, Ehanire told journalists: “I can say that Lagos State is well prepared; there is high level of readiness here, and also the awareness is there.”
Ehanire said, he was satisfied with the infrastructure put in place in the Emergency Response Readiness for Coronavirus victims, considering the state’s vulnerability to infectious disease. Perhaps, due to the State’s population, estimated at about 20 million people, and influx of foreigners into the state for business activities.
Lessons from Ebola episode of 2014, Health Minister said, must have reproduced the level of preparedness by the State government. “It is quite clear that Lagos has a clear-cut edge in managing infectious diseases and preparedness. I am extremely happy that Lagos is equipped in the area of knowledge built from the foundation it obtained from the 2014 Ebola outbreak which the state managed properly.”
“I am impressed that the state has taken science to a very modern and admirable level. This is obviously a place where lot of lessons will be learnt,” he commended the state government. And stated that the federal government would continue to collaborate with the state on knowledge sharing and support team.
Akin Abayomi, Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, on his part, said that the state had been working assiduously to prevent import of Coronavirus into the state. And the government was ramping up its preparedness for containment should there be an outbreak.
Abayomi’s words: “Since the experience we had with Ebola few years ago, we have been building capacity, infrastructure, revising our policies and laws, training staff that are specially equipped to deal with outbreak of infectious diseases like Ebola, Monkey pox, Lassa Fever and Coronavirus if it comes here.
“So, we are ready in Lagos; we have the facility, trained staff, and robust surveillance system in place to contain and effectively manage an outbreak”. The state was supporting the federal government with staffs at the airport to ensure effective surveillance and screening of travellers, Abayomi added.
Rumours of suspected case of coronavirus in Alimosho Local Government Area, was dismissed by Abayomi. “We heard the same rumour and we deployed our biosecurity team there yesterday. They have gathered a lot of medical and community intelligence, and so far, it appears to us that there is no such thing and that this was fake news.
“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to Lagosians and Nigerians that when you spread false rumours, it is actually very damaging. Though, it is testing our capacity to respond, but is also very expensive and can cause panic in the community apart from the stigmatisation it causes,” the commissioner said.
Abayomi said novel Coronavirus was not racial illness, anybody can be affected by the disease. He warned against false alarm on the disease, and perpetrators of “fake news” would be punished.
Nigerians, sadly, relishes in ignorance. Consequence of huge segment of the population with limited education. Lagos State government’s proactive measure in designating its Mainland Hospital, Yaba, for Emergency Response Readiness for Coronavirus victims, needs be complemented with creative awareness in the media of how to prevent the disease, and immediate steps to take when one is caught up with the disease.