More Nigerians living in West African nations have started returning to the country through land borders following the rise in COVID-19 cases globally
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, at a press conference organised by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Wednesday, said 67 persons had already arrived at the country’s land border.
The minister, who did not indicate the land border the returnees were, stated that 24 more would come today (Thursday).
The minister stated that both batches (91) of returnees would be isolated for 14 days and put under surveillance for possible COVID-19 symptoms before they could proceed to their different destinations in the country.
The Nigeria Immigration Service, in a statement later on Wednesday, confirmed that the 67 Nigerians had arrived at the Seme border in Lagos State.
Osun 58 indigenes top list of 67 returnees
The Comptroller General of the NIS, Muhammad Babandede, said the service officials received the 67 returnees and after thorough profiling, handed them over to the Lagos State Government.
In a statement by the NIS Public Relations Officer, Mr Sunday James, the comptroller general said 58 of the returnees were from Osun State
He said the NIS “handed them over to the Lagos State Government, represented by the Special Assistant Health to the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Dr Tunde Ajayi, after thorough profiling with the following details: Osun State, 58; Lagos State, four; Oyo State, two; Ondo State, one; Edo, one; Ogun-one, total 67 returnees.”
It was gathered that the Lagos State Government had accommodated the 67 returnees in some hotels in Badagry, where they would be quarantined for two weeks.
Sources further confirmed that they would be joined by 24 people who would arrive on Thursday.
Last month, 127 Nigerians, mostly from Osun State, arrived in the country through the Idiroko border in Ogun State.
The state Governor, Dapo Abiodun, handed the returnees over to his Osun State counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola, who isolated them in Ejigbo. Eighteen of the returnees have tested positive for COVID-19.
On Tuesday, it was reported that 67 persons were stopped by security agents at the Seme border.
According to the report, the security agents notified the Lagos State Government, which insisted that returnees must be in quarantine for 14 days.
It was also reported that the Lagos State Government had made arrangements to accommodate the returnees in some Badagry hotels, which had no other guests.
At the PTF press conference on Wednesday, the minister of foreign affairs said the Federal Government contacted the governments of Togo and Benin, which allowed the 67 Nigerians to pass through their territories.
The minister said, “They are now at the Nigerian border and we got the authorisation for them to come into the country. They will be in isolation for the mandatory 14 days when they have come in.
“We have another 24 Nigerians in a hotel in Togo. They are going to be tested. We have also got the government of Benin’s approval for them to move through Béninoise territory to come into Nigeria, possibly by tomorrow.
“We’ve also arranged where they will all be confined when they come into the country. That has been going very smoothly and, for this, we are extremely grateful to the governments of Togo and the Republic of Benin, which have cooperated with us and made this possible.”
Onyeama added that there was a doctor who was part of the team “caught outside the country,” adding that the doctor had made his way to the Republic of Benin.
Why we put evacuation of Nigerians abroad on hold – FG
The minister further explained that with regard to the evacuation of Nigerians abroad, the PTF had been deliberating on the issue since airports were shut.
He said, “The response is not as a result of letters that have been coming in from Nigerians in the Diaspora but something that was taken up by the task force from the beginning.
“But at that time, we did not have all our isolation centres and all the other arrangements in place. For that reason, we kept it in abeyance while we were putting all those things in place.
“Now that we have sufficient beds and so forth and the protocol is now well established, we now feel in a much stronger and better position to undertake this Herculean task of trying to see how we can bring Nigerians outside the country back in.”
200 Nigerians returning from US, others
He stated that almost 200 Nigerians, especially in the United States, had indicated willingness to return.
The minister stated, “The engagement of Nigerians should be with the embassies and high commissions and not with any other parallel agency, department of government or anything like that.
“It is with them that we are collating all the names and making all the arrangements.”
More community transmissions recorded
Also at the press conference, the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said there were more recorded cases of community transmission of coronavirus and fewer imported ones.
He said all public and private health care institutions should look out for patients presenting unusual respiratory tract infections, especially those that “cannot be explained.”
Aliyu said such symptoms had become important indicators for testing for the coronavirus infection.
He explained that from a public health perspective, one of the most effective ways of cutting transmission was to keep away from others.
The coordinator said, “More of our cases are now community-linked. We now have fewer cases that are linked to travel abroad or contact with people who have been abroad. Our health care services need to look out for this alert.
“At the same time, I would like to encourage the public, those that have any suspicion that they have symptoms related to coronavirus, not to be afraid but to seek testing and treatment.”
The Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said the task force did not ask Nigerians for their bank verification numbers.
He also warned that the coronavirus infection was real and not a hoax, a scam or a joke.
Mustapha said, “A lot of people have lost loved ones. There are some families whose loved ones are undergoing treatment.
“Let the spirit of our humanity guide our utterances and conduct. Coronavirus is not a joke, please take it seriously and listen to the government. Please stay safe and protect your loved ones. Nothing is more important.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, denied reports that members of the task force received a daily allowance of N500,000.
Private hospitals to get treatment licence
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, at the press conference, said the government would license private hospitals with the relevant capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.
He said this was necessary to improve the nation’s response to COVID-19 treatment.
He said, “We are not just relying on public health institutions. We have started the process of accreditation for private hospitals where we are able to establish that they have the facilities for prevention, control and necessary personnel.
We are engaging the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria and the Guild of Medical Directors.”
Mamora advised those who tested positive for COVID-19 to report to designated treatment centres for safe isolation.
This, he said, was because the danger of the disease was that those who did not have any symptom could infect others.
The minister appealed to health facilities not to reject patients without giving them advice on what to do on laid down guidelines by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
He stated, “Additionally, all health facilities are reminded that coronavirus is an extremely dangerous pathogen which spreads very easily. It is not advisable to accept a person suspected of such infection for treatment if the facility is not accredited.”
On the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde’s claim of local remedies for the virus, Mamora said he was not aware of the claim.
He stated, “We do know that since this COVID-19 outbreak came, I have got a lot of telephone calls from various people laying claims to having some remedies.
“We have in the Ministry of Health, the Department of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicine. I have referred those people to the department. In collaboration with the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development, a kind of assessment was done and there is a protocol for clinical trial.”
He said such claims must go through the protocol of clinical trial.
Mamora also advised Nigerians against giving false information on symptoms or their travel history to health workers.
We’ve trained 3, 808 health care workers – NCDC
The NCDC Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the center had trained thousands of health workers to handle cases. He also urged state governments to allow experts to announce results of cases in their states.
He said, “As of April 5, 2020, we have trained 3,808 health care workers in infection prevention and control. Fifty per cent of them work in the private sector because many Nigerians receive care from the private sector.
“As we responded to Lagos and Ogun states in the early days of the outbreak, we actually focus a lot on the private sector in addition to the health care facility where we are managing these patients.
“Another 22 per cent were in treatment centres and 27 per cent were other members of the health work-force that work as part of the response teams. We have trained a total of 270 health care workers from each state on case management.