The Senate on Thursday faulted the preventive measures put in place at the nation’s ports by the Federal Ministry of Health which is aimed at preventing the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) into the country.
This assertion by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan is in reaction to a point of personal explanation moved by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Ajayi Borofice.
Borofice had informed the Senate that the response to the Coronavirus by the South African Government contrasts sharply from what was obtained in states that houses the nation’s ports.
He said that while passengers are properly screened inside the aircraft before being allowed to set their feet on the South Africa soil, the reverse is the case in Nigeria.
He revealed that health officials in the nation’s international airports only hand out sheet of papers to passengers to indicate how they can be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Lawan said that even though the Federal Ministry of health and its associated institutions are doing their best to prevent the COVID-19 from getting into Nigeria, their “best is not good enough.”
He said those visiting Nigeria from China where the disease is on the rise should be quarantined between two to four weeks, rather than being asked to self evaluate.
He mandated the relevant committees of the Senate to engage the Federal Ministry of Health to ensure that the right effort is being done to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to Nigeria.
Lawan said: “Today every country in the world tries to ensure that if it has coronavirus, it limits it to those that are affected and that it does not go beyond those that are affected.
“And if it doesn’t, every country tries to ensure that it doesn’t cross to its border.
“While the Federal Ministry of Health and the associated agencies may be doing their best, I think at the moment with this kind of explanation this best is not good enough. And we should not take anything for granted.
“We are a prayerful nation but when we pray we should work the prayers. We are not hoping but we must be prepared.
“We must take all the necessary measures at our ports – airports, sea ports. People who are coming back to Nigeria especially from areas that have been identified to have this in fact should be screened.
“This is the least we can do. If someone is coming back from China he should be quarantined not self isolation.
“They should be quarantined for two to four weeks. We have to protect the lives of Nigerians.
“The Chairman of our committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, you may recall came up with a motion which was very exhaustive on this but I want to urge the Committees on Primary Healthcare and Health to engage with the Federal Ministry of Health.
“Once again, we want to see every possible effort done at our airports and sea ports that people are screened when they come into our country. We are 200 million, it does not mean that we can afford to part with anybody. Every single life matters.”
Senator Borofice in his contribution to the debate, lamented that there was no screening for international passengers coming into the country.
Borofice said: “When we got to South Africa we were not allowed to leave the aircraft for over 30 minutes.
“Officers of the medical corps of the South African army came into the aircraft and screened everybody before we were allowed out of the aircraft.
“But when I arrived yesterday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, there was no screening.
“All we were given was a sheet of paper to indicate whether were are sick, whether we are going to one country or the other, and how we will be contacted in case of emergency.
“How do you know whether I fell sick after I left the airport? This is very frightening and I think something has to be done to ensure that we do not give way to a situation which we will not be able to control.
“Countries that have adequate medical facilities are working hard to ensure that they contain the spread of this coronavirus and yet, from what I saw yesterday, I was afraid.
“So, I hope that I am making this observation for Nigerians to know and for the Ministry of Health to take adequate action. There should be screening before we get into the airport.”