• We may be heading the way of China, Italy, FG warns

The Federal Government on Monday said Nigeria had 40 coronavirus cases and one death caused by the disease.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, had earlier at a press conference in Abuja on Monday said the country had 36.

But at 11pm on Monday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on its twitter handle said the cases had increased to 40.

The centre stated, “Four new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria. Three are in Lagos State and one in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory). Two of these cases are returning travellers

“As of 11:00pm on March 23, there are 40 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death recorded.”

The NCDC announced the new cases just as the Federal Government ordered complete closure of land borders to human traffic and postponed the Federal Executive Council and the Council of State meetings indefinitely.

The Federal Government also advised Lagos and Abuja residents to stay at home and to avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings, until further advice is given to prevent the spread of the disease.

Giving an update on COVID-19 cases, Ehinare said the Federal Government would publish names of people who refused to go into self-isolation after returning to Nigeria from countries with high burden of coronavirus.

The government on Thursday banned flights from 13 high-risk countries when the cases increased to 18.

The cases rose to 31 on Sunday with the disease spreading to Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti states, as well the Federal Capital Territory.

Ehanire said that 179 persons had contact with the Italian who brought the first case of coronavirus to Nigeria.

The minister said although new cases being recorded were Nigerians who were returning from countries with high burden of the virus, Nigeria could head the way of China and Italy if those who had contracted the virus already were not fished out and treated.

He said, “In less than 48 hours, the Italian who came to Nigeria (index case) was identified. The contacts we found for him were 179. They were all traced and monitored. Out of the 179, one was positive and put in isolation with the Italian. Both were cured and discharged.

“If other cases had not come to Nigeria, that would have been the end of COVID-19 in Nigeria, but other cases came that were not part of the first one. That is why we are saying that you do not compare what we have now with what they have in China or Italy. If we do not act fast, we could be heading in something dangerous like that (in China and Italy). They now transmit, among themselves

“We have to get those who have been infected now. If we don’t, it may be a serious burden in the system. I am sure some are hiding, they will not report for whatever reason. Nobody will be arrested or asked to pay anything. Those who are returning now are Nigerians. With the closure of our airports, we will reduce inflow of new cases and deal with the ones we already have.”

As of Sunday, China had recorded 81,093 cases and 3,270 deaths, while 63,927 people had been infected in Italy, which had recorded 6,077 deaths.

  • FG to recall retired doctors, nurses

According to the minister, part of the measures being considered is to recall retired medical doctors and nurses to help in the fight against the virus, saying that state governments have been notified of the step.

He said that 26 out of the 36 infected persons had history of travelling out of the country, while six had contacts with infected persons. He noted that four of the infected persons had no travel history or known contact with a confirmed case.

The minister said the five laboratories being used for testing of samples were adequate, noting that more would be added if the need arose.

He noted, “A ban was placed on all international flights effective from March 23, 2020 with the exception of emergency and essential flights. These were not easy decisions to make but they became necessary in view of the changing development in our country as we witness more and more confirmed cases coming from outside the country.

  • FG closes land borders for four weeks, suspends FEC meeting indefinitely

The Presidential Task Force for the Control of COVID-19 at a press conference on Monday evening, said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had ordered the immediate closure of all land borders for the next four weeks with immediate effect.

The Chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said Buhari after a further review of the coronavirus situation, also approved the “suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings until further notice.”

He said the President also approved the “postponement of the meeting of the Council of State scheduled for Thursday March 26, 2020.”

“All land borders that have been hitherto under partial closure shall now be closed to human traffic for four weeks effective, 23rd March, 2020.

In order to protect federal civil and public servants, Mustapha said a circular would be issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, to direct on actions to be taken immediately.

  • We will deploy soldiers to enforce contact tracing –FG

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a press conference on Monday, said government would not hesitate to deploy the military and the police for contact tracing in cases where persons suspected to have contracted the virus did not voluntarily show up for testing.

Mohammed appealed to those who recently returned to the country to “give themselves up”, noting that if contact tracing was not properly done, the number of people who had been infected would multiply every five days.

He said, “We should be ready for tougher measures. The forms they will take will be out from the end of today or tomorrow. But Nigerians should be ready for tougher measures.

“If we don’t do proper contact tracing, the figure will multiply every five days. Nigerians must take ownership of this initiative.

“If the situation warrants, we may be forced to use the police and the military for contact tracing. The police are already working on that. We don’t want the figure we have now to multiply. We should work towards containment which is cheaper

  • Former PPMC MD, first Nigerian to die of coronavirus

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control earlier on Monday said a 67-year-old man was the first Nigerian to die of coronavirus.

It said the deceased had underlying medical issues and had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and only returned to the country recently.

The patient, Suleiman Achimugu, a former Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, died at 2am on Monday.

Achimugu, a native of Kogi State, was said to have returned from the United Kingdom two weeks ago.

It was learnt that he started exhibiting the symptoms of the virus on Tuesday and the case was reported to the NCDC which took his blood sample for a test.

It was gathered that he tested positive and was evacuated to the Specialist Hospital, Gwagwalada, Abuja, but died while receiving treatment.

A statement from the family issued by Abubakar Achimugu said the deceased had been buried according to Islamic rites.

“Our family is deeply saddened to inform you of the sudden death of our beloved father, uncle, brother and friend, Suleiman Achimugu ( a former MD of the PPMC),” the statement read.

“He died of COVID-19 on 22/03/2020 some days after he arrived in Nigeria from the UK. He was in self- isolation upon his return from the UK and personally called the NCDC after experiencing some discomfort that are related to COVID-19 symptoms.”

The residence of the diseased was calm when one of our correspondents visited the Peka Close area in Wuse 2, Abuja, on Monday evening.