… reject request to ‘quarantine’ over 2,000 coming from US, UK, China, UAE
Adelani Adepegba, Abuja
Amid preparations for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad due to the raging coronavirus disease across the world, hotels in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory have refused to make their rooms available for the isolation of the returnees when they eventually arrive in the country.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Friday that finding hotels to quarantine the returnees had been a serious challenge because the hotels believed using their facilities to isolate the returnees could damage their brand.
Over 2,000 Nigerians in the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, China and other countries had registered with the Nigerian missions in their country of residence for their evacuation after agreeing to subject themselves to mandatory coronavirus testing and 14-day quarantine on arrival in Abuja or Lagos. Most of the countries where the returnees are coming from have far more cases than Nigeria.
As of the time of filing this report, the coronavirus had spread to 26 states and the FCT, with 1,095 cases recorded across the country by the NCDC. While 208 patients had been discharged, 32 had died.
The new cases were 80 in Lagos, 21 in Gombe, five in FCT, two each in Zamfara and Edo, and one each in Ogun, Oyo, Kaduna and Sokoto states.
Some countries had equally evacuated their citizens from Nigeria amid the raging virus.
Onyeama had said on Monday that the evacuation would commence next week, noting that two airlines had agreed to bring back the citizens at affordable rates. He noted that the returnees would be brought back in batches of 200 but that their accommodation was the next challenge.
But, while giving an update in Abuja on Friday, the minister said the government was facing the challenge of securing hotels where the returnees could be quarantined.
He explained that he sought the assistance of the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, but that the governor could not get hotels in the state to release their premises as isolation centres.
Onyeama said, “The numbers (of Nigerians awaiting evacuation) in the UK alone is about 2,000 and the simple fact of the matter is that we don’t just have the isolation centres, the hospital beds and hotels to accommodate them all.
“We have been looking for hotels in Abuja and Lagos. I spoke this afternoon (Friday) with the governor of Lagos State and it is a real challenge even for the governor to find hotels that are willing to take these people in for 14 days.
“A lot of hotels clearly feel it would damage their brand or it would have some effects on their business. That has been a real problem for us now.”
The minister said the task force tinkered with the idea of directing the returnees to go on self-isolation, but noted that there was no guarantee that they would stay at home.
Onyeama said, “The other alternative is for people to come back and be isolated in their homes. But when you have such numbers, some members of the task force feel there is a risk; that you cannot guarantee that they would stay at home in quarantine and it would be very difficult to monitor that number of people for two weeks.
“So, this is a real dilemma we are facing and you can imagine, if they start coming back and the numbers of positive cases start increasing, then the government would be blamed that why did you bring so many people back? These are all the issues we are grappling with.”
Commenting on the issues facing Nigerians in China, the minister said the Federal Government was addressing the extension of the quarantine period for some Nigerians, adding that the Chinese government had promised to assist them.
On the number of Nigerians who tested positive for the virus in China, he said, “When I met with the Chinese ambassador and he talked about the plane that came to their country in which there were Nigerian passengers who subsequently tested positive, it was within the range of nine, 12 and 13.”
However, a diplomatic correspondence from the Guangzhou Municipal Government to the Federal Government obtained by our correspondent indicated that 72 Nigerians tested positive for COVID-19 in Guangzhou city.
Lagos discharges 10 more COVID-19 patients
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has announced the discharge of 10 more COVID-19 patients, having tested negative twice for the virus.
The state Ministry of Health made this known via its Twitter handle @LSMOH on Friday.
The ministry said the number of discharged patients from the isolation centres in the state was now 117.
The ministry said, “Ten more COVID-19 Lagos patients; three females and seven males, including three foreign nationals – two Indians and one Filipino – were today (Friday) discharged from our isolation facilities at Yaba and Onikan to reunite with the society.”
Ekiti buries COVID-19 victim, bans inter-state movement of corpses
Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, on Friday said the health worker that died of COVID-19 on Wednesday had been buried in strict compliance with the World Health Organisation recommendations.
Yaya-Kolade said the 29-year-old woman, who went into a coma during labour before being diagnosed of coronavirus, was buried on Thursday in Ado-Ekiti by the government and the woman’s family, adding that “Ekiti State Government will liaise with the family on how to raise the surviving baby.”
The commissioner, who spoke in Ado-Ekiti during a COVID-19 update press briefing, said, “The 45-year-old doctor infected by the dead victim is responding to treatment in our isolation centre.”
Panic in Bayelsa over two suspected index cases
There was panic in Bayelsa State on Friday following reports of two suspected index cases of COVID-19.
It was gathered that the two suspected cases reported themselves at the state Specialist Hospital near the Government House, Yenagoa, claiming to have contracted the virus.
The incident was said to have caused pandemonium as workers in the hospital, including doctors and nurses, took to their heels upon hearing the claims of the two persons.
A source, who witnessed the incident, said, “Even the doctors, everybody ran away. You need to see people running away from the hospital. We saw when the governor came out of Government House, angry.”
The two persons were said to have arrived in the state last Saturday as a result of the alleged porosity of the boundary points.
Chairman of the state COVID-19 Task Force Implementation Committee, Dr Inodu Apoku, confirmed the incident but said the two cases did not fall within the protocol of coronavirus testing.
“Still, we took their blood samples and we are sending them to Irrua (Specialist Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Edo State). But actually, they don’t fall within the protocol of reporting,” Apoku said.
Although the state has yet to record any confirmed case of COVID-19, the incident was said to have prompted Governor Douye Diri to storm the boundary points with neighbouring Delta and Rivers states to enforce the inter-state lockdown directive.
The acting Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Daniel Alabrah, who confirmed this in a statement on Friday, said Diri first visited Adagbabiri, the boundary community to Patani in Delta State.
Ogun records first COVID-19 death
Ogun State Governor, Mr Dapo Abiodun, said on Friday that the state had recorded its first COVID-19 death.
The governor, in a statement on Friday, said the state had recorded 29 cases, out of which six had been discharged while 22 were in the isolation centres in the state.
He, however, did not give details of the death.
The statement reads, “Out of the 29 cases, six of them have been discharged to rejoin their families and restart normal life; one is dead and there are 22 active cases who are currently receiving efficient treatment from our medical officers.
“For us in Ogun State, we thank God that our efforts towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic to a standstill are achieving desired results but we cannot also drop our guard.
“In the last one week, the number of confirmed cases in our dear Ogun State has risen to more than double. As of Thursday, April 23, there are 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ogun State as against 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, April 17.”
He said the increase in the number of cases was due to the increase in the pace of testing, adding that it was better to detect and treat people already infected than leave them undetected, which would lead to community transmission.
He added, “Let me also state that the majority of these new cases are detected on immigrants coming into our country through land borders. The lesson thereof is that the peculiarity of our dear state as the next-door neighbour to Lagos State, the epicentre of the disease, and a gateway from Lagos to the other parts of the country, and being a window to the West African sub-region, puts us at a vulnerable position.”
US coronavirus deaths top 50,000
The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 50,000 in the United States on Friday as President Trump signed a bill to release fresh relief funds for small businesses and some states began reopening parts of their economies.
Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide Friday exceeded 2.76 million, with more than 194,000 dead, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The Wall Street Journal reported that the US accounted for nearly a third of the cases, exceeding 883,000 and more than a quarter of the deaths, at 50,114.
Additional reports by Dayo Ojerinde, Patrick Odey, Abiodun Nejo, Kayode Idowu, Tukur Muntari, Daniels Igoni and Daud Olatunji