The World Health Organization (WHO) has selected Nigeria to lead the rest of Africa in capacity training on surveillance and treatment of the Coronavirus. Speaking at a weekly press briefing on the state of affairs on the fight against Coronavirus, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said that the country have been asigned a leading role in the efforts to keep Coronavirus at bay in Africa.
“On behalf of Africa Centre for Disease Control, Nigeria has been asked to lead in the training on the infection detection and control for the continent,” he said. Ihekweazu said there will be a training programme beginning from January 20 in Nigeria on response plans with other African countries in attendance.
Speaking on efforts to keep Nigeria safe from Coronavirus infection the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said the federal government is taking the matter very seriously and has provided funds needed for preventive measures.
He said that the country has five specialist reference laboratories where suspected cases of Coronavirus can be handled, adding that effort is currently on to identify and create a network of suitably equipped laboratories across the country that will ensure quick response to disease emergencies.
Ehanire also spoke of ongoing research efforts aimed at producing vaccines against Lassa fever and Coronavirus. He said that Nigeria scientists are not left out of the research endeavor.
While reassuring Nigerians on the state of things, Chikwe said: “We are working in synergy with other African countries and we are barely confident that we don’t have a Coronavirus in the country at present and if we do, we know well what to do to respond to it”. Chikwe who was asked by the minister to respond to questions posed by journalists during the briefing, said that out of 30 calls for investigation so far received by the centre, “two met the criteria for investigation and were tested but found negative while two cases are still being examined.
” We have given out 24- hour free helplines for people to call us on any suspended incidence and so far we have received over 30 call for investigation and out of these number, two have been investigated and found negative, while two cases are undergoing examination, ” he said
He said that unlike other illnesses that patients are advised to visit the hospital, NCDC team usually responds quuckly to any call for suspected cases of Coronavirus by visiting the person so that it does not escalate.
“Once we receive any call, our team moves immediately to see the patient at his house,” he said
Explaining why the authorities have not considered forcefully quarantining people coming into Nigeria, Ihekweazu said the government is being careful not to be seen as over-reacting. He said the decision taken about self isolation was very well thought out measures by government bearing in mind that we also have many disease outbreaks in the country.
“Remember that Nigeria also travel a lot across the world, what will happen if other countries start quarantining Nigerians because there is a Lassa fever outbreak for instance, it will cause us problems. So as much as we want to control this global public health threat, we also have to be very measured in our response,” he said.
The NCDC DG said that government has been issuing health advisory to citizens including travel advice which also urges members of the public to make reports on suspected incidence of Coronavirus.
Regarding research efforts aimed at developing preventive vaccines for the virus ailment, Chikwe said that there was a meeting held recently in Geneva, Switzerland to try to work out funding plans for a global research for medical solutions against Coronavirus.
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