COVID-19: Presidency shuts FEC venue as Buhari performs presidential duties; Wike closes all borders; UCH shuts down outpatient clinics; Oyetola, wife test negative; Edo Speaker tests positive; Customs officers run away from airport

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The Presidency has assured that all those who tested positive to the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) would receive adequate medical attention, saying Coronavirus was not a death sentence.

Mr Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, gave the assurance while fielding questions from State House correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday.

The presidential aide, who cited the recovery of the index case to buttress his point, emphasised that anybody that tested positive should not panic as the virus was curable.

“We also will pray along with the persons, give them our goodwill and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nigeria recovered and has been discharged.

“God that has shown us mercy thus far and will continue to show that mercy. Anybody that test positive is not a death sentence, they will be attended to, they will be tested and they will be fine,” he said.

Adesina also faulted reports that some media organisations had been banned from covering the State House, Abuja.

“Ban is a wrong word. Anybody that uses that word ban is just operating from a mindset and you know that Nigerians love conspiracy theories but this one is no conspiracy at all. There is no ban.

“What happened is that in the press gallery, you have about 108 journalists in that single hall and it goes contrary to the spirit of the times.

“The time dictates that you don’t have too many people congregated in one place. Imagine 108 journalists if one of them happen to be infected with the virus, he spreads it among all the journalists.

“So, we said for now let them stay away, not much is happening for now. But we picked a certain number, representatives of the media, they will come in, and if there is anything, they will cover and those outside will also not miss because they would be a system in which they can share reports.

“So, ban will be a wrong word, it will be operating from a mindset of conspiracy and there is no conspiracy here at all,’’ he said.

On other measures adopted by the presidency to curtail the spread of COVID-19, Adesina said: “Of course, you know when you come into the State House you have about three, four, five spots in which your temperature is tested and you have to sanitise your hand.

“And if you come in and your temperature is way above a certain figure, then you will be advised to go for test and take care of yourself.

“So, I think so far so good. Before you will go into the general area, you will meet about three areas of test and before you get into the President’s area, you will meet like another two.

“I believe that a lot has been done to ensure that those who operate in the presidency are taken care of.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency has temporarily locked up the State House Council Chamber, the venue of the hitherto weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The action of the presidency was in adherence with the directive by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

President Muhammadu Buhari was also seen on Wednesday performing his normal presidential duties at his office.
He was seen walking to the office with some of his aides.

The Taskforce had on Monday announced the suspension of the council meeting until further notice.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman PTF-COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, announced the suspension as part of additional measures by Federal Government to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Confirming this development to State House correspondents, Adesina said the Council meeting was suspended because of the large number of people involved.

He said: “The Council was suspended because of the size. You have over 50 people seated in the Council Chamber whenever the meeting holds and that is not advisable at a time like this.

“But if there would be a very important decision to be taken, you can always summon the relevant people, three, four or five and hold a small meeting and arrive at a decision.

“It does not mean that one man is going to be taking all the decisions. Of course yes there are executive decisions but the ones that must pass through consultations of which must have a buy in of the Federal Executive Council can always be discussed at a smaller meeting.”

The Presidency had on Tuesday scaled down the number of personnel, including Journalists working in the Presidential Villa.

It stated that it was adhering to the current restriction in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) against gathering of not more than 50 persons at the same time at any venue.
In Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike announced the closure of all air, sea and land routes into the state in a move to check the spread of coronavirus.

A statement on Wednesday by Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, the Special Assistant (Electronic Media) to Wike, stated that “the measure became necessary in view of recent developments.

According to the statement, the measure will take effect “ from 6am on Thursday March 26, 2020.

He also stated that the governor announced the measures in a statewide broadcast on Wednesday

He said: “It is with gratitude to God that I announce to you that our State would have been infected with coronavirus yesterday,  but for the vigilance of security agents who,  acting on a tip-off prevented an infected person from boarding a flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt.

“The infected person beat all security measures that were put in place at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and was to sneak into Port Harcourt before security agents stopped her.

“Based on this alarming Information,  the State Security Council met yesterday and reviewed measures already put in place and decided that there was urgent need to adopt stringent measures to protect those living and doing business in the state from the virus.

“The council has, therefore, taken the following painful decisions. With effect from 6pm on Thursday,  March 26, 2020 , the Port Harcourt International Airport,  Omagwa will not be open to air traffic.

“While we may not have the right to stop flights from entering Port Harcourt,  we cannot allow anybody coming from the airport to enter our State.

“We are confident that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other federal agencies will cooperate with us.

“All Land and Sea Borders will be closed. Vehicular movements in an out of the state have been banned.

“In essence, no vehicle will leave Rivers State for any other State and no vehicle will be allowed to enter the state.’’

Wike said that the new measures will be in place until further notice. 

The University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State has reversed its earlier decision to keep the hospital open following reports of suspected cases of COVID-19 among some of its medical doctors.

On Wednesday, the outpatients (OPD) clinics including Medicine, Surgery and Children Out Patients Departments of the hospital were shut down.

The hospital’ accident and emergency department was open and healthcare workers including doctors and nurses were seen on ground rendering services.

The hospital’s main Pharmacy Department was open but rendering only skeletal services to patients with prescriptions.

Also, essential duty workers of the hospital were also seen cleaning at intervals the frequently touched surfaces, including the handrails.

Some patients with slated appointments were seen looking confused and disappointed over the unexpected shutdown of the outpatient clinics.

One of the nurses, who declined giving her name, said she had lost count of the number of patients she had turned back.

She, however, said that shutting down the out patient departments was the best decision the hospital’s management could have made amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UCH, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, said that the closing of the outpatient clinic became necessary to reduce the risk of a cororonavirus epidemic within the hospital community.

Otegbayo said the decision was also made due to inadequate number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the healthcare workers to limit the risk of transmission and infection.

He said that some UCH doctors were already observing self-isolation following contacts with some suspected cases.

“As I speak with you, there are some of our doctors who are on self-isolation or qaurantine because of exposure to suspected cases.

“We don’t have to wait till we start seeing positive ones before we take appropriate actions. As the CMD, I have the sole responsibility to take care of and protect our staff from unnecessary infection and I just want to be proactive.

“As you are aware, the number of cases that are testing positive to COVID-19 is increasing and personally I believe in prevention rather than all these curative approaches.

“Some countries have been able to reduce the number of cases because they locked down early.

“Initially we thought we should leave the OPD open but we realise that continuing to do that in the absence of enough materials to protect all our staff including our doctors, nurses and health attendants is not the best option, and the best option will be to lock this place down,” he said.

According to the teaching hospital boss, measures have also been taken to ensure that emergency services remain open under strict compliance with preventive measure and standard infection control precautions.

“We have channels for taking care of those with emergencies and we are going to do that to the best of our abilities.

“I usually call the Accident and Emergency Department a mad house, but we have had to put in some measures to ensure that is not just the staff but also patients with emergencies are protected.

“We have a spill over tent outside our A&E with measures that everyone who comes in maintain a safe distance from one another and these measures are necessary to ensure that we all work under the best condition in order to put in our best,” he said.

Otegbayo said that the hospital was also merging its wards to reduce the number of patients on admission.

“As the chief executive of this hospital, I have the responsibility to see things for myself and I am just coming from a ward round and we have decided to close down some wards.

“We are collapsing our wards so that we reduce the number of patients on admission, those who are stable we are discharging because we need to sort out and limit the number of staff that will be exposed to any possible infection,” he said.

The CMD of the foremost teaching hospital had on March 19 announced that the OPD would remain open whilst attending to patients only with valid appointment amidst the corona virus pandemic.

All the business centres and banks within the hospital premises have been shut down to reduce the number of people who throng the hospital on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State and his wife, Kafayat, have tested negative to Coronavirus.

Oyetola told journalists at a news conference at the Government House in Osogbo on Wednesday that he submitted himself for the test to know his status.

He said, “I spent the better part of last week in Abuja.”

The governor said his wife also submitted self for the test “because of her recent travel history.”

He said: “Considering the fact that I was in Abuja for the better part of last week, as a way of leading by example, I have also subjected myself to test.

“My wife, because of her recent travel history, also subjected herself to test. Both came back negative,” he said.

Oyetola also confirmed the first case of the virus in the state, saying that it was confirmed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The governor said that the confirmed case was a returnee from the United Kingdom and is currently receiving treatment.

According to him, government has contacted the family of the patient and has since commenced contact tracing to identify people who might have been in contact with the index case.

“The sample was tested at the NCDC accredited testing centre: the African Centre of Excellence in Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Ede, Osun. The result released on Tuesday night was positive.

“However, this confirmed case is not the first one we will be subjecting to investigation. But so far, all the others had tested negative,” the governor said.

Oyetola also appealed to all returnees from the UK, the U.S., Europe, the West African Coast and, indeed, other high-risk countries to self-isolate and submit selves to test.

He said this would assist the government in containing the spread of the virus.

The governor gave the emergency numbers to call in case of any outbreak of the virus as: 293, 08035025692, 08033908772 and 08056456250.

The governor also listed the measures put in place by the government to curtail the spread of the virus in the state.

He said that a task force had been set up to man all the state land borders and conduct preliminary screenings of suspected cases.

The governor also said that all major markets in the state would be shut down with effect from Friday, March 27.

He, however, said traders would be allowed to sell food items in front of their houses and that pharmacies would be exempted from the ban.

The governor also said the ban on public gatherings, church services, mosques, social events and political meetings would remain in force.

Oyetola also said that the state had set up holding centres to isolate and treat suspected and reported cases of the virus.

“Fellow citizens and residents of our dear state do not to panic; the case is under control.

“ I want to urge you all to continue to observe necessary precautionary measures by regularly washing your hands with water and soap and also maintaining the prescribed social distancing,” he said. But, in Edo State, the deputy governor, Mr Philip Shaibu,  declared that the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Frank Okiye, had tested positive to Coronavirus.

Shaibu said this while addressing newsmen in Benin on Wednesday.

“The index case of Coronavirus in Edo, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Frank Okiye, who traveled to the United Kingdom came back and has been on self-isolation.

”He was tested and proved positive. He is in stable condition and his family members have been tested and they all came out negative.
”Gov. Godwin Obaseki has also gone on self-isolation, following his close contact with Governor Bala Muhammad and the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr Abba Kyari, who have both tested positive to coronavirus,” he said.

Shaibu said that the State Government had adopted measures to prevent spread of the disease in the state.
”Government has acquired 40 drums of hand sanitisers for distribution across all Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
”We are still maintaining that a gathering of persons above 20 is restricted, markets remain closed, except for those selling essential commodities like food and medicine,’’ he said.

Shaibu said that 111 persons had been tracked so far, 64 per cent of them located and five samples taken for test, assuring that the state has a very strong contact tracing team because of its experience with in the handling of Lassa fever.

Meanwhile, Customs officials at Zimbabwe’s biggest airport stopped reporting for work on Wednesday, fearing exposure to the coronavirus and a lack of measures to prevent its spread, their union said.

Zimbabwe has recorded one death from three confirmed cases of coronavirus, but the opposition and critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa are accusing his government of under-reporting the number of cases.

The government has denied this.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Trade Union said its members at the main airport in the capital Harare came into contact while dealing with the man who died from coronavirus, but they were not tested or put into mandatory isolation.

“There is very high exposure of all staff at the referred airport due to lack of proper stop gap facilities to mitigate the possible spread of the deadly virus.

“The workers shall not report for duty until proper measures are taken to substantially mitigate the danger,” said Lovemore Ngwarati, the union’s secretary general.

Faith Mazani, Commissioner General of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, did not respond to calls for comment.

Facing its worst economic crisis in a decade, Zimbabwe is grappling with soaring inflation and shortages of foreign currency and medicines that has crippled its hospitals.

Doctors at state hospitals who ended a three-month strike in January say the medical facilities still face a critical shortage of equipment and medicine.

The Zimbabwe Doctors Hospital Association (ZDHA) said its members at Harare Central Hospital had on Wednesday withdrawn their services due to lack of protective clothing to handle coronavirus patients.

“This is not a strike. We will go back once they make available personal protective equipment,” Tawanda Zvakada, the ZHDA secretary general.

He declined to say how many doctors were absent from work.

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