•FG steps up contact tracing
•All varsities, courts ordered shut
•Sultan directs Nat’l Mosque closed
By Vivian Okejeme, Tobias Lengnan Dapam and Mahmud Isa Abuja
The Federal Government yesterday announced the first casualty of the deadly coronavirus disease being a 67 year old Nigerian who returned to the country recently from the UK.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) gave the confirmation separately on Monday.
According to the NCDC via Twitter, “the case was a 67-year-old male who returned following a medical procedure in UK.
“He had underlying medical conditions – multiple myeloma and diabetes and was undergoing chemotherapy.”
Lai Mohammed while corroborating the NCDC position at a press conference in Abuja said Nigeria now has a total of 36 cases, and that the FG is adopting tougher measures to halt the spread of the disease.
The Minister said henceforth, all passengers on domestic flights are to be properly screened, just as is done to international travellers.
He said all Federal Schools are already shut down and the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), will be directed to close all universities, both public and private.
He said the FG has resolved to prioritise tracing of contacts of infected persons to prevent the figures from multiplying, adding that people who travelled out recently who have refused to self-isolate would be putting the lives of others at risk.
“We need the cooperation of all Nigerians in the area of ‘contact tracing’. As you may be aware, health services use ‘contact tracing’ to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, in this case coronavirus.
“Those who have come into close contact with others who have coronavirus are at higher risk of infection, and of potentially infecting others. For those who will not cooperate by submitting to the authorities, as required, the government will use all lawful means at its disposal to trace and bring them in.
“Having now shut our gateway airports, the biggest assignment for us is ‘contact tracing’ to find all those who may have come into contact with those who have the disease.”
He said government will engage the police and the army to enforce compliance because prevention is much more easier and cheaper than cure.
He said the president will not hesitate to issue an executive order if that is what is required to stem the tide, and added that the presidential task force on coronavirus will issue a comprehensive policy statement on the virus fight today.
According to him, there is also the farce that the disease cannot affect Africans for one reason or another, or that the young is immune to it.
“This is not true. Based on what we know so far, no one is immune to this disease. In New York, for example, 54% of those infected are between the ages of 18 and 49. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, young people are not immune to coronavirus and must avoid socialising and communicating it to older, more vulnerable people.”
The Minister advised Nigerians to disregard series of fake news being circulated to cause panic and distract health workers.
He also announced the cancellation of the meeting of heads of states and governments of the Chad Basin scheduled for next week
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who also gave an update while briefing journalists yesterday in Abuja said, “In summary, as of the 23rd of March 2020, 36 cases have been confirmed, 2 cases have been discharged and 1 death recorded from COVID-19 in Nigeria. Of the 33 active cases, 32 are clinically stable with mild symptoms. 1 patient is oxygen-dependent.”
He said that, the states with the COVID-19 cases included; Lagos with 25 cases, 6 in FCT, 2 in Ogun, 1 in Edo, 1 in Ekiti and 1 in Oyo.
“Of the 36 cases, 26 had travel history to affected countries in the last 2 weeks, 6 are contacts of confirmed cases and 4 have no recent travel history or known contact.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, yesterday, ordered the closure of all courts in the country for an initial period of two weeks.
The CJN had in an earlier circular issued on Friday, stated that the courts are expected to continue sitting despite the coronavirus but urged judges to take maximum precaution.
However, in a fresh circular posted yesterday on the National Judicial Council, NJC, the CJN directed all courts to close down with effect from today.
The latest Circular reads, “ Further to my earlier Circular Ref. No. NJC/CIR/HOC/II/629 dated 20th March, 2020, on the above subject matter. In view of the reality of the COVID-19 in the country and in order to take further preventive steps, all Heads of Courts are, from tomorrow, the 24th day of March, 2020, directed to suspend court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time bound according to our extant laws.
“Your Lordships are hereby directed to bring the content of this circular to the notice of all stakeholders in justice administration, please.”
Also, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar II yesterday ordered the closure of Abuja National Mosque in view of the current health issue Covid-19.
A statement signed by the management of the Mosque announced the suspension of Five Daily Congregational Prayers and Juma’ah Prayers, gathering and other activities in the National Mosque Abuja.
“In view of the current health issue i.e COVID-19 crisis, the National Mosque Management has decided to suspend the five daily congregational prayers and Jum’ah prayers, gatherings and other activities in the Mosque and its environs. The open space Market and Restaurants attached to the Mosque are also to be closed.
“This Takes Effect from Today, 23rd March, 2020 Till further Notice.”