Nigeria has recorded its third case of coronavirus. Lagos State Ministry of Health announced that a UK returnee has tested positive for the virus and has been admitted in the Mainland Hospital.
The 30 years old observed self-isolation upon her return to Nigeria on March 13, and started to show symptoms in time. She was confirmed positive after being tested. It is the second index case that Nigeria is recording since the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Lagos State Government has commenced tracing of those she might have come in contact with, in effort to curtail the spread. The situation has once again questioned the Federal Government’s decision not to place travel restrictions on highly affected countries.
Last week, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Enahire, said that the federal government is not considering a travel restriction for now. He said the preventive measure taken so far has been focused on surveillance at entry points and self-isolation.
“Nigeria has not yet placed any travel restrictions or ban. We strongly advise against non-essential travel to countries with high levels of transition, such as countries defined now as China, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
“We also require travellers from these countries to be in isolation for 14 days after entering Nigeria.
“This will be revised always according to the assessed level of risks. Travelers from these countries are not expected to undertake special measures, but to report immediately if there are any symptoms,” he said.
While the measures put up by the Ministry of Health appear to have kept the outbreak in check, the no-travel ban stance is posing a threat that concerned Nigerians have been pointing at.
Critics of the decision say it will aid the spread of the virus, and Nigeria doesn’t have adequate health infrastructure to contain the outbreak. For instance, the 216 persons who came in contact with the first index are still at large; efforts to trace them have been futile. So it is with the third case. It is going to be difficult to bring in those who came in contact with the index, a reason why many Nigerians believe that the solution is to restrict the inflow of people from most affected countries.
“It is time for Nigeria to review its stand on preventing this coronavirus from hitting us,” said Abubakar Sidiq Usman, Special Assistant to the Senate president on New Media. “With the way the virus is spreading, we can’t wait for it anymore. It takes measures like travel restrictions and limiting of flights into the country.”
Other African countries affected by the outbreak of coronavirus have embarked on strict measure to quell the spread, and it includes travel restrictions.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced that the country is imposing a travel ban on visitors from Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, US, UK and China. The ban will take effect from March 18.
On the other hand, Ghana, a West African neighbor to Nigeria has also announced that it is taking restrictive measures on the movement of people into the country from countries with more than 200 cases of COVID-19.
While South Africa and Ghana had notably taken measures similar to Nigeria’s in the past week, it did not prevent the spread of the virus. South Africa went from 1 to 61 cases in 10 days while Ghana recorded a multiplication of two cases to six in one day. Djibouti has recorded only one case, but the North African country has suspended all international flights.
Nigeria is taking other precautionary measures to contain the spread, including postponement and cancellation of events that will induce large gatherings. But the measures seem not to be what is needed to put the general public to calm. It is believed that the best way to contain the scourge is to restrict people from bringing it into the country (considering the index cases), not mainly by restricting the movement of people who don’t have the virus.
In a poll conducted on Twitter by the Punch Newspaper, asking Nigerians if they would support a travel ban, 95% of responders said yes.
In a situation where the Ministry of Health has been called out for negligence, many believe that Nigeria is becoming more vulnerable with time. The third confirmed case was reportedly not given due attention until a friend of hers repeatedly used Twitter to get the Ministry of Health and other responsible agencies to get her tested. “What if she didn’t voluntarily do the self-isolation”? Many have asked.
In the face of perceived lapses by responsible health agencies, Nigerians are scared that more infected people will enter Nigeria in no time. The entire North and Southeast Nigeria have no testing centers, making tests impossible in those regions.
Actor Idris Elba tested positive even when he was not showing any symptoms, an indication that it may take some days for a coronavirus-positive person to start showing the symptoms. And that increases the chances of spreading it.
While the call for passengers on BritishAirways flight BA 75 that conveyed the index case to Nigeria on March 13, to isolate themselves has gone out, the Nigerian senate has joined voices with other Nigerians calling on the federal government to initiate travel ban.