Aidoghie Paulinus and Okwe Obi, Abuja
After much expectation tainted with controversies, 12 Chinese medical experts and three others landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, yesterday, to assist the Federal Government in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
This is as Nigeria recorded 22 new cases to take the cumulative figure to 276. The new cases were reported in Lagos- 15, FCT-four, Bauchi-two and Edo-one.
Forty-four cases have been discharged while six death have been recorded.
The Chinese medical workers, who arrived aboard an Air Peace aircraft, which touched down at about 4:30pm, were received by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, accompanied by the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, and officials of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
Also aboard the Air Peace aircraft which flew a 14-hour direct flight from Beijing, China, was a consignment of medical supplies to fight COVID-19.
The Air Peace Boeing 777-200ER (P4 5-NBVE) had arrived Beijing at 14:18pm local time yesterday after 14 hours. The plane was quickly loaded with medical supplies ordered by the Federal Government. The flight was historic, being the first time a Nigerian airline would do a direct non-stop 14-hour flight to China.
Assisted by the Federal Government, CCECC delivered, among others, 16-tonnes of test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, medicines, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, infrared thermometers and other medical care items.
The arrival of the Chinese medical team on the invitation of the CCECC, a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), had generated controversy among the Nigerian populace, with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) frowning at the development.
However, a peaceful and calm atmosphere heralded the arrival of the team, with a brief introduction of the medical experts after which the Chinese ambassador addressed them in Chinese language.
There were also Nigerians and Chinese nationals displaying the Nigerian flag and a banner with Chinese and English inscriptions to welcome the team.
Ehanire, speaking with newsmen, appreciated the medical team, saying the medical supplies they came with were advanced.
The minister disclosed that the supplies cost $1.5 million, while also saying that the total cost, which included the hiring of the aircraft, was $2 million.
On the sceptical attitude of Nigerians towards the face masks the Chinese team brought to the country, Ehanire said Nigerians were not bound to use them, adding that they were at liberty to use other face masks.
Pingjian said the Chinese government was reciprocating the friendship between both countries.
The envoy also said he was trying to understand why Nigerians were sceptical about the face masks that the medical personnel brought to the country.
Pingjian further said, at the most difficult stage of China’s fight against COVID-19, it received invaluable support from the government and people of Nigeria, so it was time for the Chinese government to reciprocate the kindness.
“And I should say, all the arrangements were through discussions of both parties. There is nothing like China wants to do something, to impose something on Nigeria. That is not possible. And I should say, everybody knows that medical supplies these days are very scarce and CCECC tried its best to procure it for Nigeria.”
Pingjian added that Nigeria was the only destination for the chartered flight from CRCC and CCECC.
Earlier, in a statement, CCECC said, considering its large number of employees in Nigeria, it was dispatching a 15-member technical team from CRCC at its own cost, 12 of whom were experienced medical professionals with expertise in infectious disease, respiratory illness, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery and anaesthesiology.
The company added that all members of the technical team tested negative to COVID-19 and were commencing their stay in Nigeria by undertaking the 14-day quarantine.
“The primary purpose of the technical team is to provide CCECC employees with critical and necessary healthcare assistance. They are also coming with adequate PPE and medical items for the employees. In addition, under the directive of Chinese Embassy and in response to the Nigerian government’s request, the technical team may also share with the Nigerian medical teams effective methods on how to contain the COVID-19 and provide advice on the use of relevant equipment,” CCECC said.
The Federal Government had said the Chinese experts were coming with globally scarce supplies and would be subjected to established rules in the country.
The donation by Chinese companies in Nigeria included personal protective equipment, medical consumables, over one million surgical masks for health workers and ICU ventilators, valued at over $100,000, all sourced in the face of scarcity of the items.