Fred Ezeh, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Fred Itua, Abuja, Agaju Madugba, Katsina, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, and Steve Agbota
As Nigeria confirmed five new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), including a six-week-old baby, the Federal Government has cancelled already issued visas to travellers from the 13 countries affected by coronavirus pandemic.
Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said, effective Saturday, March 21, no flights from these countries would be allowed entry into Nigeria.
The 13 countries are: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland. These are all countries with over 1,000 cases domestically. It is a complete ban.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said of the five new positive cases, three arrived from the United States, while two came in from the United Kingdom: “We are collating information on the travellers. Two of the three from the US are Nigerians, a mother and child, making the six-week-old baby the youngest COVID-19 patient we have, and the third is an American national, who crossed the land border and becomes the first COVID-19 case not arriving by air. The two cases from the UK are Nigerians.
“A detailed travel history of each person is being compiled and contacts currently being traced to identify persons who have recently been in contact with any of them.”
Nigeria had its first case of COVID-19 in February.
Aregbesola said: “In addition to the measures announced by the Secretary to the Government of Federation, the Federal Government of Nigeria is restricting entry into the country for travellers from 13 countries.
“What this really means is that we are suspending issuance of visas and we are cancelling all visas already issued to citizens or travellers from these nations.
“It will take effect from Saturday, March 21, and will will last for four weeks for the time being, while developments will dictate what will happen thereafter.”
The Interior Minister said government was considering other measures.
Asked if the government was banning flights from the affected countries, Aregbesola said: “precisely, yes. Beyond that, we are suspending insurance of visa for citizens and travellers from those nations as well as cancelling already issued visas. So, there is no ambiguity at all. It is clear. We are no longer allowing flights from those citizens for now.”
On Nigerians abroad returning home, he said: “Well, I am not a lawyer but flights from those nations can no longer enter Nigeria, with effect from Saturday.”
On why implementation of flight ban would wait till Saturday despite the danger posed by the virus, Mohammed said: “Because normally there is what is called NOTAM, Notice To All Airmen. If you want to issue restrictions like this, you give notice (of) more than 24 hours to all airmen so that they will know when to position their flights and for safety and security reasons.
“For instance, if an aircraft has taken off now you cannot ask it to go back mid-air.”
On if there will be restrictions in religious gatherings, the information minister said there was a presidential task force on COVID-19 and a multi-sectoral emergency operation committee by the NCDC that have been daily briefing Nigerians as to the development of the virus.
“As it is necessary announcement will be made regarding social distancing, personal hygiene, as at when due.
“But the message is that Nigerians should take ownership of this pandemic and we should self-regulate. A lot of decisions have been taken by other countries which show that when there is national interest and the safety of people, all other matters pale to insignificance. But we will let you know when such decision will be taken.”
North-West govs, Kwara shut schools
North-West governors, in an emergency meeting in Kaduna State, have announced the closure of all schools across the region to protect citizens from Covid-19.
Chairman of the forum, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, made this known while speaking with newsmen shortly after a meeting on Wednesday in Kaduna. He said the measure was taken after consultation with national examination bodies to close all schools for a period of 30 days, starting from Monday, March 23, 2020.
Masari said sensitisation campaigns would begin to discourage large gatherings, until further notice.
He also mentioned that the forum resolved to begin public health awareness campaigns on coronavirus.
“States will continue to wage aggressive campaigns to encourage citizens to uphold personal hygiene, including hand-washing and environmental sanitation,” he said.
With effect from Monday all schools in Kwara would be shut.
Corps members to resume orientation when coast is clear
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has has shut its orientation camps nationwide.
The director-general, Brig-Gen. Shuaib Ibrahim, said the management of the NYSC decided to suspend the orientation camps against Batch ‘A’ corps members across the country to curtail the spread of coronavirus, saying corps members must be safeguarded first.
He said once the coast was cleared on the COVID-19 pandemic and there was a signal on the safety of the Batch ‘A’ corps members, the camps would reopen.
“Once we have a clear picture that COVID-19 has been tamed and we are okay then we will invite the corps members back to camp to complete their orientation training. That is the decision we have taken; it is just for the concern for the welfare of the corps members,” he said.
Katsina records first case
Katsina State said it has recorded its first case of COVID-19.
Permanent secretary in the ministry of health, Dr. Kabir Musptapha, who briefed journalists, yesterday, said the case involved a man who returned to Nigeria recently from a COVID-19 high risk country and was in self-isolation at a location in Dutsinma, near the Katsina metropolis.
“The man returned from Malaysia and developed symptoms similar to those of COVID-19. The patient was taking personal protection of using face mark and self-isolation. His samples have been taken and results are being expected by Thursday, March 19, and contact tracing will commence as soon as results are out.
“The ministry is taking all precautionary measures and closely working with NCDC on the matter. We advise people of Dutsinma town to be cautious of movements and gatherings and they should feel free to seek medical attention as all precautionary measures are being taken to provide support,” Musptapha said.
FG not doing enough – PFN
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) claimed Federal Government was not doing enough to contain the scourge in the country.
Chairman, Enugu State chapter, Bishop Goddy Madu, declared that it was time to “quarantine all citizens” and stop them from undertaking any trip to the hard-hit countries.
“One thing about Nigeria is that we are good at playing politics with everything, but it should not be so in a matter like this.
“The Federal Government closed borders against importation of food items but opened floodgates for coronavirus.
“We expect that, long ago, the Federal Government should have restricted flights from all high-risk countries, especially Europe, China and America, but it took them several weeks for that to happen.
“Other African countries, including our neighbour, Ghana, took that step long time ago, but we are still here speaking grammar.”
Address nation now, Senate tells Buhari
The Senate has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to break his silence and brief Nigerians on efforts to address the outbreak. The upper legislative chamber also called for a Special Intervention Fund to combat the deadly disease.
The call was part of resolutions reached yesterday as members considered a motion on the pandemic.
Oluremi Tinubu, in her contribution, said the outbreak of the disease was a wakeup call for Nigerians to take personal hygiene seriously.
Sam Egwu urged senators who travel out of the country to quarantine themselves before coming to the chamber to attend plenary proceedings.
Ibrahim Oloriegbe advocated more resources to enable Nigeria establish test centres across states.
Ajayi Boroffice lamented that, because Nigeria’s borders were porous, foreign nationals now prefer to enter and exit the country by land.
Jibrin Barau advised churches and hotels to introduce the use of testers to detect infected persons so as to control the spread of the dreaded disease.
Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said: “The issue at stake is one that calls for caution and proactive measures. There are people who are having the virus and the symptoms are not there. For us to deal with this matter, individual contribution is key. Those who have travelled to the epicenter of the disease are supposed to isolate themselves. Are they keeping to this? If you look at our health facilities, (they are) not in the best state. Countries with good health facilities are on lockdown.”
Emmanuel Bwacha said, “We are the largest black nation in the world, and our borders are very porous. The dangers that this virus will bring upon us because of our policy will be very dangerous. Once you’re not a Nigerian, we should stop them at the border and ask them to return to where they are coming from.”
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks, called for improved measures to prevent uncontrollable outbreak of the disease in Nigeria.
Reps charge FG to ban open worship, public gatherings
The House of Representatives has charged the Federal Government to immediately ban religious and other public gatherings in the country.
Lawmakers stated that there is need for the country to take a cue from Saudi Arabia and the Vatican, which has banned open religious gatherings as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the matter demands urgency and as such cannot wait.
According to Gbajabiamila,”time is of the essence. Delay can be dangerous.”
‘Shut land borders’
Following discovery that the infected American came through Nigeria-Benin Republic land border, concerned Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to shut all the land borders across the nation completely to prevent the spreading of the deadly virus.
Those who spoke said it was important to close the borders against movement of foreigners at this critical time as part of precautionary measures to save the life of innocent citizens.
According to Mr Olubaji Oye, though, borders have been closed against import and export, it will be better to close them completely against human traffic for now.
Mr Jude Enahoro said government should shut borders and mount security presence to ensure no foreigners escape into the country without going through necessary health checks to limit the spread of the virus.