THE Nigerian Government has said it is now in contact with 55 of the passengers on board the aircraft that conveyed to Nigeria the Italian who tested positive to coronavirus.
A total of 148 people were on board the Turkish Airline that conveyed the Italian who was on a short business trip to Lagos from Milan, Italy.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and port health services of the Federal Ministry of Health were monitoring the temperature and possible appearance of symptoms of 55 of the 148 passengers on the manifest of the said flight.
He said, however, that none of the passengers under watch had exhibited any symptom.
Ehanire said: “Up till today, there have been no symptoms. We are also trying to look out for others and we hope every passenger on that Turkish Airline who have not yet been contacted will contact the NCDC on 0800970001 – 10. They should also continue to self-isolate.
“Multi-sectoral emergency operation centre led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) continues to coordinate national response activities.
“Also, the national rapid response teams are supporting Lagos and Ogun states with the contact-tracing and other activities.”
Earlier in the week, the minister had expressed worries that some people gave telephone numbers that did not work or were switched off.
He said some others, particularly new arrivals in Nigeria who were yet to register with any phone company, might not have access to telephone.
The minister added: “We are following up with 61 contacts of the index case; 21 in Lagos and 40 in Ogun State.
“The contacts are under supervised self-isolation and states have provided them with temperature monitoring tools. All of them have remained symptom-free so far.
“Between 7th of February and 5th of March, 2020, a total of 21 suspected cases were reported across four states in Nigeria, namely – Lagos, Ogun, FCT, and Kano. The index case we have in Lagos is stable, symptoms are mild and is being treated at the infectious disease hospital in Yaba, Lagos.
“There is still only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nigeria, which is the index case, and no death.
“There were three new suspected cases between the 4th of March and 5th of March, 2020; out of these, two cases were negative and one result is pending.”
NIPRID develops hand sanitizer from local sources
The Director General, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID), Dr. Obi Adigwe, has said that the institute has developed a pilot hand sanitizer as part of its efforts to address shortage in the supply chain in the battle against coronavirus also known as COVID-19.
According to him, “one of the global fallout of the recent outbreak has been supply chain disruption of various commodities that are relevant to controlling the outbreak. These disruptions have either been through panic buying or genuine shortages, and it has been global.
“As part of the preparedness to address shortages in supply chain disruptions, NIPRID went ahead to undertake research on product development activities.
“Alcohol hand rub (sanitizer) is one of the issues that majority of the citizens had indicated there were shortages and prices were hiked.
“NIPRID swung into action and considered several formulae which were contextual to our environment to ensure that the product we will be presenting as a pilot production will be contextual to our situation.
“It is of the highest quality in terms of ensuring activity against the spread of coronavirus.
“In addition to this pilot product development, we have also opened up a data base for local pharmaceutical manufacturers who have been licensed to produce hand sanitizers in Nigeria.
“Reason why we did this is we are aware that some of these companies have excess capacity, and the companies who have indicated interest in joining the data base are willing to share the excess capacity for contract manufacturing.
“Among the companies that have indicated interest in joining this data base are two companies who have WHO certifications.”
He explained that in addition to engaging the manufacturers who produce the hand sanitizers, the institute went further to identify where they get their raw materials from.
He said: “We have also linked this to at least one company that produces alcohol in Nigeria. One of them has a factory in Kogi State where they produce alcohol from cassava.
“What this means is that in addition to having a product that is addressing the potential outbreak of coronavirus, we are also using this data base capabilities to stimulate jobs, address local capacity building, stimulate knowledge transfer and all the other socio-economic objectives.
“We have begun a profiling and modeling of vital medicines which are sourced from natural plants in Nigeria that may have ability to combat virus like coronavirus.
“Once this is ready, we will be presenting this report. Also, medicine security concept is one that should be taken seriously.”
Regarding how sticky the hand sanitizers produced by NIPRID are, Adigwe said: “Though most of the hand sanitizers in the market are more viscous, it doesn’t make it more potent.
“We actually developed two pilot products – one with less viscosity and the other with higher viscosity.
“What we found in our initial product testing, people seemed to prefer the less viscous ones because they felt it was multi-purpose; they could use it for their hands and hard surfaces.
“When they use the more viscous one for hard surfaces, they found residue on it. Although we have not validated this because it could just be a preference for certain people.”
He said the product would have to be presented to NAFDAC to have it certified as quickly as possible.
“It is a good example of local content and job creation, which this product represents,” he said.
Minister clears air on Iwu’s claim of cure for coronavirus
Dr. Ehanire also cleared the air on the claim of the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, that he had developed a cure for the COVID-19 virus.
According to him, “Iwu was introduced by the Minister of Science and Technology as having developed a product that was believed to work against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which was around the world a couple of years ago.
“He claimed he had developed a product that was effective against that virus.
“He suggested that since that virus has a relationship with the COVID-19, although they are not identical, it could also be applied. That was what Prof. Morris Iwu said.
“That the product which was developed in 2015, and was already in the United States being tested by some research institutions. They suggested that if that test came out positive, it might be effective against the coronavirus.
“It is therefore nothing brand new, because it has been developed since 2015 and under tests with an American Institute.”
According to the DG of NIPRID, “we are open to partnerships and collaborations, but NIPRID has to be approached officially first.
“It is the gold standard in terms of intellectual property issues.
“We’ve been involved in developing protocols that led to one of the most successful vital medicines activities against sickle cell disease. So, we have the capacity and we are open to collaboration when it comes.”
‘No reason to shut down schools’
The minister said the government at the moment has no reason to shut down schools and places of worship on account of coronavirus.
He said: “We have no reason to shut down schools or any place of worship in Nigeria at the moment. NCDC has also escalated the risk communication activities.
“We have five laboratories in Nigeria with capacity for in-country testing of the COVID-19 virus.
“The laboratories are National Reference Laboratory in Abuja, Nigeria Institute of Medical Research in Lagos, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State, and African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Osun. They also function as research centres.”
Earlier in the week, the minister explained that Nigeria had only one case which is in Lagos, therefore, it is not an absolute necessity for everybody to wear mask.
He said In China the situation was different because the virus had invaded the whole city and town.
He said: “No school should demand that students bring face masks because it is not what the government has advised.
“Individual principals cannot wake up and make demands that are not a general policy.
“For those who have serious illness like cough and catarrh and have to do an exam, I can understand that such a person is given a mask.
“Anyone with chronic cough and catarrh must see a doctor and stay home. And if for example, they have to be at lessons or take exams, then, they should be given masks.
“I do not think that it is necessary as a matter of routine for everybody in the school to wear masks, and it should not .