Officials of the Ministry of Health’s Port Health Services at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, have put two passengers who arrived from China under surveillance as the nation continues to monitor the border posts against the deadly Coronavirus.
This happened as countries around the world, including the United States and Australia, said they would deny entry to all foreign visitors who had recently been in China, where the virus first emerged in December.
The death toll from the new virus, which is officially called 2019-nCov, hit 259 on Saturday.
Almost 12,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with more than 11,800 of those in China.
At least, 26 other countries have reported cases, including three in Japan, two in the United Kingdom and two in Australia on Saturday.
Beijing has taken unprecedented measures to try to contain the virus, including placing millions of people in major cities on lockdown and extending the Lunar New Year holiday.
Investigation by Sunday PUNCH revealed that two China passengers who arrived via the Lagos airport on Tuesday and Thursday were meant to undergo special screening by officials of Port Health Services.
One of the passengers, who is a Zimbabwean but based in China, arrived the country aboard Kenya Airways without a vaccination card.
The passenger whose name could not be identified as of press time was said to be on her way to Synagogue Church in Lagos.
“Even though she passed the primary screening, she was meant to go through secondary screening in our clinic. We didn’t find anything on her but we contacted the Lagos State epidemiologist who asked us to take her details. She said the local government epidemiologist would continue to monitor her on a daily basis at the church,” an airport official close to the development told Sunday PUNCH.
The second passenger who is a Chinese and identified as Shui Robert failed the primary screening on arrival from China aboard Emirates on Thursday. His temperature was above the prescribed standard.
Even though he passed the secondary screening at the airport clinic, his details were collected for further surveillance, according to airport officials.
US, Australia close borders to Chinese arrivals
Countries around the world have closed their borders to arrivals from China, as officials work to control the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier, countries including Russia, Japan, Pakistan and Italy announced similar travel restrictions but global health officials have advised against such measures.
“Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,” the World Health Organisation said on Friday.
The WHO recommends introducing screening at official border crossings.
It has warned that closing borders could accelerate the spread of the virus, with travellers entering countries unofficially.
China has criticised the wave of travel restrictions, accusing foreign governments of ignoring official advice.
“Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed in the opposite direction,” foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said. “(It is) certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Embassy in China has advised Nigerians living in China to stay indoors, take all necessary precautions and strictly adhere to all medical precautions and instructions issued in respect of the Coronavirus epidemic.
It also advised Nigerians to maintain regular contact with some officers and to apprise the embassy of developments as they unfold.
The mission in a statement on Saturday advised Nigerian nationals to reach out to the Minister, Consular and Immigration, Mr Austine Ekeayanwu, on telephone number, 15010266280; Minister, Political, Mrs Ayo Luther-Ogbomode, on 13716244174; and Minister, Public Communication, Lawal Bappah, on 13520156753.
However, African airlines including Egypt Air, Air Rwanda and Kenya Airways have suspended flights to China.
In a related development, there is tension among officials of the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, port health workers and employees of the Federal Airports Authority who actively participate in the screening of air passengers arriving from countries with cases of the deadly coronavirus.
Nigeria’s second busiest airport, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, continued to witness the influx of air travellers from countries where the virus had been reported.
It was observed on Friday that while the intensive screening exercise at the NAIA had been further heightened, officials who carried out these functions were doing so with apprehension.
The port health official’s apprehension was confirmed by the Head of Media, Communications and Strategies, NAQS, Gozie Nwodo, who stated that workers of the agency at the airports were currently working under tension.
He said, “We are on alert and there is tension among officers in the prevention circle; there is also tension in the quarantine sector. However, there is heightened alertness because you know how our infrastructure in this country is.”
Nwodo stated that no serious case relating to coronavirus had been recorded at the airports and other borders at the moment; otherwise port health and quarantine agency officials would have raised the alarm.
‘No case of Coronavirus in Lagos’
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has said there is no coronavirus in the state.
The Senior Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Health,Oreoluwa Finnih, made this known in a series of tweets.
Finnih said, “Concerning the coronavirus, a man returned from a business trip to China two days ago. His responsible employers mandated a thorough checkup at their retained hospital. The client was examined and found asymptomatic. Lab tests were ordered and cleared. He has been advised to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
Chinese Consulate promises citizens’ self-quarantine – LASG
Also, the Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, who spoke exclusively to one of our correspondents after the meeting said the state would need the support of the Federal Government to mount effective surveillance on the airport.
Abayomi also said that the Chinese Consulate had promised that its citizens who would be returning to Nigeria via the airport would go on self-quarantine.
He said, “The Port Health Service is not under Lagos State jurisdiction but under the Federal Government. Lagos cannot go into federal institution and do anything. We are in Abuja today to persuade the institutions and brainstorm on how to increase surveillance and vigilance around entry points.”