President Muhammadu Buhari has called on health workers to be patient with his administration to address their demands as the country tackles coronavirus.
He stated that the outbreak of the disease had posed fresh challenges for the economy, especially the impact on crude oil revenue.
Buhari made the appeal in Abuja when members of the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly Healthcare Professionals Associations visited him at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday.
He said, “Your case is certainly receiving attention, but you must bear in mind the condition that the country is in now. Coronavirus is not improving matters.
“It is affecting what we very much depend on, the petroleum industry and therefore revenue.”
The unions have been demanding an upward review of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure.
In addition to CONHESS, the workers have also protested against the non-payment of their April and May 2018 salaries.
They have also pressed for the gazetting of scheme of service for nurses and the payment of teaching allowances.
In 2019, JOHESU threatened a seven-day warning strike over the issues.
However, meeting with Buhari on Tuesday where the issues were again raised, the President urged patience and appealed for support to enable the country to tackle the coronavirus threat first.
“So please try and help us with your people. Let us be patriotic, let us look at the ways and means of the government and appeal for restraint,” a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, quoted the President as saying.
“We have to emphasise that it is very important we maintain cohesion together, because if we allow sentiments or popularity to overwhelm our reasoning faculties, we will be in trouble and it will be too late for us to adjust, so please bear with us.”
But JOHESU and AHPA, led by Biobelemoye Josiah, still pressed for the issues affecting the members, though they commended the Buhari regime for some of the achievements it recorded in the health sector.
They commended Buhari for signing the National Health Act and “rejecting the advice of stakeholders who clamoured for the privatisation of the health sector.”
Meanwhile, the Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Dr Tomi Coker, has said one of the 40 people quarantined for having contact with the Italian who brought coronavirus to the country, exposed the second case.
According to her, the second coronavirus patient has not developed any symptoms of the killer disease.
The Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire said on Monday the latest coronavirus patient came into contact with the Italian man who arrived in Lagos on February 24 from Milan on a Turkish Airlines flight.
However, Ehanire, who spoke to reporters in Benin, said the second patient “has no significant clinical symptoms.”
Coker said in a statement on Tuesday that both the first and second cases were detected in Ogun before they were transferred to Lagos for further monitoring.
She said the measures put in place by the state government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state had been yielding positive results.
The commissioner said it could have been devastating if the state government had not been proactive to trace those who had contact with the Italian.
She said, “The case was confirmed from one of the 40 people who had contact with the first Italian index and had earlier been quarantined after testing their blood samples.
“If we had not been proactive to have tracked down those who had contact with the first Italian index, he would have been spreading it everywhere.
“Even the person identified, up until now has not developed any symptoms.”
However, Coker said she was optimistic that the remaining 39 people under isolation would soon be declared free of the virus.
She called on residents of the state not to panic because the state government would stop the spread of the virus.
In a related development, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, has said the state government has begun the distribution of hand sanitisers to public primary and secondary schools as well as palaces in the state to prevent coronavirus spread.
Yaya-Kolade insisted the state government was committed to ensuring that Ekiti residents did not contract the virus.
The commissioner, who spoke on an Ado Ekiti radio programme on Tuesday, denied that the state had received money from the Federal Government to fight the spread of the disease.
Yaya-Kolade advised residents to embrace personal hygiene.
Meanwhile, the United Nations on Tuesday closed its New York headquarters to the general public to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, AFP reports.
The move comes one week after a similar measure was taken at the main UN building in Geneva.
“As of now, we have not been advised of any COVID-19 cases amongst UN staff in New York,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Some 3,000 people work in the iconic building overlooking the East River in Midtown Manhattan, the scene of annual gatherings of world leaders.
Normally, some 5,000 tourists visit the building each week in guided tours.
About 500,000 people visit the UN headquarters each year, not all tourists, officials said.
“The United Nations will continue to monitor the situation closely and further measures may be taken as circumstances evolve,” Dujarric said.