FG searches for 4,370 contacts as coronavirus cases hit 65

…says COVID-19 cases explosion, community transmission imminent

The Federal Government on Thursday said it was tracing  4,370 persons, who  came  into contact with people that were suffering from COVID-19.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja, said the country was on the verge of community transmission of the disease.

Mohammed said this just  as coronavirus cases in the country increased to 65  on Thursday.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said as of 7:35pm on Thursday, 12 additional cases  had recorded in Lagos State, one in Bauchi State and one in the Federal Capital Territory.

The NCDC via its Twitter handle, said, “14 new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria; one in Bauchi State, one in the FCT and 12 in Lagos.

Of the 14, six were detected on a vessel, three are returning travellers into Nigeria and two are close contacts of confirmed cases.

As of 7:35pm 26th March, there are 65 confirmed cases, three discharged and one death.”

The NCDC, had on Thursday said cases of the virus in the country increased to 51 from  46 on Wednesday.

Currently,  the majority of cases were imported to the country from high-risk nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and other European countries.

Among those who have tested positive are the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, both of whom a few weeks ago, returned from Germany, where they were believed to have contracted the disease.

The disease has spread to eight states and the Federal Capital Territory.

There are 44 cases in Lagos; 12  in the Federal Capital Territory; Ogun State, three;  Ekiti State, one;  Bauchi State, two; Oyo State, one; Edo State, one; Osun State, one   and Rivers State, one.

The minister of information, at the press conference on Thursday, said unless those who had contact with confirmed cases came forward, in few days ahead Nigeria would record a rapid increase in the number of cases.

He  stated, “We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support the authorities in this regard.

“We are on the verge of reaching the level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to say this.”

The minister said the Federal Government was considering a ban on non- essential inter-state travels, closure of motor parks as well as fumigation of some designated areas, as part of additional measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also expressed delight that measures so far taken by the federal and some state governments to contain the virus were yielding the desired results.

Mohammed said, “We are considering tougher measures to enforce compliance, stop the exportation of the disease to states that do not have it and minimize spread. Possible measures include stopping inter-state/inter-town travels, except for essential services; closing all motor parks and inter-state rail stations. Already, all train movements nationwide have been stopped.

“Our strategy at containing this pandemic is working, but we still have a long way to go. We know our priorities and we know our challenges.”

According to him, government has taken very bold measures by stopping international flights into the country.

He also commended state governments that had  closed markets and  prohibited   large congregations.

The minister maintained that, “We are determined to be more aggressive in enforcing the measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, contact tracing, testing, isolation of suspected cases and ensuring that our messaging gets down to the grassroots.

“I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic. But the truth is that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.”

He also said that the Federal Government had received donated safety and test kits from the Jack Ma Foundation in China.

The supplies are 100,000 face masks, 1,000 pieces of personal protective equipment and 20,000 test kits.

Mohammed explained that the face masks and the PPE would be distributed to the front-line health workers while the test kits would be shared among the five test laboratories.

The minister, while answering a question as to whether he and his colleagues were tested for the virus, said, “We were tested yesterday but I am not at liberty to talk about my colleagues, my result was negative.”

The minister also said government at the federal level had taken additional measures to increase the number of bed spaces for the isolation of patients.

He said government had, in addition to the facility in the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, set up 40, 60, and 160 bed medical facilities in three locations across the FCT.

The minister noted that some Nigerians,  who flew into the country from overseas filled wrong addresses and phone numbers in their forms, making it difficult to trace them when the need arose.

“Some Nigerians defied orders to stay away from large gatherings while some religious leaders willfully flouted the directives to ensure social distancing. The government is doing its best but we need the citizens to do their best too. We have now gone past the stage of persuasion. It’s time for strong enforcement,” he added.

The minister also decried the spread of fake news on social and traditional media.

He faulted  speculations that there were only two ventilators in Abuja, out of which one had been commandeered for a top government official and that a British Airways flight was due to land in Nigeria on Wednesday despite the closure of all international airports.

He also denied a report that President Muhammadu Buhari had been coughing and was on ventilator.

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