The coronavirus outbreak made the House of Representatives yesterday to resolve to suspend plenary for 14 days. The resolution followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance on “The need for emergency response and tackling of deadly coronavirus (COVlD-19) in Nigeria” moved by Idem Unyime, and granting of the prayer by Ndudi Elumelu.
While contributing to the motion, Elumelu proposed an amendment to the prayers of Unyime, calling on the National Assembly to suspend plenary for two weeks to also enable the lawmakers to sensitise their constituents on the outbreak of the disease.
Presenting the motion, Unyime noted that the Federal Government needed to move swiftly and intensify collaborations with health agencies to tackle the challenge at this early stage of the outbreak. He said that with the situation of health facilities in Nigeria, the virus, if not properly checked, would easily be transmitted within the larger population and might lead to a wider catastrophe.
“The House is aware that the coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
“The haemorrhagic disease was first diagnosed in the Chinese city of Wuhan, with a population of 11 million residents, and has spread to over 58 countries, still counting since that time. The coronavirus has killed nearly 3,000 people and infected over 80.000 globally. The outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and was immediately reported to the World Health Organization Country Office in China. The main reason for the declaration of concern is that the virus will spread to countries with a weaker health system.”
Adopting the motion, the House directed the leadership of the National Assembly to set up an ad-hoc committee to interface with the executive arm of government and health agencies with a view to checking the disease. The lawmakers urged the Federal Government to release more emergency funds and create an enabling environment and support to the Federal Ministry of Health, agencies and other relevant institutions .
They also called for an immediate activation of all centres established and designated for the treatment and management of Ebola cases in the country for the management of suspected cases and victims of COVID-19.
However, the house is yet to announce the date the suspension of plenary will commence. The anxiety over coronavirus in the country took a curious dimension yesterday as news broke that the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, has reportedly been quarantined over possible infection by the disease.
However, the NCDC boss tweeted last night that “I am well and have continued my duties from home since my return from China as part of the WHO-China Mission on #COVID19.”
He said that the rumour that he was sick in quarantine was “obviously false.”
Ever since the illness was diagnosed in an Italian who arrived in Lagos, the country’s largest city and one of the continent’s biggest cities, Nigeria has been proactive, but there are fears that the virus could sweep the region. Ihekweazu was quarantined shortly after his return from China to Nigeria.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who made the disclosure yesterday when he briefed the leadership of the Senate on the level of preparedness by the ministry, said the NCDC boss would remain quarantined in one of the rooms in his house for 14 days.
Ihekweazu had visited China on the request of the Chinese government to understudy and conduct research on the behavioural pattern of coronavirus. He was immediately quarantined as soon as he returned into the country.
The minister said the action was in line with the safety procedures by the Federal Ministry of Health.
On Nigeria’s level of preparedness, he said the ministry had established isolation centres in four cities, Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, where Nigeria has international airports. He said these were in addition to scanners discretely mounted at the four airports that capture body temperature without the passengers being aware.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, raised concern about the idea of having only four isolation centres.