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Nigeria enforces travel bans amid sloppy management of COVID-19 cases

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay. Used under a Pixabay license (Free for commercial use/ No attribution required)

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay. Used under a Pixabay license, public use.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.

Nigeria has confirmed five new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of coronavirus patients to eight,  according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control:

The increase to eight patients came just 48 hours after Dr. E. Osagie Ehanire confirmed the third case of COVID-19, March 16, as a “Nigerian national in her 30s who returned from a short visit to the United Kingdom on March 13″:

The patient voluntarily began a 14-day self-isolation in Lagos, during which she developed symptoms of fever and cough. The patient is currently admitted to the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos. She is clinically stable and responding to treatment.

As numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Nigeria, the government has yielded to public outcry on March 18 by placing travel restrictions on citizens from 13 countries with over 1,000 domestic cases of coronavirus: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.

Those who have already entered the country from these countries must go through a 14-day quarantine.

On February 27, an Italian national visiting Nigeria was confirmed as the index case for COVID-19 in the country.

The second confirmed case, according to the NCDC, is a contact of the index case who has now tested negative twice. Consequently, the second case was cleared of “the virus and was discharged to go home on 13th of March 2020,” states the NCDC.

Netizens demand travel bans

Many Nigerian netizens have not been satisfied with the current response to COVID-19 and have called for tougher measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic in Nigeria.

Netizen Ayobami decried the slow response of the NCDC. He advised the agency to “stop the media parade and do some work!”

Gideon says it “should scare all of us” that COVID-19 testing is slow in Nigeria.

“Restrict travelers coming in especially from countries” affected by this virus, insists journalist Bayo Olupohunda:

Dr. Whitewalker insists that a travel ban is a normal epidemiological intervention in order to stem the tide of transmission during a pandemic like this:

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, head of NCDC, pleaded that they are “trying VERY hard to meet all urgent needs”:

On March 17, the Senate, Nigeria's upper legislative house, initially called for a ban on flights from coronavirus high-risk countries like the United Kingdom and China, before extending the restrictions the following day.

All visitors from affected countries will undergo a “supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days,” reports the Cable Nigeria. The government also temporarily suspended visas-on-arrival in Nigeria.

The travel ban comes into effect on Saturday, March 21, 2020, and will last four weeks, which is open to a possible extension upon review.

Several African countries have been implementing tough protocols to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These stringent measures include placing travel restrictions on nations with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Sloppy management

There are reports about the inadequate and slipshod response by health officials to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

A 70-year-old woman who had spent five months in the United Kingdom returned to Nigeria, on March 11. Soon after, she presented with COVID-19 symptoms like cold and excessive mucous and on March 13, she was rushed to Enugu State Teaching Hospital (ESUTH) Colliery Parklane, in southeast Nigeria.

She was isolated in ESUTH Colliery Parklane while her samples were sent to NCDC for diagnosis on March 14. On March 15, the woman died after the NCDC had reported that she tested negative to COVID-19.

However, in a letter written to Enugu's state governor, the woman's daughter alleged that her mother was “stigmatized” by the hospital staff who placed her in a “dilapidated” isolation centre overgrown with “grass and debris”.

Another ill-managed COVID-19 case presented in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria.

On March 17, David Hundeyin, a journalist with News Wire, reported the poor handling of a suspected COVID-19 case at Dangote Oil Refinery Company in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, which has precipitated panic among workers.

On March 12, an Indian pipefitter from Dangote Refinery flew into Nigeria from Mumbai, after a brief stopover in Cairo, Egypt. Hudeyin's investigation revealed that the pipefitter developed “a fever, a dry cough, a sore throat and significant breathing difficulty,” a day after his return from India. Yet, “it is unclear whether anyone at Dangote Refinery attempted to establish contact” with appropriate health officials.

Hudeyin further lamented that the firm took advantage of “the lax regulatory environment” in Nigeria “to put its own interests first,” which puts the life of staff as well as the general public at risk.

This report forced refinery management to release a report stating that the said patient has been moved to the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

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