The Federal Government said the 67 years old Nigerian, who was the first person to die of COVID-19 early Monday morning, had an underlying illness and died due to complications.
Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire, made the clarification during his press briefing to update Nigerians on the pandemic and the efforts to contain the spread.
However, despite the over 100 per cent rise in the spread of the disease from about 12 cases on Friday to 36 cases on Monday morning, the minister insisted that the Federal Government would not consider compulsory or force isolation of those coming from highly endemic countries.
But he added that more measures would be instituted by both the Federal and state governments, as the situation demands.
According to him, “we do not hope that we need, at some point, to enforce isolation but we want to depend on the sense of responsibility of all citizens” adding that “as of forced isolation, we have not come to that yet, but we have on occasion had to go after persons who came from abroad and did not registered their presence and we believe they don’t go for isolation.”
Sadly, the minister said the country recorded her first death from COVID-19 in the country.
He said: “This was a Nigerian who unfortunately, had underlying illnesses and died due to complications on the 22nd of March in Abuja. He had recently returned from the United Kingdom.
“The man who died has underlying illness. Most of the fatalities of COVID-19 have underlying disease, or too old that their body cannot build anti-body resistance,” he added.
Dr. Ehanire pointed out that, as of Monday morning, Nigeria has recorded 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and of the 36 confirmed cases, 25 are in Lagos, 6 in FCT, 2 in Ogun, 1 in Edo, 1 in Ekiti and 1 in Oyo.
The minister added: “Of the 36 cases, 26 had travel history to affected countries in the last 2 weeks, 6 are contacts of confirmed cases and 4 have no recent travel history or known contact.
“In summary, as of the 23rd of March 2020, 36 cases have been confirmed, 2 cases have been discharged and 1 death recorded from COVID-19 in Nigeria. Of the 33 active cases, 32 are clinically stable with mild symptoms. 1 patient is oxygen-dependent.”
Questioned on the state of preparedness, he explained that since the news of outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health has been preparing, looking at the situation, studying the situation, looking at the spread of the disease to other countries and looking at the resources available.
He said: “We requested for financial support from Federal Government and we got the support. We started preparing, and procuring, we have bought some of the things we are looking for. So our preparedness started a long time ago.
“We have been focusing on two things; containing the disease and preparing for it. Those are the things we have been doing so far hoping we do not get so many cases coming in. This is an imported disease. We are hoping it doesn’t get to the grassroots that is why we are doing a lot of contact tracing.”
He explained further: “We are going after those who travel from outside the country and find out if they have this disease or not, we put them in self-isolation. Those who are coming from high burden countries are on supervised isolation and if after expected incubation period, nobody tested positive, they are free. Those who are testing positive in that period are taken into isolation proper and giving the treatment until they are well.”
On the fear that it would be devastating if COVID-19 gets into the grassroots as the government insisted only on self-isolation, the minister said: “We hope it doesn’t filters into the grassroots but if it does, we have the primary health care system.
“As of forced isolation we have not come to that yet but we have on occasion had to go after persons who came from abroad and did not register their presence and we believe they don’t go for isolation, we publish their names. Until they volunteer themselves and they are under observation and after the 14-day incubation, they are now free to go.
“On the issue of self-isolation, this is the social responsibility of every citizen. Everything can’t be done by government, citizen engagement is important and anyone who has travel, who may have come with an infection, who may not know that they have an infection has a responsibility as a responsible citizen to protect himself, his children, his family by being self-isolated. Now it depends on that sense of responsibility of every person and if you are not able to self isolate, take a hotel for the 14 days.
“So, we do not hope that we need at some point to enforce isolation but we want to depend on the sense of responsibility of all citizens.”
He stated that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was working closely with the state governments of all affected states to carry out contact tracing.
He said: “Through intensified contact tracing, we have been able to promptly detect cases. I strongly urge all health facilities to be on high alert and for state, local government, law enforcement authorities and community leaders to give full cooperation to investigators.
“Following the declaration of a pandemic by WHO and increasing spread of COVID-19, the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force on the Control of COVID-19, has employed diverse strategies to interrupt and halt the spread of disease.
“To this end, a ban has been placed on all international flights effective from today, the 23rd of March 2020 with the exception of emergency and essential flights. These were not easy decisions to make but have become necessary in view of the changing developments in the country as we witness more confirmed cases of COVID-19.”
He, however, emphasised that “more measures may be instituted by the federal and state government in the coming days as the situation demands.”
He assured that contact tracing was on-going to identify all persons who have been in contact with confirmed cases, while the Federal Ministry of Health is working closely with states and the Presidential Task Force on the Control of COVID-19 to review response activities and to institute measures to protect the health of Nigerians.
He pointed out that the multi-sectorial Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by NCDC has continued to coordinate national response activities, while the Centre has also launched a communication campaign themed #Take Responsibility.
He said: “This is a call to all Nigerians and residents in the country to join forces and to be proactive in taking greater individual and collective responsibility in preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“I strongly urge individuals, businesses, professional bodies, media houses and all committed Nigerians to take ownership of this campaign by developing and communicating prevention messages around the following critical thematic areas;
“Frequent hand washing with soap under running water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer; Coughing or sneezing into your elbow or into tissue and disposing properly; Avoiding large gatherings and physical contact, and Cleaning all surfaces frequently with disinfectants.”
He further advised that Nigerians should get information only from official sources and self-isolate for 14 days on return from international travel and calling NCDC’s toll-free number: 0800 9700 0010 if they develop COVID-19 symptoms
He added: “Importantly, I urge all Nigerian residents to take self-isolation and social distancing very seriously, to prevent the spread of the disease in Nigeria. Ensure you maintain at least 2 metres (5 feet) physical distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Stay at home if you feel unwell.
“The NCDC hotline is available 24/7 and toll-free, meaning you can call at no cost. We urge citizens to only use this for legitimate reporting and enquiries.”
He warned that the fight to contain COVID-19 was a call for collective action, adding, “through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control we will maintain real-time updates on new cases via covid19.ncdc.gov.ng and continue to provide updates as and when they become available.”
He reiterated the commitment of the Federal Ministry of Health to ensuring the control of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria but added that the full cooperation and support of all Nigerians in this fight is needed.