The Federal Government has ordered that passengers coming into the country through the airports, borders and other points of entries be thoroughly screened to prevent the spread of the new deadly coronavirus (2019nCoV) currently ravaging China.
The virus which has killed 17 people with over 500 infected has spread to about five countries with the United States confirming the first case on its territory on Tuesday.
The Nigerian government directive was in a public health advisory on the coronavirus (nCoV) issued on Wednesday in Abuja by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
It followed a series of consultations to ascertain the nature and impact of the virus.
Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday convened an emergency committee meeting to determine whether or not the outbreak of the virus should be declared a Public Health Event of International Concern (PHEIC).
According to the health advisory, the disease control centre said the Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria had been placed on alert and heightened screening measures at the points of entry.
It said that exit screening measures in China have been enhanced for travellers from Wuhan city in China, at the Points of Entry (PoE) (airports and ground transport stations) since January 14, 2020.
“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is currently coordinating a multi-sectoral technical group that is assessing and managing the risk of importation to Nigeria. NCDC is in close communication with the WHO, which is closely monitoring the situation globally,” it said.
Urging Nigerians to remain calm and cautious, the NCDC advised travellers from the country into Wuhan, China, to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead) and animal markets.
It said travellers from Wuhan to Nigeria may be asked questions upon arrival by the Port Health Services unit at points of entry about symptoms of illness and travel history.
The agency advised travellers to report immediately to NCDC, if they feel ill after a trip to Wuhan.
“Federal Ministry of Health, through NCDC and its partners, are fully committed to strengthening our preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks. Information will be shared with the public as it becomes available,” the health advisory said.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had also urged passengers and other airport users to comply with quarantine procedures at the nation’s airports.
This, the agency said, would protect them from the Coronavirus epidemic ravaging some countries in South East Asia.
FAAN said the new move became necessary to prevent the spread of such communicable disease into Nigeria.
In a statement by its General Manager, Public Affairs, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, the authority said it had taken proactive steps by ensuring that equipment and personnel used in combatting the deadly Ebola virus in 2014 were still in place at airports.
The spokesperson said FAAN had always had thermal scanners at its airports to monitor the temperature of passengers as well as capture their pictures.
“When passengers walk pass the scanner, it registers their temperature and if too high, they are pulled aside for observation,” she said.