As it rolled more measures against the spread of coronavirus, the federal government has ordered the closure of all its universities and 104 unity schools in the country.
The directive takes effect from March 26, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Education said in a statement issued yesterday by its director of Press and Public Relations, Ben Bem Goong, on behalf of the minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
Adamu mandated all the principals of the unity colleges to fast track the on-going second term examinations and close the schools till further notice.
It urged management of all the unity colleges to immediately activate necessary emergency procedures and processes such as the provision of alcohol-based sanitisers, and hand-washing facilities among others and also called on students to strictly adhere to the principles and best practices of good hygiene.
The statement also directed the principals to immediately report any suspicious case to the nearest health authorities.
Also, the permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, said that the decision to close down the schools was to protect students/pupils from the COVID-19 scourge.
Already some state governments and the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have closed down school and the scheme to check the spread of the virus.
Echono said: “We have directed all higher institutions to close this weekend. Unity Schools that have completed their exams are to close immediately. Others are to hurry and close the latest on 26th March.”
The Lagos State government has also closed down schools in the state.
An official of the ministry of education said that the government is accessing the situation, adding that on Sunday, a decision would be taken whether to shut down all the tertiary institutions of learning.
The Enugu State government has also directed public and private primary and secondary schools in the state to conclude all activities in their schools and shut down on or before Friday, March 27, 2020.
The secretary to the state government (SSG), Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya, announced the decision in a statement yesterday.
The state government enjoined teachers and students to continue to observe the School Water Sanitisation and Hygiene Programme (WASH) operative in the state.
It also enjoined them to observe other standard personal hygiene protocol for the prevention of COVID-19 infection.
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State has directed the closure of public and private schools across the state as part of precautionary measures against the threat posed by the coronavirus.
A statement signed by the commissioner for Education, Muhammad Sanusi Sa’idu Kiru, indicates that the indefinite vacation becomes effective from Monday, March 23, 2020.
According to the release, parents are to ensure that they evacuate their wards from boarding schools not later than Sunday.
Similarly, the Benue State government has ordered the closure of all schools in the state by Friday, 27th March, 2020, as part of measures to nib in the bud the spread COVID-19.
Briefing journalists after the State Executive Council (SEC) meeting yesterday, the commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar, said that all schools in the state had been directed to conclude their examinations on or before Friday next week and proceed on holidays.
The commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr. Sunday Ongbabo, said that Benue has established an isolation centre at the state University Teaching Hospital in Makurdi, while working with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to be on the alert in the event that any of those in contact with the eight positive cases in the country has made their way into the state.
In the same vein, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has directed both public and private schools in Abuja to shot down till further notice.
The minister of state for FCT, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, gave the directive in Abuja yesterday during a meeting with heads of secretariats, departments and agencies (SDAs) under her supervision.
She also directed that social gatherings and worship centres should be restricted to avoid large gatherings that could further endanger the health of others.
Aliyu also directed that shop owners who fail to provide hand sanitisers and other preventive measures should be closed down indefinitely.
A statement by the special assistant to the FCT minister of state, Austine Elemue, added that the acting executive secretary, FCT Primary Healthcare Board (PHCB), Dr. Iwot Ndaeyo, said the board would mobilise all the stakeholders in the rural communities to drive the campaign.
The federal government has also shut down three international airports in the country to curb further spread of coronavirus pandemic.
The affected airports are Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu; and the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
Their closure was contained in a statement signed by the director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu.
He said the three airports would be closed till further notice effective Saturday, March 21.
Nuhu said that the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, would still be opened but no flight from the 13 COVID-19 high-risk countries would be allowed into the country.
PMB’s Daughter In Self-isolation After UK Trip
One of President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughters yesterday went into self-isolation after returning from the United Kingdom (UK).
This was disclosed by the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, in a tweet.
She said that based on the advice of the minister of health, her daughter is on self-isolation and not because she displayed any symptoms of the COVID-19.
She also shut down her office for two weeks with immediate effect and advised essential members of staff to work from home because of their colleagues, who recently returned from the UK.
Aisha Buhari tweeted: “Good afternoon Nigerians, earlier today my daughter returned from the UK being among the high burden listed countries of COVID-19.
“Based on the advice of the Hon. Minister Of Health, Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and that of NCDC, she is on self-isolation, not because she displayed any symptoms of the COVID-19.
“Please I urge all parents to do the same if possible as prevention is better than cure.
“Similarly, I have shut down my office for two weeks with immediate effect while essential staff can work from home as a result of some staff who recently returned from the UK.
“I commend the Northwestern governors including Niger and Kwara on preventive measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 at their security meeting yesterday (Wednesday) in Kaduna.
“Let’s keep following the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, which encourages maintaining social distancing, high hygiene culture through regular washing of hands with soaps and sanitisers.
“Let’s adopt preventive measures and ensure the safety of our families and that of general public.
“We will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic if we all take the necessary precautions at the same time! God bless you all,” she said.
US Okays Chloroquine For Treatment
Meanwhile, United States President, Donald Trump, has that chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and severe arthritis, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test as a COVID-19 treatment, as the number of cases in his country continues to increase.
Trump disclosed this at press conference yesterday where top US officials and himself answered several questions.
An online journal had earlier disclosed that early data from clinical trials being performed in China revealed that chloroquine phosphate could help treat the new coronavirus disease.
Deputy head, China National Center for Biotechnology Development, Sun Yanrong, had also said that earlier that chloroquine was selected after several screening rounds of thousands of existing drugs.
Data from the drug’s studies showed ‘certain curative effect’ with ‘fairly good efficacy.
According to Sun, “Patients treated with chloroquine demonstrated a better drop in fever, improvement of lung CT images, and required a shorter time to recover compared to parallel groups.
“The percentage of patients with negative viral nucleic acid tests was also higher with the anti-malarial drug.
“Chloroquine has so far showed no obvious serious adverse reactions in the more than 100 participants in the trials.”
The China National Center for Biotechnology Development head Zhang Xinmin said that chloroquine is one of the three drugs that have a promising profile against the new coronavirus, reported China Daily. The remaining two drugs are anti-flu medicine favipiravir and Gilead’s investigational anti-viral candidate remdesivir.
Also, the NCDC while speaking on the news of chloroquine being the preferred treatment for the COVID-19, recently in Abuja, said: “For chloroquine, it is still work in progress as a lot of research is going on. In China, they are having preliminary phased clinical trials using chloroquine and hydroxyl-chloroquine.
“They have enrolled about one hundred patients, and have administered chloroquine to them. It was found that the chloroquine-phosphate was superior to the controlled treatment in inhibiting the interpretation of the pneumonia that the patient had and improving lung imaging.
“By the time they did x-ray, they discovered that those on chloroquine had better lung imaging with findings than those on the controlled therapy, and that there was promotion of the virus negative conversion rate. These are still early findings that need to be validated with more trials before we can say chloroquine is the treatment of choice. There are other treatment regimens that are being considered.”
Africa Records 400 Cases In One Week – WHO
The World Health Organisaion (WHO) has said that over 600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 34 African countries as of 19th March, compared with 147 cases a week ago.
WHO, in a statement, said that 12 countries in the African region are now experiencing local transmission and urged governments to prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission.
WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said: “The rapid evolution of COVID-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action. But we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.
“Africa can learn from the experiences of other countries which have seen a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases through rapidly scaling up testing, isolating cases and meticulously tracking contacts.”
According to the statement, understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve in Africa is still a work in progress, adding that the response will need to be adapted to the African context.
WHO further stated that it has been supporting governments with early detection by providing COVID-19 testing kits to countries in Africa, training lab technicians, and strengthening surveillance in communities.
It said: “Forty-five countries in Africa can now test for COVID-19. At the start of the outbreak, only two could do so. WHO is also providing remote support to affected countries on the use of electronic data tools, so national health authorities can better understand the outbreak in their countries.
“Personal protective equipment has been shipped to 24 countries, and a second shipment is being prepared for countries with confirmed cases.”
4 More Cases Confirmed In Lagos
The Lagos commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has confirmed four new cases of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state,
With this, there are now a total of 12 cases in the country.
The commissioner confirmed the new cases at a news briefing yesterday.
Abayomi explained that 19 people were tested on Wednesday, adding that the four people who tested positive had been isolated for treatment at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos.
He said that the first of the four new cases was a woman who had contact with another woman who came from United Kingdom (UK) some days ago, who had tested positive of the disease.
The second new case, he said was a female who returned from France on 14th March on a Turkish Airline, TK 1830.
The third case, he said, was a Nigerian male in his 50s who had not travelled anywhere, but was tested positive to the disease.
Abayomi stated that the fourth was a Nigerian male who arrived in the country on 13th March from Frankfurt to Lagos on Lufthansa Airline, flight number LH568.
The commissioner, however, said more tests were still being carried out, adding that, “we have a combination of imported cases and local transmission. The executive of Lagos State is meeting on the next stage of social distancing.
“The best way to slow the rate is to halt the movement of the virus from person to person,” he said.
FG, States To Set Up Isolation Centres
In another development, the federal government and state governments have agreed to set up functional test and isolation centres in every state of the federation to curb the spread of coronavirus.
This was disclosed by the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi, after a meeting of the forum on Wednesday night in Abuja.
He also disclosed that the forum had constituted a sub-committee consisting of the governors of Kaduna (chair), Kebbi, Ebonyi, Ogun, Nasarawa, Edo and Jigawa to review the trend of falling oil prices and advice the state governments on the next set of actions required to address challenges in economy.
Senate Suspends Public Hearings, Shuts Gallery
In the National Assembly, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, has announced the suspension public hearings and restriction of access to its chamber because of the growing concerns over coronavirus in the country.
Lawan spoke yesterday after the Senate embarked on a closed session at the resumption of plenary to deliberate on the devastating impact the spread of the disease may cause in the absence of preventive measures.
He said: “The Senate resolves to suspend all public hearings till further notice as a result of the coronavirus, COVID-19.
“In addition, the Senate gallery will remain closed to the public till further notice including excursions from schools and organisations from Tuesday, 24th March, 2020,” Lawan said.
…Go For Test, Lawan Tells Senators
Lawan also urged lawmakers who just returned from foreign trips to go for coronavirus test.
Lawan added that the lawmakers should place themselves under self-isolation for 14 days before appearing in the chamber for legislative business.
Lawan stated this during an executive session before the commencement of plenary yesterday.
The chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Godiya Akwasiki (Nasarawa North), who briefing journalist, said that Lawan had asked all the lawmakers who recently returned from foreign trips to isolate themselves for two weeks.
On why President Muhammadu Buhari was yet to address the country on the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the Senate resolution, he said that although there were procedures for the president to do so via the television, he declared that if in the next one week, the president does not act, the leadership of National Assembly would engage the executive.
PMB Explains Current Reforms
On his path, Buhari has explained why he ordered the repositioning of the economy, starting with a review of 2020 budget to reflect realities in oil sector, and prioritising health sector infrastructure to respond to the threats posed by COVID-19.
In a statement issued by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu , he said that the president gave the directive after the second regular meeting of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), which also recommended the securitisation of government debt, design and institutionalisation of a revenue stabilisation programme and the imperative of cutting the cost of governance at all levels.
At the meeting held in the State House, the president agreed with the council on the need to prepare the country to take the necessary tough economic decisions, including embarking on a national agenda of stakeholder mobilization, bringing the National Assembly, government organs, private sector and civil society together around a programme to respond to the major challenges confronting the nation.
While highlighting the immediate and short-term measures to consider and implement in order to mitigate any adverse economic effects, Shehu said that the meeting reviewed the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential economic spillover effects on the global and Nigerian economy.