Ejike Ejike and Doyin Ojosipe, Abuja and Anthony Awunor, Lagos
Three days after an outbreak of Ebola disease was reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), authorities at international airports across the nation are yet to commence screening of travellers coming into the country.
Last Friday, a case of the disease was confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the DRC where one person was confirmed dead due to the virus in the North-east of that country.
In 2014, Nigeria recorded cases of Ebola after a Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, who flew into the country through the Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA), imported it to the country.
The disease had also ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, but was eventually contained in West African countries through concerted efforts by relevant stakeholders.
Checks at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja and Murtala Muhammad International airport (MMIA), Lagos, yesterday revealed that unlike before when hand sanitisers were placed at strategic places within the airports and temperature tests were carried out on travellers, these checks had yet to be put in place.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria at the weekend assured Nigerians of adequate surveillance at the nation’s airports.
FAAN’s acting general manager, corporate affairs, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, had assured that all the preventive measures put in place at the airports in the wake of the Ebola incident were still in place.
She said the Port Health officials were at alert at all airports and that the authority had also informed them of the need to increase surveillance.
“There are sanitisers at our arrivals with the scanning apparatus called Thermal scanners being installed by the Port Health Services.
“The scanners have camera monitors that display pictures aside the capturing of temperature.
“Passengers still fill that form to ensure that everybody arriving the country through our airports are not potential carriers of deadly diseases.
“The port health officials are always at alert and we will also inform them of the need to increase their surveillance.
“So, there is no cause for alarm,” she said.
However, a source at the Murtala Muhammad International airport (MMIA), Lagos told LEADERSHIP yesterday that the screening will commence today.
“Since the announcement of the latest Ebola outbreak, I have not seen any international traveller that is being screened. I think the authorities will commence that on Monday. As at today Sunday, there is no such screening but we will begin it tomorrow, Monday,” the source told our reporter at the MMIA around 4pm.
Meanwhile, the federal government will today hold an emergency meeting to properly discuss and give directives on measures to be taken to stall the incident of Ebola disease in the country.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in a telephone Interview, the director of Communications, Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs Akinola Boade, said the federal government has also given a directive to port health officials to step up inspection activities and to report any sick person or suspects to ensure that Epidemiologists in the states are immediately alerted and relevant tests conducted.
Also, the federal airport authority (FAAN) has reaffirmed the need for Nigerians not to panic over the recorded case of Ebola disease in Democratic Republic of Congo, assuring that necessary measures are being put in place.
The general manager, Public Affairs department of FAAN, Yakubu Datti said the agency has put in place necessary preventive measures.
He told LEADERSHIP that FAAN, in collaboration with Port Health, has put in place “Thermal Scanners in our Airports that check temperature.
“These Scanners also are equipped with Cameras that take pictures. We are prepared with hand sanitisers in our rest rooms too”, he added.
Allaying the fears of international travellers, Yakubu said, “We don’t have direct flights from Congo; we only have from Rwanda but I want to assure members of the public that we still have all preventive measures in place at our airports”.
Also, the spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Sani Datti, disclosed that the agency has started consultation with relevant stakeholders on how to manage any eventuality.
He said, “On our part as an agency saddled with the responsibility of managing emergency in the country, we are already gathering information about what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo as regards the recent outbreak of Ebola virus in that country from our Situation Room.
“We have already started monitoring the situation and relating with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Aviation, which are the major stakeholders”.
The federal government had, in a statement issued by the minister of health, Prof Isaac Adewole, directed health care providers and the general public to immediately report any sign of illness to the public health officials.