As part of the preparedness to prevent the importation of the Novel Coronavirus into Nigeria, all passengers onboard planes from Asian countries are to be screened before they are allowed into the country.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, who stated this weekend, said the State Ministry of Health is collaborating with the Federal Ports Authority at air, land and sea border posts to elevate screening and surveillance of incoming travelers since the reported outbreak of the Coronavirus in China, and some other countries.
“We are making sure that all flights from South East, Asia that are coming either direct or connecting flights are checked thoroughly. We cannot isolate a particular ethnic group because the virus is more than an ethnic thing.
He said since the Ebola outbreak, the State has been working on biosecurity due to the vulnerability of the State that has millions of people living in a very poor environment and had set up a committee while establishing a biosecurity law to ensure resilience.
Abayomi, who spoke on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Lagos, said that the State’s biosecurity team was working with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH.
“This is to build urgent capacity to identify the virus in the state’s Biosecurity facility and isolation wards situated at the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, in case of any suspected carrier arriving in Lagos.
“We are in touch with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, in Abuja to align our strategies with theirs,” he said.
Further, the Commissioner said the State had instituted structures, policies and human resources that had boosted its resilience and ensured it handled any infectious diseases effectively.
“If we are ever faced with any Ebola, Coronavirus entry into Lagos or Lassa fever outbreak, Lagos is constantly preparing itself and it is not a matter of reaction to the crisis but advance planning and strategic thinking,” he said.
He said that the state was prepared to contain the virus, through active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management, and prevention of the onward spread of infection.
He blamed the increasing cases of infectious disease spread between animals and humans around the world on human activities on the environment even said the destruction of the environment by humans was forcing wildlife into cities.
“I know in Nigeria, there is a tendency that anything that moves must be killed and eaten, we have to try to move away from that.
“Apart from the fact that these animals play an important role in the environment, not everything must be killed and eaten.”
Abayomi warned that some species of animals harbour a lot of pathogens, which could be transmitted from animals to humans, saying that the same thing happened with the Ebola virus. He maintained that humans were encroaching into the wildlife, thus increasing contact with animals.
“The situation exposes people to a lot of dangerous pathogens that had never been seen before like the Coronavirus and Ebola diseases.
“What happened in China is that they eat some of this wildlife which has become part of their cuisines or they rear the animals, which is not too unusual from what we do practice in Nigeria.
“As we humans are encroaching our boundaries and these animals are coming into our houses and feed on our food products like rice
“If you go to some places, you will see bush meat. There are certain markets in Lagos and around Nigeria where if you want access to live, dead or smoked bush meat, there is enough.
Abayomi said that the state would continue to sensitize the public and create awareness about preventive measures to adopt to safeguard their health.
He advised residents to maintain a high level of personal and environmental hygiene toward safeguarding themselves from infectious diseases.