The Federal Government has acquired the necessary reagents to test suspected patients, as a measure to prevent coronavirus from entering the country.
Consequently, the government has designated laboratories in Lagos, Abuja and Irrua in Edo State to handle such tests.
Coronavirus found in Wahum, China has spread to the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Philippines among others, is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who stated this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, in Abuja yesterday, said the reagents were acquired about eight days ago.
He, however, assured that no case of the virus had been detected in the country or on the continent.
The Minister said: “Since about eight days ago, we obtained the reagents necessary; we have the machines; they are called Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR, machines which we have here for molecular diagnostics but we didn’t have the reagents.
“Because for every pathogen, you have a specific pathogen that you will use to detect it and that one for Coronavirus, being a new disease, was not very much available but we acquired it about eight days ago.
“Now, three laboratories in Nigeria, including those in Lagos, Abuja and Irrua, can test Coronavirus and, in fact, have tested two cases already which were negative.
“ Irrua, as you know, is Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence for this viral hemorrhagic fevers which are the category to which Coronavirus and Lassa fever belong.’’
On why the virus had not been reported in Africa, he said for a disease to enter a place, somebody or something must carry it.
He said a person could bring disease, while an animal might carry it as in the case of mosquitoes for malaria and rats for Lassa fever.
“As far Coronavirus is concerned, it is human to human transmission, maybe we have lucky that no person carrying that Corona has entered our country and none has come here undetected. And we are particularly happy that the Chinese Government is conducting what is called exit screening.
“They not only screen those are entering their country, they screen those who are leaving; so that if they, themselves see any person who has any sign of being sick or having Coronavirus, they will restrain that person from travelling.
“This is helpful to other countries; so that you reduce the risk of anybody just coming here like that,’’ he said.
The minister said he updated the council on the state of preparedness for the trending problem of Coronavirus and also the endemic Lassa fever in Nigeria.
Enahire said the frontline was the port health services, while the second line of defence was the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
He said the level of preparedness at international airports which were the main points of entry into the country, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, was high.
“All passengers arriving Nigeria are screened by a passive camera and it takes your temperature; we look at your travel history to be able to find out where you are coming from and risk you could be carrying.
“Everybody who is coming from that area is given a form to fill; the form contains a number and we also take their numbers; they contact us to let them know if, within 14 days of the incubation period, they have any symptoms or not.
“If we don’t hear from them, we call them to find out if they are okay within those 14 days; it is instructive to note that there is no case of coronavirus in Nigeria and there is no case reported in Africa,” he said.
On containing Lassa fever, he said there had been quite a few incidents that had taken place since 2020 began.
Enahire said the treatment and reporting of cases have also improved, while the fatality rate had dropped to 15 per cent from 30 a couple of years ago.
The minister said samples had been taken from water in Benue State for laboratory analysis in order to detect the cause of the strange illness that had taken some lives in the state.