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Ministers, Govs, Villa Guests in Panic As Kyari, Aides Test Positive for Coronavirus

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Panic on Tuesday gripped some governors and ministers as the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, tested positive for COVID-19.

The panic among the governors and the ministers stemmed from the fact that Kyari after his return from foreign trips a few days ago attended the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, while Mohammed was at the National Executive Council meeting on Thursday.

Kyari, after Nigeria recorded the first coronavirus case on February 27 visited Germany and Egypt. In Germany, he and the Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, on March 9, met Siemens officials over the power deal signed with the company.

A top government official, who confided in The PUNCH, said there was concern that Kyari and Mohammed could have infected some ministers and governors.

The source stated, “Panic has gripped governors. Kyari went into isolation on Monday, but before that, he had attended the FEC meeting and also travelled to Kogi State to sympathise with the state Governor, Yahaya  Bello over the death of his mother.

“Also Bauchi governors attended the NEC meeting on Thursday. There are fears that both of them could have infected their colleagues with the disease.”

Also gripped with fear were those who had visited the Villa in the last one week and met Kyari.

As panic gripped governors and ministers, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said on Tuesday COVID-19 cases had increased to 44 from 40 on Monday.

The NCDC, on its Twitter handle,  said eight confirmed cases had been recorded in Abuja, one in Bauchi State, one in Edo State, one in Ekiti State, 29 in Lagos State and three in Ogun State.

“As at 06:25pm on 24th March, there are 44 confirmed cases of #COVID-19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death,” the NCDC stated.

A top source at the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed to The PUNCH that Kyari, who recently returned from Germany, was among those who tested positive on Tuesday.

He, however, said the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had tested negative but the President would be tested again in a few days.

At 65, Kyari is one of the oldest persons in Nigeria with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. SaharaReportershad reported on Tuesday that the President’s chief of staff was coughing.

The diagnosis of Kyari with COVID-19 created fears at the Presidential Villa and among governors, who attended the National Executive  Council meeting with him on Thursday last week.

The PUNCH learnt that some very top officials at the Presidential Villa had gone on self-isolation to play safe over coronavirus.

Among them are Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.

Also on self-isolation are senior directors and close aides to the Chief of Staff to the President.

Findings indicated that Osinbajo did not report to the office on Tuesday. On Monday, he was billed to inaugurate a digital radio system owned by the Federal Road Safety Commission, but the event was put off abruptly.

The Vice-President reported late to work past noon on Monday, unlike before when he came very early in the morning.

The developments came after reports indicated on Tuesday that Kyari tested positive for coronavirus earlier on Monday.

The Chief of Staff had attended last Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting and had contact with many top officials of government, including the President Muhammadu Buhari, Osinbajo, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha; and the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan.

Many ministers also attended the FEC meeting, including those of finance/budget/national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; Aviation, Hadi Sirika; information and culture, Mr Lai Mohammed; and state, transportation, Gbemisola Saraki.

Following Kyari’s positive test result, Buhari was reportedly tested and his result turned negative.

But, presidential spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu, failed to respond to enquiries on the matter.

He also failed to respond to a specific question on whether he had self-isolated himself, as a result of his regular contact with Kyari.

But he informed reporters of other newspapers, who also reached out to him, that he could not talk to them “right now.”

Osinbajo’s media aide, Mr Laolu Akande, also did not respond to enquiries on his boss’ alleged self-isolation, though he was in his (Laolu) office on Tuesday.

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Nigeria’s Response to Coronavirus is Impressive, Says UN Chief

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The United Nations has praised Nigeria for it’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country with an estimated 200 million inhabitants, currently has 190 cases of COVID-19 but has managed to keep the death toll to just two.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while speaking at a virtual news briefing in New York, referred to Nigeria as a ‘developing country’ that has “shown a remarkable capacity to respond to the coronavirus.”

“I have to say this: some of these developing countries have shown a remarkable capacity to respond.

“I was quite impressed to see, for instance, Nigeria putting in place and immediately establishing a hospital. “And I saw difficulties in countries that are much more developed to do quickly the same.”

He also renewed his call for a global ceasefire, urging countries in a conflict like Syria, Libya and Yemen to lay down arms and allow for unified combat against the coronavirus pandemic.

“The worst is yet to come,” Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting.

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Army Officer Becomes First Coronavirus Positive Case in Ondo

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The Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has confirmed the first coronavirus case in the state via his Twitter handle. He also said the patient is an army officer who recently returned from India.

Akeredolu was the first in the state to undergo COVID-19 test after fears he was in contact with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, who is currently undergoing treatment for the virus. The governor tested negative for the virus.

“We have just received confirmation of our first positive #COVIDー19 case in Ondo State this evening,” Mr Akeredolu wrote on Friday evening.

“The infected person is currently under isolation and will be monitored. We have activated all necessary protocol to locate all contacts and will be working closely with @NCDCgov.”

The state during the week was in celebration after 12 persons suspected to be carrying the virus came out negative.

The case of a female resident in Arogbo Ijaw, in Ese Odo Local Government Area of the state, who was said to have recently returned from abroad, created a stir in the area, but after a laboratory test, she was found negative.

As of 11 a.m. on Friday, the total national figure for infected persons had risen to 190, with 20 persons treated and discharged and two deaths recorded.

With Ondo State joining the list of affected states, the number is now 191, although the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is yet to formally announce the Ondo case.

“It is with great concern that the Ondo State Government announces the first index case. A suspected case tested positive to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Commissioner for Information, Donald Ojogo, said in a statement on Friday evening.

“We thank God for His protection thus far. Ours has been a case of anxiety while we enjoyed a COVID-19-free state status.

“This development has, however, repudiated that enviable status even as we urge all to be vigilant and keep ourselves within the precincts of measures put in place.

“God help Ondo State.”

Mr Akeredolu followed his earlier tweet with another, clarifying that the coronavirus index in the state is a military officer who recently arrived from India.

The governor said the returnee from India had been in isolation since he returned and had been monitored by the medical team of the military and the Ondo State team through the period.

“Upon showing some symptoms, his samples were taken and the diagnosis confirmed by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control at their lab in Ede,” the governor said.

“We have now commenced the transfer of the officer to the state isolation center.”

The governor said there was no need for any panic as the infected officer was in a very stable condition and “we ask for calm from all in Ondo State.”

“We are on top of this and ask that our citizens continue to follow all preventive measures to ensure they remain safe,” he added.

In his statement, Mr Ojogo said the state government considered it necessary to allay the fears of the people and explain that the confirmed index case, an army officer, had voluntarily isolated himself as soon as he arrived in the country from India over a week ago.

“During this period of self isolation, he was monitored by the State Inter-Ministerial Committee in collaboration with the NCDC,” said Mr Ojogo.

“Necessary tests were carried out and result is what we have today.

“However, we appeal to all and sundry not to panic as both the NCDC and the State Inter-ministerial Committee have jointly commenced efforts to effect needful protocols in line with COVID-19.”

However, in spite of the measures taken to stem the spread of the disease, residents in the state have continued to flout the stay-at-home order and the closure of markets.

Some markets still opened for business on Friday, as well as some shops in the outskirts of Akure, where enforcement is minimal.

The popular Oda market where farm produce are usually sold, came alive in the early hours of the morning, where residents made brisk purchases. The market is a morning market.

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Chinese Medical Team to Arrive in Nigeria Soon, Says Health Minister

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The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Friday, said that Chinese doctors, nurses and medical experts would arrive in Nigeria in a few days to assist in the fight against COVID-19.

The minister said this during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.

Cases in Nigeria have reached 210 as the global figure also surpassed one million mark. He said Nigeria was also exploring the possibility of producing some medical equipment after key stakeholders met in Abuja on Thursday.

The coming of the Chinese medical experts was announced just as the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said efforts to contain COVID-19 in Nigeria were being limited by finance, manpower and other indices despite the support from government and individuals.

Ehanire said, “The global number has crossed one million mark, barely three months after the first cases were first reported in Wuhan, China. It is an indication that it is a public health challenge that we must not take lightly.”

He continued, “We are already seeing what may be the indication of community transmission, in that 30 per cent of the cases have incomplete epidemiological information. 51 per cent are imported cases and 19 per cent are through contacts of known cases.

“Directors of the Federal Ministry of Health had discussions with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to explore the potential for local production of medical consumables such as face masks, gloves, sanitisers and even ventilators.

“This is in view of looming global shortages of medical supplies for the response due to high demands from all countries. Clinical trials and other processes are ongoing to validate various therapeutic for COVID-19 treatment.”

After the briefing, Nigeria recorded 20 new cases: 11 in Lagos State, three in FCT, three in Edo State, two in Osun State and one in Ondo State.

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