Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire has said the 67- year- old Nigerian, who was the first to die of COVID-19 early Monday morning, had an underlying illness.
He made the clarification Tuesday during his press briefing to update Nigerians on the pandemic and the efforts to contain the spread.
However, despite the over 100 per cent rise in the spread of the disease from about 12 cases Friday to 36 cases Monday morning, the minister insisted that the federal government would not consider compulsory or forced isolation of those coming from highly endemic countries.
But he stated that more measures would be instituted by both the federal and state governments, as the situation demands.
He said, “We do not hope that we need, at some point, to enforce isolation but we want to depend on the sense of responsibility of all citizens. As of forced isolation, we have not come to that yet, but we have on occasion had to go after persons who came from abroad and did not register their presence and we believe they didn’t go for isolation.”
The minister said the country recorded her first death from COVID-19 in the country.
He said: “This was a Nigerian who unfortunately, had underlying illnesses and died due to complications on the 22nd of March in Abuja. He had recently returned from the United Kingdom.
“The man who died has underlying illness. Most of the fatalities of COVID-19 have underlying disease, or too old that their body cannot build anti-body resistance,” he said.
Dr. Ehanire said as of Monday morning, Nigeria recorded 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease, and of the 36 confirmed cases, 25 were in Lagos, 6 in FCT, 2 in Ogun, 1 in Edo, 1 in Ekiti and 1 in Oyo.
The minister added: “Of the 36 cases, 26 had travel history to affected countries in the last 2 weeks, 6 are contacts of confirmed cases and 4 have no recent travel history or known contact.
“In summary, as of the 23rd of March 2020, 36 cases have been confirmed, 2 cases have been discharged and 1 death recorded from COVID-19 in Nigeria. Of the 33 active cases, 32 are clinically stable with mild symptoms. 1 patient is oxygen-dependent.”
Questioned on the state of preparedness, he stated that since the news of outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health has been preparing, looking at the situation, studying the situation, looking at the spread of the disease to other countries and looking at the resources available.
He said: “We requested for financial support from federal government and we got the support. We started preparing, and procuring, we have bought some of the things we are looking for. So our preparedness started a long time ago.
“We have been focusing on two things; containing the disease and preparing for it. Those are the things we have been doing so far hoping we do not get so many cases coming in. This is an imported disease. We are hoping it doesn’t get to the grassroots that is why we are doing a lot of contact tracing.”
The minster stated further: “We are going after those who travel from outside the country and find out if they have this disease or not, we put them in self-isolation. Those who are coming from high burden countries are on supervised isolation and if after expected incubation period, nobody tested positive, they are free. Those who are testing positive in that period are taken into isolation proper and given the treatment until they are well.”
On the fear that it would be devastating if COVID-19 gets into the grassroots as the government insisted only on self-isolation, the minister said: “We hope it doesn’t filter into the grassroots but if it does, we have the primary health care system.
“As of forced isolation we have not come to that yet but we have on occasion had to go after persons who came from abroad and did not register their presence and we believe they don’t go for isolation, we publish their names. Until they volunteer themselves and they are under observation and after the 14-day incubation, they are now free to go.
“On the issue of self-isolation, this is the social responsibility of every citizen. Everything can’t be done by government, citizen engagement is important and anyone who has travel, who may have come with an infection, who may not know that they have an infection has a responsibility as a responsible citizen to protect himself, his children, his family by being self-isolated. Now it depends on that sense of responsibility of every person and if you are not able to self isolate, take a hotel for the 14 days.