Coronavirus-positive man escapes from isolation centre

COVID-19 and cancer: Nigeria's unique quadruple jeopardy
Illustrative, Medical staff

•Commercial driver escapes isolation centre in Bida, declared wanted
•Cote d’Ivoire returnee sneaks out, returns to isolation centre in Osun
•9 more cases in Osun, nationwide total now 174; 2,000 tested so far
•Osinbajo, govs meet to consider more palliatives

By Wole Mosadomi, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omeiza Ajayi, Rotimi Ojomoyela & Shina Abubakar

A commercial driver who tested positive to coronavirus in Niger State has escaped from the isolation centre in Bida where he was being managed.

Similarly, one of the returnees from Côte d’Ivoire, simply identified as Alaska, who Osun State Government had kept in an isolation centre for a test for the virus, allegedly sneaked out of isolation in Ejigbo to socialise with friends in town.

These came on a day the state recorded a spike in the number of 12 confirmed Coronavirus cases with nine new infections, bringing the total of infected persons in the country to 151.

Edo State, which had two cases before yesterday, had its number of confirmed cases rise to two, which Ekiti had.  Ekiti had earlier in less than 24 hours discharged its index and only case after recovery of the patient. Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, confirmed the cases.

Also, the Federal Government said over 2,000 Nigerians have so far been tested for the virus, while nine persons had been discharged after recovery.

This is even as Lagos State Health Commissioner, Prof. Akin Abayomi, disclosed yesterday that an American citizen diagnosed of COVID-19 in the state had been evacuated to the US.

Similarly, some Presidency staff who had been in isolation for over a week, yesterday raised alarm that they were yet to be tested by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, as Kaduna State Government threatened to deal with mallams (Quranic teachers) hiding Almajirai, despite warning that they be released to return to their states.

It also made available N500 million to provide food for the poor in the state to stave off impact of the curfew imposed on the state as a result of the pandemic.

Escaped case declared wanted

Niger State Commissioner for Health and Hospital Services, Dr. Mohammed Makunsidi, who disclosed this yesterday, said the patient had been declared wanted and that a special team has been raised by government to smoke him out.

On the case in Niger State, the commissioner said: “We are surprised that he escaped, and how he escaped from the isolation centre is still a mystery to us but a  manhunt for the man has been mounted.”

“We heard of the arrival of a driver that is said to have tested positive to Coronavirus who was being managed at an isolation centre. We heard he escaped into Bida, so we are after him now.

“Members of the state task force on COVID-19 and officials of the Ministry of Health and Hospital Services are in Bida area of the state to locate him and make sure he does what the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has asked him to do.”

He said that two other persons who arrived Kontagora town, headquarters of Kontagora Local Government Area of the state   from the UK and Canada had been quarantined, adding that they were undergoing tests .

He also disclosed that another man from Kagara town, headquarters   of Rafi Local Government Area   of the state had also been taken to the isolation centre in Minna due to outcry from his community that he might have come in contact with Chinese nationals working at the Zungeru Hydro Electricity plant.

“The foreigner in question was said not to have even traveled out of the community for over a year but the people said they remained unconvinced.”

Dr. Makunsidi explained that the man was having   fever and sore throat which, according to him, led to apprehension and suspicion by members of the community,

“Ordinarily, this does not fit into test definition but nevertheless, because of the outcry of the community, we have to take the man into our isolation centre in Minna General Hospital and we are going to   test him for Coronavirus in order to clear the air,” he explained.

Cote d’Ivoire returnee sneaks out of isolation centre

In Osun, one of the returnees from Côte d’voire simply identified as Alaska was said to have sneaked out of the isolation centre in Ejigbo to socialise with friends in the town.

A source who identified himself as Akintunde Sheriff, said the young man, who was a socialite, sneaked out of the facility at night before the first set of three tests returned positive.

But the state government vehemently denied any breach on the facility.

The Côte d’Ivoire returnees were said to have arrived the isolation centre around 3a.m. last Saturday, while the man called Alaska was said to have sneaked out on Sunday evening and returned on Monday.

12 of the 71 so far tested have been confirmed positive, while results of samples of 56 others are being

Meanwhile, three of the first 24 of the returnees tested for the virus were confirmed positive on Tuesday, which sparked panic in the town.

Sheriff said: “It is now an open secret that one of them, by name Alaska, had sneaked out of the isolation centre to mix with his larger family and, indeed, the public. After the breach was discovered, Alaska was apprehended and he tested positive.

“Only God knows the magnitude of the danger Alaska would have brought on his family and the rest of the population of Ejigbo and Osun State.

“I recall that I called attention to this development some eight days ago when I called on the government of Osun State to show seriousness on influx from Ivory Coast to Ejigbo.”

Another source told Vanguard that the man actually breached the facility to reunite with his family and voluntarily returned to be tested, after realizing the severity of his action.

Not true, says Osun health commissioner

However, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Rafiu Isamotu, denied any breach at the isolation centre.

He said the place is manned by a combination of military and police operatives to ensure that Ejigbo community remains safe.

“There are 127 of them. Yesterday, before we isolated those that were positive, we read out their names and all of them were present. During this period, a lot of rumours and speculations were going around. There is no problem at all, as none of them escaped,” he said.

On the spike in the number of confirmed cases in Osun State, the commissioner said the new cases were from the 127 returnees from Côte d’Ivoire isolated at Ejigbo facilities.

‘We’re expecting more positive cases’

Addressing journalists on the issue, he said the state was expecting more positive results from about 56 other samples still being expected.

He said samples were collected in batches because of the large number of patients coming into the Centre for Genomics and Infectious Diseases at the Redeemer’s University, Ede from across Africa.

“We are expecting more positive cases because about 56 other samples are still being expected. At present, we have a 20-bed isolation centre at the State Specialist Hospital at Asubiaro, one at Mercyland and another at Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex in Ile-Ife.

Speaking at the conference, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, Ismail Omipidan said the returnees were all not from Osun State but about seven states of the federation.

“The 127 Côte d’Ivoire returnees are from different states, including Osun, Oyo, Kwara, Edo, Delta, Abia and Benue. But we took them in because they are Nigerians and we cannot discriminate against them.

“Moreover it would be irresponsible to turn some back because they arrived in six buses, hence, we decided to bring all of them into isolation to ascertain their status before allowing them to reunite with their families.

“Besides, at the point of entry, the information was not available to us, we thought they were all indigenes, but at the point of collecting their details in preparation for isolation, we discovered some were not from Osun but we had to isolate all of them and provide care for them,” he said.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Why we can’t release index case now — Abayomi

Omipidan emphasised that there was no community spread of the virus but cases of isolated persons who returned from Abidjan, urging the citizenry not to panic as they had no contact with any member of the community before they were isolated.

He also stressed that no one among those isolated at the Ejigbo facility escaped from the centre, saying there was a regular roll call at the facility daily.

Another case in Ekiti

In a similar development, barely twenty-four hours after the lone index case of coronavirus in Ekiti was discharged, another case was recorded yesterday.

Permanent Secretary, Ekiti State Ministry of Health, Dr Folake Olomojobi, who confirmed the news in a telephone conversation neither disclosed the location of the patient, nor where the patient was being isolated.

With the new case, the state has recorded two cases of coronavirus, while one of them had been discharged after testing negative.

Over 2,000 tested so far

Also yesterday, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said over 2,000 persons had been tested for the virus in the country.

The minister, who disclosed this at a news briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, also said the 12 new cases discovered yesterday were passengers in a vehicle which came in from Benin Republic.

He said: “In this case, they are citizens, knocking the door, asking for help. If they were not citizens, we would have turned them back.

“A breakdown of the cases shows that 70% are male, while about 30% are female. The age range is mostly between 30 and 60 years. I must stress that both men and women of all ages can be infected.

“Nine persons have been successfully treated and discharged from hospital and two deaths are on record from COVID-19. Both persons had serious underlying ailments which no doubt aggravated their conditions.

“As of now, well over 2,000 persons have been tested with the hope of further expanding and improving diagnostic capacity across board, to shorten turn-around time and increase volume.

“This week, two more laboratories were added to NCDC network of molecular laboratories for COVID-19 at University College Hospital, Ibadan, and Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, increasing test sites to seven,  to start scaling up testing capacity, with hope of even further increase, when human resources are mobilized for round-the-clock shift duty.

“A call is hereby issued for certified public health laboratory scientists, including retirees, to indicate readiness for duty by sending an email to NCDC or using the call lines.

“No Rapid Diagnostic Tests offered in the open market have been validated by the World Health Organization: the results they give are unreliable. You have to be tested in one of Nigeria’s seven COVID-19 molecular laboratories, to have valid results,” he explained.

More isolation centres

“I held a conference call earlier today (yesterday) with Commissioners of Health during which I urged them to identify and establish isolation centres for treatment of mild and moderate cases, as well as ICUs.

“Lagos State has expanded its isolation wards to surge capacity. The Ogun State Governor yesterday commissioned over 200-bed capacity isolation centres. I urge other states to prioritize identification of the same within their states beginning with tertiary hospitals.

“All facilities, including private facilities where isolation and treatment of Coronavirus-infected persons are to be conducted, will be visited for accreditation by a team, comprising experts from NCDC, Federal Teaching Hospital Irrua, and headed by the Commissioner for Health of Lagos State.

“The office of the National Security Adviser shall be invited to join, since coronavirus disease has national security implications. The team from Federal Specialist Hospital, Irrua, has arrived in Abuja.”

Grains for the poor

Chairman of the Task Force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said of the 70,000 metric tonnes of grains, the first tranche of 6,000 would be distributed for people in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory FCT.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the Strategic National Reserve to be distributed to the poor and vulnerable and those whose livelihoods will be affected by the lockdown.

“The first tranche of about 6,000 metric tonnes would go to Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, while the remaining will go to other front line states in the fight against COVID-19.

“You will recall that Mr. President in his national broadcast announced a number of restrictions particularly in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja. You will also recall that the PTF met with security chiefs to review the Status of Implementation as it affects compliance and enforcement.

“We have received situation reports from the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, on Inter-State traffic across the country as at Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Indications are that there was a reasonable level of compliance with the Presidential directive which has led to great reduction of traffic on major highways.

“We have, however, received reports of challenges arising from the enforcement of the Presidential directives by security agents generally and in states where governors have also imposed their own measures.”

NCDC following 70% of contacts

Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said of the over 5,000 contacts at large, the centre was currently following up on 70 per cent of them.

“As at this morning (yesterday), we are following up on 70 per cent of over 5, 000 contacts that we have identified. Everyday, we are pushing that number higher and that is one of the key purposes of the lock-down in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun, to enable the teams find these contacts and make sure they are well and those that are sick, bring them into care, and those that are well, follow them up for 14 days. This is the primary strategy at the moment,” he explained.

On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said to make the lock-down worthwhile for Nigerians, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, has asked cable television operators to allow subscribers continue to have access to local channels whenever they exhausted their subscriptions within this period.

“The NBC has already directed all Cable TV providers to run local channels even if subscriptions have not been paid,” he said.

Mohammed also added that banks are allowed to open and continue to provide services, while observing all the safety protocols listed by relevant authorities.

US citizen evacuated

Meanwhile, an American citizen diagnosed of COVID-19 in Lagos State has been evacuated to the US.

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, disclosed this in a tweet yesterday.

“Total #COVID-19 Lagos cases is now 82. Eight patients have so far been discharged following their full recovery. One of the confirmed cases who is an American citizen has been evacuated to USA,” the tweet read.

Presidency aides lament

In a related development, some staff in the Presidency who have been in isolation over coronavirus, have said that they were living in fear, since the NCDC has failed to test them.

Some of them who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said they were now living in fear as the NCDC has not reached out to them for test.

A source in the Presidency said: “We are now in God’s hands.  Some of us have even volunteered to be tested but the NCDC is saying that it is only when one manifests the symptoms that they will test him.

“It is only God that will help us, including you the journalists that cover the State House.”


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