Federal legislators are currently engaging health authorities for details on the coming of Chinese doctors to assist Nigeria to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are, however, spurred by growing concerns of citizens about the Chinese and the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said on Monday that having listened to the two health ministers in the country, ‘’what we are taking away from this meeting is that Nigeria needs this intervention from the Chinese.’’
‘’But, you (the ministers) have to make it mandatory that they observe all the protocols laid down for the disease’’, the Speaker adds.
Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and the Health Minister of State, Olorunnimbe Mamora, assured the Speaker that the 18 Chinese doctors will not have personal contacts with patients during their stay in the country.
This is coming as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announces that six new coronavirus cases have been identified on Monday. This has shot the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 238.
In the meantime, after a meeting between the leadership of the House and the two health ministers, Gbajabiamila said the measure became necessary to take precautions and allay fears expressed by many Nigerians.
Present at the meeting were the Chief Whip, Mohammed Tahir Monguno; the Deputy Leader, Peter Akpatason, and the Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.
Gbajabiamila says the meeting was conveyed following widespread complaints that trailed the announcement of the coming of some Chinese medical personnel to assist Nigeria.
Explaining the essence of the meeting, he said: “There are a lot of complaints about why we are bringing in Chinese doctors.
“It is incumbent on us, as lawmakers, to intervene, following the concerns of our constituents to understand the issues and get the right information to them.
“Our duty is to protect the Nigerian people, and every opportunity to increase our knowledge will not be thrown away.
“As you explained that they won’t have direct contact with Nigerian patients, you have to make sure that they go through our official immigration laws, they have to get work permit waivers because they are coming here to work.
“Also, they have to be quarantined for 14 days as stipulated by the protocol, and you have to educate Nigerians about this to avoid misconceptions. We have laws and they must be complied with,” the Speaker said.
Speaking, Ehanire, the health minister told the House leadership that Nigeria did not officially invite the Chinese team, but that it was an offer arranged by a group of Chinese companies based in Nigeria as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Nigeria.
He said that being a novel disease that every country is trying to understand, Nigeria will benefit more from the gesture because the existing health facilities and personnel in Nigeria to tackle the disease are inadequate.
On his part, Mamora emphasized that the Chinese personnel are mainly experts in molecular laboratory testing, where we have only two indigenous experts currently serving seven laboratory centres.
He says the Chinese doctors are expected to help in setting up molecular laboratories around the country as well as upgrade and reconfigure existing ones in the country.
Adding, he says the Chinese medical personnel will not have direct contact with Nigerian patients but will only help to reconfigure the laboratories and train Nigerian personnel and experts on the management of the disease and operation of the equipment and upgraded laboratories.
According to him, the Chinese gesture has no financial implications to Nigeria, Mamora regretted that there was little option than to accept the offer.
“Case testing is the bulk of work because some people are asymptomatic, so we need faster and rapid test kits and processing. We are doing molecular testing that helps us know the viral load as well.
“We need to expand our testing labs across the country. Presently, we have two lab scientists in molecular testing, serving seven labs across the country. As we are expanding across the country, we need more people to be trained in molecular testing for faster results”, he said.
Meanwhile, Gbajabiamila says the information gap about the Chinese gesture is regrettable and should be addressed immediately.
With the 238 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Nigeria, the figure, according to NCDC shows the three top States as Lagos with 120; FCT – 48 and Osun that now has 20 cases.
“Six new cases of COVID19 have been reported in Nigeria: 2 in Kwara, 2 in Edo, 1 in Rivers and 1 in the FCT. As at 09:30 pm 6th April, there are 238 confirmed cases of #COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Thirty-five have been discharged with five deaths.
“For a breakdown of cases by states, Lagos- 120; FCT- 48; Osun- 20; Oyo- 9; Edo- 11; Bauchi- 6; Akwa Ibom- 5; Kaduna- 5; Ogun- 4; Enugu- 2; Ekiti- 2; Rivers-2; Benue- 1; Ondo- 1; Kwara- 2. The two new cases recorded in Kwara was first since the outbreak in Nigeria’’, NCDC says.
Officially, five deaths have been reported by NCDC.